August 11, 2017

Organization helps business leaders grow in, integrate faith values

Longtime members of Legatus smile for a photo during social time before the Indianapolis chapter meeting on July 20. Pictured are B.J. Maley, left, John Brand, L.H. Bayley and Dianne Bayley. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

Longtime members of Legatus smile for a photo during social time before the Indianapolis chapter meeting on July 20. Pictured are B.J. Maley, left, John Brand, L.H. Bayley and Dianne Bayley. (Photo by Katie Rutter)

Special to The Criterion

Ken Konesco’s eyes sparkled with pride. He explained that, as president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Harrison College, he rejected the modern standard of “work before family,” and always encouraged his employees to think of their loved ones first.

“If there is a birthday party or if there is a graduation for your grandson or your son or daughter, that is a priority! Forget about work, you need to be there,” Konesco related.

Before Konesco retired five years ago, he set the standards for about 7,000 employees.

Konesco was seated in a room with dozens of other people who also led businesses, their collective employees numbering in the tens of thousands. These leaders were well aware that their daily decisions could ripple out to influence these employees, their families and their community.

“If the chief executive officer is one that has a sense of values, it creates a whole atmosphere of that type in the company,” said George Maley, who, when he retired from being president of National Underwriters Inc., employed 235 people.

“On the other hand, if he’s a free-spending, free-wheeling guy, the tone of that will produce the same type of company,” he told The Criterion.

For 28 years, business leaders have gathered for monthly meetings in Indianapolis. They comprise the Indianapolis chapter of Legatus, an organization founded to help Catholic business leaders grow in their faith and integrate the values of Catholicism into everyday decisions.

“You just constantly see people doing things the right way,” said Jerry Jones, the current president of the Indianapolis chapter. “It’s a room full of people that you just admire, just good people doing the right things.”

Tom Monaghan, a well-known Catholic businessman and founder of Domino’s Pizza, created Legatus 30 years ago. He wanted to influence those who had the greatest ability to impact the world.

“Legatus takes people who are already leaders and helps them to be better Catholics,” Monaghan said in a recent interview with the National Catholic Register.

Maley was one of the first to join the newly-founded organization in 1987, and remains the second-oldest surviving member of Legatus. Monaghan asked him to help found the Indianapolis chapter in 1989.

Today, with 130 members, the Indianapolis chapter is the fourth-largest of 185 charter chapters, and is considered by Monaghan to be a “vibrant” example for his organization.

“We have an incredibly good reputation,” Jones said. “We have some very strong civic leaders that are part of our organization.”

Legatus uses a very specific set of criteria to bring together leaders with a similar ability to influence. Members must have a title such as CEO, president, chairman or owner and employ at least 49 people with $6.5 million annual revenue, or, for a financial service company, at least 10 people and $275 million in assets under their care.

“These folks who fit into this category have many of the same concerns, the same problems, the same pressures that they’re under so that’s what makes it successful,” related Msgr. Joseph Schaedel, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, who has spiritually guided the Indianapolis chapter as chaplain for 23 years.

Once a leader qualifies, the membership is also extended to his or her spouse. Longtime attendees say that all those belonging to the Indianapolis chapter feel like a family. Some even say that being part of the organization has strengthened their marriages.

“It gives you a basis for communication and discussion of things that you may not have discussed before,” said Mary Ellen Konesco, who has been married to Ken for 48 years.

“It’s hard, like your business and faith, sometimes they don’t seem on the same level, but in this group it is, and no one is afraid to talk about it, which is good,” she said.

Monthly meetings follow a format established by Monaghan. The evening starts with a group rosary, the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and the celebration of Mass. Dinner and fellowship follow, then a speaker will present on a topic related to faith, family or business.

The Indianapolis chapter meeting on July 20 began with a Mass celebrated by Msgr. Schaedel at St. Luke. Then the group moved to the Meridian Hills Country Club where the room buzzed with lively conversation and camaraderie. Visitors were welcomed with smiles, hearty handshakes and friendly conversation.

Tom Monaghan himself was scheduled to address the Indianapolis chapter for this July meeting, but had to stay in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich., due to an illness. Instead, the organization sent Stephen Henley, its executive director, who read a greeting from Monaghan and congratulated Indianapolis on the success of their group.

“They’re a phenomenal chapter,” he told The Criterion.

Henley remarked that Catholic business leaders have a large role to play in the new evangelization, which calls on every person of faith, not just the clergy, to bring the Gospel to others.

“Your responsibility as a Catholic and a Christian is to live out your faith and do it ethically. Treat others well, treat your employees well, and have your business dealings treated well,” he explained.

“You’re a role model,” said Jones, who strove to demonstrate Catholic values while interacting with his employees as president of the printer-distributor company Cannon IV in Indianapolis. “I want them to understand that I’m willing to walk the walk, and practice my faith on a daily basis.”

Henley related that, by providing Catholic business leaders with extra formation and challenging them to live out their faith, Legatus is following an example set by Jesus himself. The Gospels show that Jesus often spent extra time teaching those who would eventually lead his Church, the 12 Apostles.

“He spent time with his sheep, but he also spent time with his leaders,” Henley said. “We’re taking the talents that they have as leaders and the skills that they have as leaders and applying the Catholic faith.”

The Indianapolis chapter has already added six members to its ranks this year. The group aims to continue growing their influence and challenging Catholic business leaders to live out their faith.

The message from Monaghan congratulated Indianapolis on a 96 percent renewal rate and an 11 percent growth rate.

“This is truly commendable,” Monaghan wrote.
 

(Katie Rutter is a freelance writer and member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington. For more information on the Indianapolis chapter of Legatus, visit legatus.org/chapter/indianapolis.)

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