October 3, 2014

Governor Pence lauds group celebrating a decade of faith, friendship and business connections

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence talks about his Irish-Catholic roots with Catholic Business Exchange members on Sept. 19. (Photo by Denis Ryan Kelly Jr., www.deniskelly.com)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence talks about his Irish-Catholic roots with Catholic Business Exchange members on Sept. 19. (Photo by Denis Ryan Kelly Jr., www.deniskelly.com)

By John Shaughnessy

It was hard to tell who felt the emotion more:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as he recalled the influence on his life by his Irish-Catholic father.

Or Jim Liston as he talked about his 10-year journey of leading the Catholic Business Exchange, a monthly program in Indianapolis based upon the foundations of faith, friendship and business.

Pence was the featured speaker at the 10th-year anniversary celebration of the Catholic Business Exchange on Sept. 20. He shared how his Catholic upbringing has continued to influence his life while acknowledging that his “Sunday morning practices are much more non-denominational over the last 10 years.”

Remembering his youth in Columbus, Pence told the audience, “It was in that Catholic community, in that small southern Indiana town, that I grew up and found a foundation of faith and meaning in my life that would impact me and still impacts me every day.”

With a touch a humor, he recalled how his devoutly Catholic mother once doused everything in their home with holy water during a tornado warning: “We are convinced to this day that if we were standing outside, we’d have been drier.”

With a touch of sentiment, he shared how the courtship of his wife, Karen, began when he was in law school in Indianapolis and he attended Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church.

“I couldn’t take my eyes off the brunette who was playing the guitar in this group up front,” Pence said, noting he rushed to introduce himself to her after Mass. “I chased her out of the back of the church that Sunday morning, and I chased her to the front of the church about nine months later. She’s been my wife for 29 years now.”

The governor’s emotion grew stronger as he talked about his father, Ed Pence, “a Catholic businessman” who “carried himself in a way that honored his faith.” He recalled a car ride he made with his father when he was a young man starting a career.

“In some of the favorite stories I loved to hear about dad, people would say, ‘You didn’t need a contract with Ed Pence. He told you it was going to be that way, you shook his hand, and it was done.’

“So anyway, I’m in the car with him. I said, ‘Dad, I’m starting to meet people around the state who know you and have an opinion of you, and you know, you really are pretty successful.’ He looked at me, kind of slowed the car down a little so he could look me right in the eye when he said it, and he said, ‘Mike I just have a lot of friends.’ ”

The son would learn the depth of that statement after his father died in 1988 at the age of 58.

“You couldn’t find a parking spot for blocks [around the church.] People came from everywhere,” Pence said. “And even though Dad’s been gone all these years, I still have people stop me and tell me, ‘I like what you’re doing, governor, but I knew your dad and he was a good man.’

“And I know I’m looking at a room full of good men and women just like him. You get up every day, and you live out your faith—not on your sleeve, but in ways that are real and authentic.”

Ten years ago, Jim Liston searched for a more authentic way to connect people of faith in the business world. He wanted to get beyond the usual networking concept of people meeting to share what their job titles are and what they want to sell.

He developed the idea of a monthly meeting that starts with Mass. Time for connecting follows, as participants wear tags that identify them only by their name and their place of worship. The low-key networking sessions always concentrate on a topic that draws out something personal about the members, hoping those connections lead to friendships. A buffet breakfast and a featured speaker end the two-hour get-together.

More than 200 people attended the 10th anniversary celebration at the Northside Knights of Columbus. They came from 43 different faith communities, including 37 that are Catholic.

“People come because they don’t get anything else like this anywhere in town,” said Liston, a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis. “We have one thing in common, and that’s our faith. I thought if we can get 40, 50 to 100 people to come to Mass, on a day they don’t have to come, wouldn’t that be great?’ ”

Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel thinks so.

As the celebrant of the anniversary Mass, Msgr. Schaedel told the group, “If we are truly Christians, we are simply not just business people. We’re not just in it for ourselves. Of course, we want to use our time and our talents to get ahead and to be industrious, but at the same time we are Christians.

“We do it in a way that respects the dignity of each individual. We do it in ways that are fair and honest. We do it in ways that not only build up the business community, but build up the community of faith.”

Msgr. Schaedel presented Liston with a framed proclamation from Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, congratulating him “for his 10 years of dedicated service to the Catholic Business Exchange.”

Governor Pence gave Liston a Distinguished Hoosier Award.

Touched by the tributes, Liston still kept his focus on the mission of the group he created.

“Catholic Business Exchange is built on a stool with three legs on it: faith, friendship and business—in that order,” Liston told the group. “I feel very proud of the fact that our members really take that to heart.”

In the past few years, the group has added another dimension to its purpose. Members have come together for community outreach efforts that have included leading drives for the St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry, collecting toys for the U.S Marines’ Toys for Tots campaign, and serving as volunteers at the National Catholic Youth Conference.

“I really never envisioned that our community outreach would develop like it has,” Liston said. “It’s exceeded my expectations.”

So has the longevity of the Catholic Business Exchange overall. Still, Liston believes the group has many more years in its future.

“It’s a monthly booster shot, not just for me, but for everyone who comes,” he said. “It’s not about the almighty buck. People say, ‘Some of my closest friends are from Catholic Business Exchange because I feel I know those persons.’

“It really has become an extended family. It’s made the Catholic community a smaller world now.”

(For more information, visit the website www.catholicbusinessexchange.org.)

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