A guide for business leaders that was developed largely by local Catholics and released as an official Vatican document in 2012 caused a sensation around the world, but it remains largely unknown in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Seven years later, his supporters say it is more relevant than ever, and preparations are made to introduce it to the masses, starting with a class this fall in his parish of Chanhassen.
A small team from the Center for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas University in St. Paul took the initiative to develop the groundbreaking 30-page reflection titled “Vocation of the Business Leader,” with Director Michael Naughton at the closed off. The document marked the first time that the Catholic Church affirmed business as a vocation. Its indispensable role in providing the common good and promoting human dignity has been emphasized – a stark contrast to the mercenary nature of business often implied by theologians.
The document is divided into 87 short sections – many simple paragraphs – and ends with reflective questions. The introduction sets out a central premise: “Obstacles to the service of the common good come in many forms – corruption, lack of rule of law, greed, mismanagement of resources – but most importantly for a leader. personal business is living a divided life. This division between faith and daily business practice can lead to imbalances and an inappropriate devotion to worldly success. The alternative path of faith-based “servant leadership” offers business leaders a broader perspective and helps them balance the demands of the business world with those of ethical social principles, informed for Christians by the gospel. “
The document was born from a seminar organized in 2011 at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome in collaboration with the Center for Catholic Studies of the UST. There, business leaders and professors from various disciplines – from philosophy to management – attempted to interpret Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) for the market. .
“There was some puzzlement about: what does this mean for business? Naughton said.
The seminar was so successful that he proposed to Cardinal Peter Turkson, chairman of the board, to create a follow-up “manual” for faith-based business leaders, whom they defined as executives and business owners. as well as influential lower level employees. .
An intense year
The Cardinal’s go-ahead began an intensive year of collaboration across the country and Naughton keypad-filtered conference calls. The father of five got up early, taking detailed notes, conflicting opinions, and copious coffee to develop the document in the office of his St. Paul home, sharing early drafts with his wife and students.
“I certainly think the Holy Ghost was there,” said Naughton, a member of the Holy Ghost in St. Paul and winner of the 2018 Leading with Faith Award.
His background – a doctorate in theology and an MBA – equipped him well to lead the editorial board. As difficult contributions poured in and new drafts emerged, Naughton’s collaborators said they came to appreciate his critical thinking and diplomatic touch.
“Mike has done a remarkable job of guiding all of this,” said Robert Kennedy, a Catholic studies professor who contributed to the document and belongs to the Nativity of Our Lord at St. Paul. “He can get something done without alienating people.”
One contributor who helped keep the document handy for busy executives was Pierre Lecocq, a Catholic father in Paris who had been CEO of a large European print service provider.
Power can corrupt, says Lecocq. “It’s a drug – running fast, making decisions every day. You have to take a step back and say, “Hey, wait a minute. Am I doing this because I really have to do it, or because I like to do it? ‘ “
Being a Catholic business leader doesn’t mean you will never fire employees, Lecocq said. Rather, it means you approach it with as much sensitivity as possible, being transparent about changes in the workplace so that a dismissal doesn’t come as a complete surprise, and then helping that person find a new job.
Naughton synthesized all of these thoughts, and the result was a thought that was both deep and palatable. He challenges business leaders to create goods that are good and services that really serve. It also calls for subsidiarity to allow employees to exercise their gifts and to feel empowered as “co-entrepreneurs”.
“The vocation of the entrepreneur” delighted its commissioner, Cardinal Turkson, the jovial leader of the church in Ghana, who widely promoted it. Unlike similar Vatican documents which appeared to die on the branch shortly after being released, this one made legs grow. It has been translated into 15 languages and adopted in parts of Asia, Africa, Europe and South America.
Also rare: it generated four new editions updating the first, further proof that it had become a living and breathing document.
The latest edition, edited by Naughton and published in March, incorporates Pope Francis’ ideas on sustainability and the technocratic paradigm, the modern inclination to dominate the natural world through technology. In total, the revisions lasted almost eight years. Naughton said he expects a hiatus for now, but may consider another edition inspired by a new pontiff or other notable influence.
The document had a profound impact. Pope Francis has referred to it on several occasions. The International Christian Union of Business Leaders picked it up as part of its cause, disseminating it through its distant chapters. And that inspired local Catholics at the Catholic Rural Life Office in St. Paul to write “Vocation of the Agricultural Leader,” a reflection published in 2016 by the International Catholic Rural Association in Rome.
And yet, for its remarkable scope, the “vocation of entrepreneur” remains relatively unknown in the archdiocese where it was born.
“Strangely enough, this document did not have the impact in the United States that it had in other parts of the world,” Kennedy said. “I was really surprised that there was almost no attention in this Archdiocese. It is partly our fault. We have been busy and have not had the chance to work hard to encourage parishes to do programs or encourage other events in the Archdiocese.
Naughton agrees with his colleague. He said he is aware of a few business courses in St. Thomas that use the material. Since its release in 2012, Naughton has given “several” talks about it, he said, including one at a local gathering of Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders. However, this was never the subject of the quarterly talks held at the St. John Vianney College seminary through the Virtuous Business Leaders group, when local Catholic businessmen join the seminarians for mass, supper. and reflection.
“I guess out of those 60 men who show up, there’s a chance none of them saw this,” said Rich Chapman, a member of Our Lady of Grace to Edina. Chapman works as a managing director at Chartwell Financial Advisory in Minneapolis and heard of the “Business Leader Vocation” when Naughton showed him a project.
“I think this document has been underused,” Chapman said. “Why don’t we have it in the hands of every Catholic business leader and create a place to discuss and grow? The document is a hidden gem.
For Chapman, “Vocation of the Business Leader” reminds him to reexamine the age-old standards of success. “Speed is almost revered in business – how fast can you complete a project or enter a market,” he said, noting that Chartwell is a fast growing company. “My prayer life would be: God, help me to discern when speed compromises something. “
A higher call
When business leaders see their work as a calling, they are inspired to provide service leadership and ultimately evangelize the workplace, Chapman said. “The business leader must be attentive to the opportunity to help train virtuous people. And virtue at work is a gateway to the Gospel. This is how I have always considered my work: it is a call for me, it is an opportunity to do the work of God.
Bill Bojan, member of St. Hubert in Chanhassen, shares this point of view. Director of business risk management services at the Minneapolis accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen, Bojan has worked at other firms that have fallen into crisis. The problem, he said, comes from focusing on management – the way a ship is managed – versus governance, where it is headed.
Bojan said he had developed a practical application for the “Business Leader Vocation” based on biblical governance. “I’ve been on a mission for 10 years to use all of my experiences and expertise and create the ‘how’ of this wonderful ‘what’, he said.
Bojan has built a website (solomon365.com), recorded podcasts, and is starting a course this fall with the Saint-Hubert men’s ministry team to study and embrace the vocation of a business leader. He is eager to expand his pilot program to other parishes and begin a speaking circuit.
The authors of “Vocation of the Business Leader” consider their paper more necessary than ever, given the pace and pressures of today’s world of work and growing economic inequalities.
“Businessmen have a crucial calling in society and in the Church if we are to strengthen what is good and overcome what is bad, to create a truly humane and sustainable economy,” said Sister Helen Alford, a Dominican who worked with Naughton to coordinate the writing of the document. creation and is dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
Indeed, said Naughton, the stakes are high: Business leaders with a sense of calling respond to the needs of the world, driven by a strong sense of purpose.
“The document reminds us that we have been called and that there is dignity to that calling, and the calling reaches the deepest purpose of who we are,” Naughton said. “Our accomplishments, our money and our awards will all betray us. They are nice to have, but they are not where we want to locate our meaning.
Read the most recent version of “The Vocation of the Business Leader: A Reflection,” which incorporates Pope Francis’s teachings on key topics.
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