Fr. Michael Crosby dies at 77; led corporate responsibility campaigns

DETROIT — Capuchin Franciscan Father Michael Crosby, author, speaker, retreat leader and a longtime convener and organizer of corporate responsibility campaigns, died Aug. 5 at age 77.

Capuchin Fr. Michael Crosby. (Photo courtesy of Marlo Williamson | Special To The Compass)

His funeral Mass was to be celebrated Aug. 12 at St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin.

Father Crosby, executive director of the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment, was diagnosed with cancer in December. Despite surgery and a course of treatment and chemotherapy in April, the cancer was discovered to have spread by June and Father Crosby entered hospice at that time.

The Capuchin often was in the forefront of efforts to introduce shareholder resolutions on behalf of religious orders that covered a wide range of concerns including climate change, sourcing of materials and fair treatment of employees.

He told Catholic News Service as the 2016 corporate annual meeting season opened that he believed that shareholders, no matter how small their stake in a company, were responsible for urging executives to protect human dignity by advancing the cause of workers, the environment and human rights.

“Stocks give you ownership,” he said. “Ownership makes you responsible for the acts (of a company) like any other ownership makes you responsible under law.”

Father Crosby also helped establish the Human Thread Campaign, a program of Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment and a Catholic effort to raise awareness, undertake direct action and build solidarity with garment workers.

He began working in the corporate responsibility movement in 1973, after five years in parish ministry at the former St. Elizabeth Parish — now St. Martin de Porres Parish — in Milwaukee. His first work in the field was as tobacco program coordinator for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, or ICCR, and its work on the tobacco industry’s efforts to maintain market share.

Josh Zinner, CEO of the interfaith center, lamented Father Crosby’s death.

“Since the beginning, Mike was there pushing companies to do the right thing on so many critical issues of environmental and social justice,” Zinner said in a statement Aug. 7. “He has been a model for us all: kindhearted, thoughtful, compassionate and full of strength. We are so grateful for all that he has given to ICCR, and are deeply saddened by his passing.”

Father Crosby earned the respect of corporate leaders, said Oblate Father Seamus Finn of his order’s Washington-based Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office and ICCR chairman.

“He exercised great leadership,” Father Finn said Aug. 7 of Father Crosby’s work. “He was a great strategist. He was dogged in his research and persistence. He didn’t give up on finding new ways to push some of these companies along.”

The work in corporate social responsibility was just one aspect of his life, said his elder brother, Capuchin Franciscan Father Daniel Crosby. He was a popular speaker and was invited to lead retreats, guide parish missions and speak on issues of social justice and spirituality, “helping people go deeper into the Gospel,” Father Daniel Crosby told CNS Aug. 7.

“Mike did not just talk the talk. He gave good talks. He wrote good stuff that he believed with deep conviction, everything that he said and everything that he wrote. He manifested that in a powerful and beautiful and inspiring way in the way he lived these eight months,” he said.

The late Capuchin priest wrote more than 20 books including “Bearing Witness: The Place of the Franciscan Family in the Church,” “Thy Will be Done: Praying the Our Father as Subversive Activity,” “Spirituality of the Beatitudes: Matthews Challenge for First World Christians,” and “Repair My House: Becoming a ‘Kindom’ Catholic.”

In 2016 he was named one of the Most Inspirational People of 2016 by the Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, which cited his work on corporate responsibility.

The newspaper quoted Father Crosby earlier in the year saying: “We’re not a bunch of Marxists trying to take the company down. We’re just faith-based people saying we’ve got to balance our fiscal responsibility with our social responsibility. We just can’t be in the market on its terms. We’re not in the market on the terms of Wall Street; we’re on the terms of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

A native of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, he was born Feb. 16, 1940, to Hugh and Blanche Crosby. He joined the Capuchin Franciscan order in 1959 and professed his vows in 1963. He was ordained to the priesthood Oct. 6, 1966 and served in the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph based in Detroit.

Father Crosby was a collaborator in the canonization cause of Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey. His book, “Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey,” chronicled the life and spirituality of the Capuchin priest who served Detroit’s sick, poor and downtrodden people while offering counsel and words of wisdom to them. Pope Francis announced May 4 that Father Casey met the requirements for beatification and will be named “blessed.”

Father Crosby is survived by his brother.