Top leaders turn to the one on top
Catholic business leaders share the faith in the world of the marketplace
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
What: Legatus of North Eastern Wisconsin
When: Meets first Thursday of the month, with Mass, dinner and a speaker. Alternates between De Pere's Bemis International Center and Appleton's Butte des Mortes Country Club.
Who: Catholic presidents and CEOs of top-producing local companies and their spouses.
Why: To become "ambassadors in the marketplace"
Next meeting: April 4, panel discussion.
Information: Contact Mary Ann Romberg at McCain Foods in Appleton: (920)927-2210 or email at [email protected]
Ever wondered how top business leaders make big decisions? Is it always a matter of the bottom line? Or does some other guiding principle come into play?
For more than two dozen top executives in our area, that guiding principle is their Catholic faith. Legatus of North Eastern Wisconsin was formally chartered last month in Green Bay. The group consists of 27 couples from Green Bay to Oshkosh to Stevens Point and the Lakeshore, who now join an international organization founded in 1987 by Thomas Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team.
Monaghan, along with Bp. Robert Banks, led the formal chartering ceremony at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral.
Legatus members, who head local corporations including banking, manufacturing, insurance and food production, meet monthly to discuss their faith and its application in the board room and executive suite. Their purpose is to learn to become better "ambassadors in the marketplace." Legatus comes from the Latin word for ambassador.
"It really means continuing to reinforce the Christian and Catholic values in your whole life," says Bill Raaths, president and CEO of Anchor Foods in Appleton, one of the local chapter's founding members. "It's not just about Sunday, but, as we make business decisions, the tough decisions, doing it in a spiritual view of what God and the Church would like us to do."
Besides celebrating Mass and sharing ideas, members hear from speakers like Monaghan, Fr. Joseph Fox, OP, a member of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, to Green Bay Packers president Bob Harlan.
Monaghan, who founded Legatus after a life-changing audience with Pope John Paul, has vowed to devote all his assets to spread the Gospel message to the world's business leaders. There are more than 1,300 members from nearly 700 companies. Members pay dues of $2,200, some of which goes to the national office in Ann Arbor. Another part is tithed to the Holy See.
Mary Ann Romberg, local chapter coordinator, says of Monaghan's talk that the pizza magnate has a soft-spoken approach that makes his accomplishments even more intriguing. "He was talking to everyone in the room," she said, "but it was like he was also talking just to you. It's a gift."
Raaths said that Monaghan's talk with local members helped energize them to see that the same talents and gifts that had made them top in their fields could help them spread the Gospel in the business venue.
"At the executive level of a business, you don't necessarily have people you can talk to about every kind of issue," said Raaths, a member of St. Mary Parish in Menasha. "This group allows you to talk more freely."
That faith sharing among peers is of vital importance to living the faith in corporate life, says Dcn. Jim Asmuth, retired head of Wisconsin Tissue in Neenah.
"You don't have to speak the Bible to do it," says Dcn. Asmuth, who was part of the local Legatus group at its founding in January 2001. "It's how you act, how you treat people, the decisions you make."
This is crucial when making the tough decisions. For example, Raaths' company, purchased last fall by McCain Foods, laid off workers in February. How does one balance the Gospel message with a business decision that puts nearly 300 people out of work?
Raaths admits that it wasn't easy, knowing that people would lose a paycheck because of it. But he says Legatus helped him take a bigger view of the situation, without "being callous, and look at what was truly the best good for the majority of employees. If you don't do it (cut back), ultimately a facility could not be viable and would have to be closed down" leaving all its employees out of work. Anchor employs more than 1,000 in the Fox Valley.
Dcn. Asmuth says the sharing between "men in like positions" facing similar decisions, helps everyone see all the possibilities.
"There are two roads available to us to take," he says. "The good road and the bad road. You try to make the decisions that take the good road."