By REBECCA RAKOCZY, Special To The Bulletin | Published March 19, 2009
More than 160 business professionals from 25 parishes met on a rainy Saturday for the first Atlanta Catholic Business Conference at St. Peter Chanel Church. But from the onset, this was not business as usual.
With job layoffs, corporate leader misconduct and the spiraling stock market as a backdrop, the Feb. 28 meeting instead focused on ethics and morality—helping business professionals better integrate their Catholic Christian faith and ethical consciousness into the secular business world.
The conference was the brainchild of St. Peter Chanel parishioners Randy Hain and Phillip Thompson. Hain is one of the organizers of the parish’s ongoing SPC Business Group. Thompson is the executive director of the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University. The two organizations co-sponsored the event with the help of St. Peter Chanel’s Major Speakers Series.
“We were both passionate about the same thing: how to integrate faith and work,” Hain said.
From looking at work as more than a career, to exploring the Catholic response to the current economic crisis, to discerning how to become the “invisible hand” of compassion to the poor, to balancing work and family, speakers challenged their audience to stop living a divided life of leaving their faith at home when they’re at work.
“What am I working for? What am I resting in? What am I living for?”
Those were the questions posed by Michael Naughton, Catholic studies professor at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minn., where he directs an institute on Catholic social thought and business.
Naughton was one of three speakers who prodded the audience to “be the same person in all areas of our life.”
“Look for ways to organize your day to ensure a way that is inviting God’s presence to be there,” he said.
Quoting Pope Paul VI and the Vatican II document “Gaudium et spes,” he noted, “The split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.”
Integrating faith in work also means integrating faith into one’s life when not at work. Naughton asked everyone to reassess their understanding of “rest and leisure,” moving away from escapism and amusements that suppress the mind and soul and elevate the physical toward an appreciation of leisure that rests the soul and elevates the spirit and mind in retreat and reflection.
He admitted it was difficult for many people to “turn off” the work mode and develop a more personal dimension to their lives.
“There is a whole group out there that are called the Sunday neurotic. They become anxious and depressed on Sunday afternoon and evening; they don’t know how to rest,” Naughton said.
He added that for many, rest was just a way to store up energy for the week ahead. That was also counterproductive, he said.
“If we’re resting in order to work more, well, we’ll never rest.”
Next on tap was Paul Voss, executive director of Ethikos, provost for Holy Spirit Preparatory School and a Georgia State University associate professor. Voss reinforced his talk on the current economic crisis and the Catholic response with literary and historical references.
Ethical hazards occur in institutions when they do not bear full or even partial consequences for their actions, leaving another to bear some or all of the brunt of the blame, Voss said. The current mortgage crisis was the result of no one having “any skin in the game” and simply passing on responsibility, Voss said.
He also reminded the group that “no success at work is worth failure at home.”
Voss gave a formula for assessing decisions at work: “Is it prudent, is it just, is it temperate? When something is fair and just, prudent and temperate, all boats will rise.”
Thompson, the Aquinas Center director, also spoke, presenting the traditional version of leadership versus the Catholic model of leadership, asking the group to look at core Catholic leadership values as a way to conduct business.
“If you look at the standard leadership definition—leadership is a process whereby an individual effectively influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal—well, you could be talking about Adolph Hitler. What’s missing is ethics.”
Thompson defined Catholic leadership as “a process whereby an individual effectively and ethically influences a group of individuals to achieve a common worthwhile goal.” The process must be guided by and consistent with Catholic principles, he said.
Organizers hope the conference will become an annual event.
“We hope this was not just a meeting, but a mission,” said Hain. “Our goal is to get a Web site and a newsletter and take this out on a smaller scale throughout the archdiocese. But it’s certain that we’ll have another conference next year.”
Questions To Contemplate
Do I leave my faith at the door when I go to work?
Do I make the sign of the cross and say a blessing over meals, regardless of my companions?
Do I view my work as a vocation?
What role do ethics and morality play in my work life?
Do I look for Christ in others and can people clearly see Christ at work in me?
Am I willing to be unpopular for taking stands in defense of Christ’s teachings?
Do I share the beauty and truth of my Catholic faith with others?
Do I set a good example for others in how I practice my Catholic faith?
Am I a good steward of my time, talent and treasure?
Is my job serving my family or is my family serving my job?
Do I truly place God first in all things or is he merely contending for a piece of my time each day?
Do I help the less fortunate with love and compassion?
More information, including a recap of speakers’ presentations, is available at www.stpeterchanel.org.