This is how the story goes, according to Peter Giersch, managing director of the Cathedral Consulting Group: Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza and the former owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team, was traveling on a private jet in May of 1987, just hours after meeting Pope John Paul II during a personal trip.
A devout Catholic, Monaghan pondered his experiences with the Young Presidents Organization, a global network of young chief executives founded in 1950, whose core values include a peer network and trusted mentors, the importance of continuing education and the need for a “safe haven,” where issues can be aired in an environment of confidentiality, according to YPO’s Web site. Nearing his 40th birthday, Monaghan’s involvement with YPO was about to come to an end.
As Monaghan’s thoughts wandered, he wondered about joining another organization that would include the aspects of YPO by combining business, faith and family. Thus, the idea for Legatus was born, 35,000 feet in the air.
Family, faith, business
“So, Tom Monaghan got this whole idea for it, sketched it out on a legal pad, got back to Detroit, (and) invited all of his CEO friends together to tell them precisely about this new social club for CEOs,” Giersch, hired 10 years ago by Legatus’ Milwaukee chapter to recruit prospective members, explained in a phone interview with your Catholic Herald. “They all looked at him and they said ‘You’re crazy! We don’t need another social club.’ And he said, ‘Well, what would it take to get you to join?’
“Whereas Young Presidents Organization is good at bringing family and business together, the idea behind Legatus is family, faith and business,” Giersch added. “So, it takes YPO one step further to include the faith.”
Like Monaghan, Legatus members are business leaders – people with varying interests and diverse talents who share one goal: to become better Catholics and, in turn, positively impact their business and personal lives. Today, Legatus – Latin for “ambassadors” – provides service to more than 1,800 businesses in 60 chapters across the United States and internationally on three continents, according data on its Web site.
The Milwaukee chapter, established in July 2000 and now comprised of 40 couples, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Thursday, Nov. 11, with a Mass at St. Anthony Church in Menomonee Falls, followed by a black tie dinner and program at North Hills Country Club.
Legatus helps members deepen their relationship with God and discover how Catholic truth and values can help them meet the ethical challenges they face on a daily basis. Because their spouse is also a member, Legatus provides additional opportunities to enhance their marriage and family life in the process.
Legatus has three levels of membership – executive, division head and intermediate. To become an executive member, the prospective member must have the title of chairman, CEO, president and/or owner, have a staff of 30 employees, or 10 employees and a $10 million annual payroll, and come from a company that has between $5 – $10 million in net value, and $100 million in assets.
“The uniqueness of Legatus is that everything centers around the Eucharist, and even when the group meets, there’s always the Mass; we start out always with the Mass,” said chaplain Fr. Tim Kitzke, a member of the team of priests serving Three Holy Women, Old St. Mary’s, Our Lady of Divine Providence and SS. Peter and Paul, Milwaukee. “So, the chaplain is responsible for that. And also then eventually there’s a meal, there’s a prayer, a closing prayer, but also to be available for the sacrament of reconciliation” is another important aspect of the organization, he added, noting that Legatus is a spiritual group.
“It’s not just a social group,” he said. “It’s trying to send forth the message that, to live your faith in the world, you have to have spiritual formation that takes place even outside of just your regular parish connection.”
Members learn ‘intersections’ of faith and business
Legatus doesn’t have required tasks to which members must adhere.
“There are no projects, so you never need a ‘to-do’ list,” Giersch said about the meetings that take place once a month. “We’re not trying to feed the hungry or do this, or do that, because these people are already doing it. All the people of Legatus … they’re all running around in the world, already saving the world in their spare time, when they’re not running their business. So, no projects, no solicitations, no fundraising, nobody ever asking you for money. So, when you come to these meetings, it’s a safe place for you.”
A typical night for members begins with Mass, which is followed by a cocktail hour, dinner and speaker who will touch on the “intersections” of faith and business.
“The program is challenging speakers to help them realize that Catholic social teaching is part of the very fabric of who we are as Roman Catholics,” Fr. Kitzke explained. “And so based in Catholic social teaching and in kind of the respect for human life from conception to last natural breath, to make that prevalent to how people live their lives.”
The mission of Legatus has been to bring Catholic business leaders and their spouses together in a monthly forum that fosters personal spiritual growth through Mass, participation of the sacraments, and a chance to mingle and meet with others who share their experiences, according to its Web site. As practicing Catholics, they aim to enact the Golden Rule in the daily lives of their employees, customers and suppliers.
Legatus does resemble a typical parish group, admitted Fr. Kitzke, but he said it’s actually meant to be a supplement to parish life, not a replacement.
|For more information about the mission of Legatus, visit
contact Peter Giersch at
“It’s a chance for all of them to get together and talk about shared concerns and shared interests,” he explained. “A parish is made up of any number of different types of societies and different types of groups. This is not trying to be cliquish at all. In fact, it’s trying to support people so that they can go back to their parish and be a meaningful viral presence. Since I’m a parish priest who is actually the chaplain, obviously the direction or the drive of my own comments is always, ‘We have to take this back to the parish,’ in terms of making the parish a better place, for the mission of the church.
“There’s also some commonality in terms of their life experiences that you might not have with other members of their parish,” he added.
An opportunity to ‘increase spirituality, learn about faith’
Lou Gentine, the owner of Sargento Foods Inc., and president of the Milwaukee chapter of Legatus for nearly two years, believes that he and his wife, Michele, have grown in their Catholic faith since becoming members.
“Michele and I joined Legatus prior to its chartering in the year 2000,” he explained. “We’ve enjoyed participation in Legatus. We feel that it’s a nice break away from the business side of things, and the opportunity to, you know, increase our spirituality (and) also to have the opportunity to learn more about our faith, and enjoy the company of a lot of very, very nice people.”