Being a good Catholic in the workplace is about stewardship, lifting others up, chief shepherd tells business community

DETROIT — “Angels don’t have to clean the gutters.”

Preaching to leaders in business, marketing, engineering and finance, Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron made his own sales pitch on what it means to live the Gospel in the daily tasks of labor.

“Angles aren’t engaged in the web that we call, ‘the economy,’” Archbishop Vigneron said at the 25th annual Mass for Commekrce at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on Oct. 17. “The things necessary (that create) the need for gutters, create the economy: the need for shelter, for food, for clothing. This is where your work in finance, law, communications, engineering, all of it matters in this web, arranged by the need to have gutters.”

This web of supply and demand is a web designed by God to provide for the daily necessities of life for God’s creation, Archbishop Vigneron added. And since it is God’s plan, it is up to the people engaged in commerce to be good stewards of God’s creation.

“God planted (mankind) in the Garden of Eden to be stewards,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You don’t own these things. And as stewards, you must make an account for what you have done with these things. You’re God’s partners in this plan. It’s all about the dignity God infuses in us, as part of this world, and what we do with that dignity.”

Brad Simmons chats with other Catholic professionals during the Mass for Commerce's networking session.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron celebrates Mass in Sacred Heart Major Seminary's chapel as part of the 25th annual Mass for Commerce.

Archbishop Vigneron noted Sacred Heart’s chapel is a result of successful leaders in business donating to the seminary, notably the automobile-pioneering Fisher brothers.

The annual Mass is a chance for business leaders to give thanks to God for their success, but also to foster community between Catholic professionals.

“I was invited by a friend to come to the Mass for Commerce,” said Michael Morin of The Yaffee Group based in Southfield. “For those who have been schooled in the Catholic faith, it’s important for us to reflect on the decisions we make, based on the perspective of, ‘How would Christ do this?’”

Deacon David Casnovsky proclaimed the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells the parable about the three servants who were given talents from their master who was leaving them for a time. When the master returned, two servants who were given a greater number of talents produced a return on the master’s investment, while the servant who was given one talent didn’t invest it and chose to hide it instead.

“The master in the story is Jesus, who has personally entrusted talent to you,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “What you are doing is what Jesus gave you to do. Knowing this, your profession takes on a whole new character. What does that mean? It’s not some bizarre banking method or radical practice you’re engaging in. But it’s the thing which belongs to everyone becoming a new thing in Christ, enriched by grace.”

Following Mass, the congregation had the chance to meet for a community breakfast and networking in Sacred Heart’s gymnasium.

“I came to the Mass for Commerce four years ago and fell in love with the idea of networking and thanking the Lord for all the blessings in our businesses,” said Dawn Dorsch of Detroit-based DENCAP Dental Plans. “Shortly after I came to the Mass, I contact John Sier (director of the Mass for Commerce steering committee) and asked how I could get involved.”

Dorsch said the Mass for Commerce, and in particular Archbishop Vigneron’s homily, is a call for Catholics in business to reflect on how the work they do can and should bring Christ to the world.

“I hope I’m bringing the Gospel message to how I try to conduct my life every day at work,” Dorsch said. “I try to, as an employer, make sure our employees feel welcome trying to do the right thing, not only on the outside with our customers, but on the inside with each other.”

John Prost and Angela Moloney, members of the Mass for Commerce host and steering committees, respectively, smile during a networking session inside the seminary's gymnasium.

It was the first time Rick Wallace of Kelly Services in Troy attended the Mass for Commerce. Wallace said he felt invigorated from meeting other Catholics in business and reflecting on Archbishop Vigneron’s call to “unleash the Gospel” in one’s place of work.

“It’s almost a journey to figure out what your talents are and how God wants you to give back,” Wallace said. “I don’t know what my talents are that I can give, but that, to me, is the journey of life, figuring out what that is.”

Wallace, who also is on the board of directors for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, said he’s been thinking about ways to give back to the faith at work.

“To me, it is the point of not wasting talent; that’s what I think about every time I hear that Gospel reading,” Wallace said. “It’s about making sure you are thinking deeply and not wasting what is given. That’s what resonates with me.”

Near the end of his homily, Archbishop Vigneron returned to his now-familiar catchphrase, “unleash the Gospel,” impressing upon those in the congregation that it is on everybody, regardless of occupation, to help God reclaim His world by doing their day-to-day tasks with a renewed sense of spirit and grace from the Holy Spirit to be joyful, missionary disciples.

“So yes, you still have to clean the gutters, but you do it in a new way,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “You have the power of Jesus to endure the crosses that come. And in doing so, you create as a partner of Jesus Christ in healing and transforming this world.”