From making the sign of the cross at lunch to having a crucifix on one's desk, business leaders can lead others to faith in subtle ways

DETROIT — The Church has doctors, lawyers, writers, farmers, fishermen and — God-willing — doorkeepers as saints. But Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron noted something odd about that collection

“There are not enough saints who were in business,” Archbishop Vigneron said during his homily Oct. 23 at the annual Mass for Commerce. “We have a lot of lawyers and doctors, and that’s great. But we need more saints dedicated to commerce. The Lord needs you to expand this kingdom to the areas of commerce.”

More than 225 businessmen and businesswomen gathered at the 26th annual Mass for Commerce at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, a chance for the corporate and nonprofit communities to gather in prayer and discern how God is calling them to expand His kingdom in the world of finance, trade, retail, manufacturing and philanthropy.

The Gospel according to St. Luke related a story Jesus told his apostles about a steward assigned to make the most of what his master had placed in his care. Archbishop Vigneron said the parable is apt for the those in the business community to hear.

A man prays during the 26th annual Mass for Commerce on Oct. 23 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. The Mass is a chance for businesspeople of faith to network and gather in prayer and fellowship. (Photos by Naomi Vrazo | Detroit Catholic)

“A lot is written about why Jesus’ teachings are in parables, but many said it was because he had to be a bit coy,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “It was typical of rabbis to teach in such a manner, because it makes the teachings richer when you have to figure it out. I doubt any of you have fruit trees, or a flock of sheep, but this parable is about a project, with an expectation to be good stewards, good managers.

“Jesus expects us to do well with what we’re given, to fulfill his goals, his plans,” Archbishop Vigneron continued. “It’s about advancing Jesus’ mission, his kingdom. It’s not about obtaining wealth, but advancing the kingdom of God. This is your vocation, in your families, in your businesses, to build up the kingdom of God.”

Noting a recent Pew Research poll detailing the rise of the “nones” — those who subscribe to no religious teachings or beliefs — the archbishop stressed the need to be intentional about discipleship, and to explicitly invite others into a relationship with Jesus.

“We need to look for ways for people of faith to show others their reason for hope in life,” Vigneron said. “This is what it means to be missionaries, to live in a way that looks radically different so others will ask, 'What is the cause of your happiness?'”

A woman kneels during Communion at Sacred Heart Major Seminary during the 26th annual Mass for Commerce.
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron blesses the congregation.

After Mass, people gathered in Sacred Heart’s gymnasium for a breakfast and panel discussion on spreading Christ’s message in the workplace.

“I’m known as ‘Captain Catholic,’ at my workplace, and it stuck for some reason,” said David Gardiner, a certified financial planner at Merrill Lynch who specializes in Catholic family and institution investments. “I think over time, people know there is something inherently different in your demeanor. When you’re the light on top of the hill, you don’t cover it up. And when people say you’re Catholic in your workplace, be ready to say what makes you happy.”

Matt Barrett, a senior counsel at FordDirect, said there are things, both big and small, one can do to profess one's Catholic faith in the workplace.

“There are things you do through the day that can be a witness for Christ,” Barrett said. “You make the sign of the cross at meals, have prayer cards and statues on your desk, a crucifix. As you elevate in the (business) world, you can control your schedule. Do you go to Mass with that flexibility? My office knows that on first Fridays of the month, I’m at Mass. When you invest your time at work in your faith, your coworkers will know that faith is important.”

Catholics pray the “Our Father” during the Mass for Commerce at Sacred Heart Major Seminary on Oct. 23.

Christina Shabo, project director for the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, got her start in the private sector before transitioning to the nonprofit world.

“For me, there was this strategic move of discerning where God wants me to be,” Shabo said. “I knew there was a cause that needed me more; I just felt this tug. So I used what I learned in the private sector to transition to the nonprofit sector, because I felt that is where God was calling me to use my talents.”

Offering a ministerial perspective to the panel was Richard Lane, a Detroit-born lay Catholic evangelist, who challenged business leaders to examine how they can use their positions to preach the Gospel.

“You’re Catholic because of the Eucharist. You’re Catholic because you believe Jesus died for your sins and that he is Lord,” Lane said. “No matter where we are, who we are, we need to say what God has done for us. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘If God calls you to sweep streets, then sweep streets as if Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel.’ God is calling you to be bold, to live Jesus’ message.”

Video by Detroit Catholic videographer Joe Pelletier.