Palm Beach Gardens | When Jesus cast out “those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves—as well as the money-changers seated there (in the temple),” he commanded that the merchants stop making “his Father’s house a marketplace” (Jn 2:13-16).
This directive of the Lord’s desire led one man to ask the question, “What if the marketplace were to serve the Lord?”
Thomas Stephen Monaghan, founder and CEO of Domino’s Pizza, recognized a need for a Catholic alliance in the marketplace after living in the shrewd, morally-taxing world of corporate companies with immense financial power.
“Monaghan founded Legatus as a way for Catholic business leaders to find respite from the secular business world and gather with like-minded people,” said Mark Eidemueller, president of the Diocese of Palm Beach chapter of Legatus. A large part of Monaghan’s vision for Legatus was the practical implementation of wealth in service of the community through the Catholic lens. Monaghan’s determination to incorporate faithfulness into his career led him to found Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida.
The Latin term legatus originates from the time of Caesar Augustus and was used to identify a high-ranking Roman military official. During the Roman Republic, legatus received large sums of the military’s rewards at the end of a successful campaign. This made the position a lucrative one, so it often attracted distinguished consuls or powerful political figures. A legatus eventually evolved to hold an ambassadorial role, acting on behalf of a king or political entity. Today, the national organization uses the term ‘legatus’ to identify as ambassadors of Christ, especially in the marketplace.
Many of the local organization’s members are top executives or retired CEO’s of corporate companies who dedicate their time to pray, worship and partake in fellowship once a month at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens. Fred Topor, a retired executive from AT&T, noted that what makes Legatus distinct is the fact that spouses are encouraged to join the organization as well.
“My wife, Jane, and I are members and we really enjoy networking and connecting with other couples with similar backgrounds,” Fred Topor said. Jane is a businesswoman herself; she creates special bracelets that tell the story of Christ’s life and sells them as a fundraiser tool for various Catholic charities.
Others gravitated towards the diverse business and faith experiences each member brings to the table. Barbara Pereira, who joined Legatus internationally when she was living in Dublin, Ireland, for a time, is a global investment banker who focuses her free time on fostering faith among young professionals.
“I’m currently developing the Come and See project in association with the Saxum Visitor Center in the Holy Land,” Pereira said. “This is a pilgrimage project that culminates in a symposium for young professionals looking to reconnect with their faith roots.”
Charlie Gusmano, the former founder of Southern Waste Systems, was a member of the Legatus chapter in Broward until the new Palm Beach chapter was chartered in 2018. He expressed that the Legatus community encouraged him to actively bring the faith into his business facilities.
“I had a statue of the Blessed Mother in every location of (Southern Waste Systems). I never received any negative comments about it. In fact, I had many people call or write in to say that they appreciated my representing the Catholic faith through my company,” Gusmano said. He also explained that many of his employees were migrant laborers and he would assist them through Catholic Charities and other faith-based resources.
A Legatus meeting typically includes praying the rosary, confession, Mass and then meeting at Jupiter Country Club for dinner and a lecture by a guest speaker. The most recent meeting on June 20 featured Father Mike Schmitz, chaplain at the University of Minnesota Duluth, who has gathered a strong following of young Catholics through his broadcast of homilies and theological topics via videos, podcasts and audio books facilitated by Ascension Press.
Father Schmitz’s lecture centered on the meaning of worship and sacrifice. He opened the lecture with, “The heart of every religion is worship. The heart of every worship is sacrifice.” He proceeded to explain that many people lose interest in going to church because “they don’t get anything out of it.” He countered this point with, “Yes! But what did you give? What did you sacrifice?” Father Schmitz inspired Legatus members that evening to share in Christ’s priesthood as active participants of the sacrifice of the Mass.
David Thompson, a Legatus member present for Father Schmitz’s lecture, said, “In our hectic lives, I find the events centering, which allows for a monthly spiritual reset in life and refocus on what’s truly important.”