In celebration of the fifth anniversary of its establishment, members of the Harrisburg Chapter of Legatus gathered on May 18 in Hershey, the site of the chartering celebration that set the founding 25 couples on their way to live and spread the Gospel as Legates on May 31, 2016.
Legatus – the Latin word for ambassador –is the world’s premier membership organization for Catholic business leaders committed to study, live and spread the Catholic faith in their professional and personal lives.
To say the Harrisburg Chapter has come a long way these past five years would be an understatement. The chapter has been blessed with an exponential increase in membership, a record number of regional and national awards and – most importantly – the strengthening of members’ spiritual lives to live and spread the faith.
“Our chapter has been remarkably successful through the willingness of our members to unselfishly share their talents for the good of the group,” said Camille Kostelac-Cherry, chapter president. “I know that will continue to be the foundation upon which we can build our chapter’s future.”
An international organization, Legatus was founded more than 30 years ago by Tom Monaghan, a practicing Catholic and founder of Domino’s Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers. It is designed for Catholic business leaders and their spouses, offering opportunities for prayer, study and camaraderie. Monthly meetings feature Mass, the Rosary, inspiring guest speakers, networking and peer support.
Bishop Ronald Gainer is the chaplain of the Harrisburg Chapter of Legatus. Worldwide, the organization has more than 5,000 members in 90-plus countries.
“I have received many blessings through my involvement in Legatus. Most importantly, I have grown spiritually – not only through interactions with Bishop Gainer and his uplifting and teachings to our members – but also through the incredible speakers who have shared their knowledge with us,” said Kostelac-Cherry, a charter member along with her husband, The Honorable John Cherry.
“I am continually learning from the shared experiences of our colleagues, many of whom are so much more knowledgeable about our Catholic faith than I am,” she continued. “We have a unique platform of trust and intimacy within which we can freely discuss business issues and personal challenges and triumphs, and it’s all inspired by our faith and guided by the Holy Spirit. On a personal level, we have benefitted from innumerable new personal friendships and have made valuable business contacts not only for our professional ventures but also for our own family needs.”
An Effective Response for Today
Grateful for the gifts and achievements the organization has afforded these past five years, members of the chapter, known as Legates, gathered in Hershey for the May 18 celebration, which began at St. Joan of Arc Church with the Rosary, the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Mass celebrated by Bishop Ronald Gainer.
In his homily, the bishop said the day’s Scripture Readings of St. Paul meeting the Ephesian elders and Jesus thanking God for his life and ministry at the Last Supper teach us to seize every opportunity to fulfill the mission Christ sent us to accomplish.
“These passages make us think about not wasting opportunities. Both Our Lord and St. Paul say, ‘I have seized every moment’ to fulfill the mission that I was sent to accomplish,” Bishop Gainer said.
“So often, we get wrapped up in wondering about the future: ‘If only this were changed, then I would be more fervent…. Or, we focus on the things of the past that distract us from living in the present moment,” he said, urging the congregation to live in the present moment and not be distracted by the events of the past or the future.
At the conclusion of Mass, the chapter inducted its two newest members, Kevin Black and Maria Fazzolari-Hamilton, bringing total membership to 81.
A dinner followed at The Hotel Hershey, where Helen Alvaré delivered a motivating address on religious freedom and how the Catholic Church can effectively respond to societal push-back to its teaching on sexuality and the sanctity of marriage.
Alvaré is a Professor of Law at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, an author, speaker and ABC News consultant. She is also a member of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and a frequent delegate to United Nation’s conferences concerning women and the family.
Alvaré said research shows the Catholic Church’s sexual responsibility norms assure more personal dignity, equality and stability, and less poverty, depression and suicide.
“Our sexual responsibility norms are the answer, and yet the world has never hated them more. It seems to me that we need to be a whole lot better in the response we provide,” she said.
She offered what she calls two moves the Church can make to further promote the common good and obtain respect from those who criticize it.
The first, she said, is to show people that Catholic schools, hospitals and other institutions are more than just providers of excellent services, and reveal them as communities working in response to Christ’s mandate.
The second response to blowback against Church teaching on sexuality is to reveal that our love is not divisible, Alvaré said.
“We don’t say we show love to our neighbors, our colleagues, our patients, our clients, our students, but not to our nearest neighbors of the same sacrificial, radical, generous, permanent, unconditional kind,” she explained. “The love that we have for our patients, clients, students is the love that we live in our lives. It is indivisible. We don’t treat our spouses and children less. We are trying to show the world a community that almost looks too good to be true.”
“Our sexual expression norms are simply part of how we reveal this radical Christlike love. You should see it in a Catholic hospital, you should see it in the Little Sisters of the Poor, you should see it in a Catholic school, you should see it at Catholic Charities. You should also see it in the lives of the people who work there, and in the services they’re willing to provide,” Alvaré said. The love that we have to show in everything in that institution has to be indivisible.”
Alvaré said the Church must be “far more positive and ambitious” in responding to religious freedom challenges.
“We are a community of unified witness to Christ. Of course we cannot bring into our operations, our services, our people a statement against Christ. Second, our norms of sexual expression are incredibly loving of our neighbor. All of the empirical data says so. If you want a society where women are respected, where LGBT folks are loved and taken care of, if you want a world where children feel secure and stable and have the benefit of their parents’ love, you want what we have,” she stressed.
“We respectfully dissent from your rules trying to force us to cooperate, but we do so because we love our neighbor and we love the common good. We want to stand as a light to society as institutions that have the right to do this because we love you and we know that we will benefit you,” she concluded.
Growth in Legatus
In its five years, the Harrisburg Chapter of Legatus has earned nine regional and national awards at the annual Legatus Summit in Orlando – the most by any chapter since 2015. Among the accolades are Ambassador of the Year (Sen. John DiSanto, 2018), National Chapter President of the Year (Hank Christ, 2019), Northeast Regional Program Chair of the Year (Camille Kostelac-Cherry, 2018) and the 2017 Angott Award for the highest growth rate of any chapter.
The chapter is adding another national award to its mantle, as Bishop Ronald Gainer was bestowed with the National Chapter Chaplain of the Year for 2020. John Knowles, J.D., former Legatus Director for the Northeast and International, presented the award to the bishop during the May 18 dinner.
Kostelac-Cherry credited the success of the Harrisburg chapter to Bishop Gainer’s support, and said it is one of less than five in the nation whose bishop serves as chaplain.
“Bishop Gainer is visibly present and engaged in our activities at all times, and his spiritual leadership and teaching are the foundation of our chapter’s success,” she said.
“His support has been immeasurable. Our members are blessed to have a monthly ‘private audience’ with Bishop Gainer, to be fed by his insightful homilies, and to witness his own spirituality in action. He has been extremely generous with his time interacting with us individually and quietly leading his flock even within a social setting. Bishop is truly the heart and soul of our Legatus chapter,” she said.
While awards and recognition are certainly worth celebrating, the true reward of Legatus comes in the form of spiritual growth and camaraderie.
“I have received many blessings through my involvement in Legatus. Most importantly, I have grown spiritually — not only through interactions with Bishop Gainer and his uplifting and teachings to our members, but also through the incredible speakers who have shared their knowledge with us,” Kostelac-Cherry remarked. “I am continually learning from the shared experiences of our colleagues, many of whom are so much more knowledgeable about our Catholic faith than I am.”
“We have a unique platform of trust and intimacy within which we can freely discuss business issues and personal challenges and triumphs, and it’s all inspired by our faith and guided by the Holy Spirit,” she added. “On a personal level, we have benefitted from innumerable new personal friendships and have made valuable business contacts not only for our professional ventures but also for our own family needs.”
Kostelac-Cherry, a charter member and previous Program Chair, said she is hopeful for continued growth in the chapter, both in its numbers and in the spirituality of its members.
“Our chapter has been remarkably successful through the willingness of our members to unselfishly share their talents for the good of the group. I know that will continue to be the foundation upon which we can build our chapter’s future,” she said.
“Building on that foundation are the many incredible members who believe strongly in the mission of Legatus and are willing to share their talents to enhance our experience and to grow our chapter,” she said. “We are a faith family, and enthusiastically welcome and embrace new members.”
(Learn more about Legatus at www.Legatus.org.)
(Mass photos by Chris Heisey; dinner photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness