Leaders urged to follow Christ’s example at conference

Imagine taking a problem to someone you regard as a leader — a boss, a coach, a parent, a pastor — only to be told that person has no answers for you.

“For most of us in business, not having an answer is not a safe thing,” said Jim DeRose, head soccer coach at Bradley University in Peoria and a featured speaker at “Living Always: A Faith-Based Leadership Seminar.”

Yet at times life offers challenges where solutions may not be easy or clear. What are leaders who are Catholic to do?

DeRose and other speakers at the second annual diocese-wide conference, which drew 70 participants to the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria on March 12, repeatedly suggested it is OK to turn to our faith, even in business situations.

“Let your Catholic faith shine out of you,” urged Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who celebrated a Mass to open the daylong event.

Leaders should “remember the example of the Lord,” who “showed who he was in the face of opposition. So should we.”

Acknowledging that at times bringing up faith in the workplace or with friends may be a sensitive topic, the bishop said that “to influence others, we have to figure out how to incorporate our faith into our everyday lives.”

Speakers at last Saturday’s seminar offered some specific and practical ways to do so.

As a successful coach — his teams at Bradley have gone to five NCAA tournaments and reached the national “Elite 8” in 2007 — Jim DeRose likes to keep things simple. He asks his players to work hard, be fit, stay organized, and have defined roles. That way, when times get tough, they “have a central place to come back to.”

DeRose suggested that Catholic leaders approach their prayer and spiritual life in the same way.

DeRose, a member of St. Philomena’s Parish in Peoria, said he learned the importance of prayer when tragedy struck his team in 2006. The morning after team member Danny Dahlquist was killed in a house fire, he went to visit the player’s parents.

While DeRose struggled for words, Dahlquist’s mother, Tricia, told him “Thank God we have so many praying for us.”

“At that point I realized I wasn’t even in the ballpark of being Catholic,” said DeRose. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

While DeRose said he’s no expert in the field of faith, he has come to realize “there’s nothing more spiritual or wonderful than having someone say they’re praying for me.”

He encouraged Catholic leaders not to pray for outcomes — just as a coach shouldn’t pray for a win — but for guidance, strength, and God’s will.

Like Simon the Cyrenean helped Jesus carry the cross, Catholic leaders should embrace a willingness to serve co-workers in times of challenge, said Lisa Feeney.

“People we work with have wounds we may or may not know about,” said Feeney, owner of Bloomington-based Feeney Consulting. She urged Catholics to take the time to “be Simon” to others even when they, like the biblical figure on the road to Calvary, might really not want to help.

Feeney said she was given the insight of “being Simon” for others after attending a Cursillo five years ago. She showed participants a painting of Simon and Jesus that is owned by her pastor, Msgr. Eric Powell of Epiphany Parish in Normal, and asked them to reflect on its meanings.

All of us have opportunities to listen and support others experiencing times of challenge, said Feeney. But leaders must remember their role is limited.

“At some point Simon had to give that cross back to Christ,” said Feeney. “It was Simon’s privilege to share it for a short while, but it was Christ’s destiny.”

Mike Seghetti, a Peoria lawyer and member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, said that Catholics should be “different” in the workplace and that “different means better” when it means reaching for a higher standard.

Touching briefly on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas on “natural law,” Seghetti said we can usually determine the right thing to do even in challenging times. If we have the “courage and commitment” to act on behalf of good — even when passions, distractions, or bad habits get in the way — “most people appreciate that.”

He guided participants through several different legal cases as examples, including some where clients had the law on their side but a better outcome for everyone involved different paths.

Moderating the day was Jack Desatnick, chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Enercon Engineering whose vision resulted in the first “Faith-Based Management Seminar” a year ago.

“My hope for everyone here is, when you leave, you won’t feel alone in trying to do what is right in this world and at your workplace,” said Desatnick. “Keep on the straight and narrow road with Christ and you will be a great leader.”

Participants were led in the rosary by Deacon Greg Serangeli of St. Edward’s Parish in Chillicothe. Dodie Gomer of Caterpillar, Inc., guided small group discussion of the topics, and the speakers returned at the end of the day to answer questions in a panel discussion.

Helping to coordinate the event was Craig Dyke of the diocesan Office of Evangelization.

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