Initial reflections on the audience that the Economy of Communion members had with Pope Francis on Feb 4th, 2017
The full text of Pope Francis’ address is now widely available. It has been disseminated on numerous websites, including here on ours, and posted to various social media. Here is the Vatican’s official translation into English. This is a good and wonderful thing for all of us; to have his message shared for all peoples and for all time. This is a joy! This makes it possible for everyone to study his words, ponder his meaning, and share insights and questions with each other.
Let us also recognize then that his address was indeed a joyous occasion, and not only for those who were there but as a joyous occasion of unity with all of the Economy of Communion. Pope Francis clearly knows of our work, and our efforts, and our values, and recognizes them as the gospel in action. And while our time with him was brief, we can carry his message in our hearts and minds everywhere we go and for all time. For those of us who were there, we have a special responsibility. For to us was given the opportunity to not just read his printed words on a page, but to receive this message as the spoken word, which as we know, can be a special means of grace. To be there together and to hear not just the words, but the tone of his voice, his inflections, his pauses, and to see his facial expressions and his gestures of emphasis, all provide a richness that is not apparent in the printed words. Our responsibility is to share the richness of this experience as widely, broadly, and deeply as we can; to enrich his simple, straightforward, yet powerful printed words with the richness of our experience on that day.
I believe that Pope Francis was happy to be there with us and to be in unity with us. And us with him. Much of his address to us was a celebration of our work and the work of the EOC over these past 25 years. He specifically speaks of us introducing communion into the economy and beginning a profound change in the way of seeing and living business in today’s world. He celebrates with us that our work can make the economy beautiful. He also celebrates our ethical and spiritual choice to pool profits because it is a statement to the world that we first serve God and not money. Francis characterizes the sharing of profits as the “best and most practical way” to avoid the idolatry of money. Here (as he does throughout the address) Francis echoes the long-standing teaching of the church about the universal destination of goods and the social mortgage that accompanies all forms of property, even the profits from our businesses. Thus does Francis celebrate our work to be “merchants that Jesus does not expel” but rather merchants who walk with the poor, the marginalized, or as Francis says, the “discarded”.
But it is at this point that Francis also challenges us – in a significant and very serious way. For the profits that we generate are the result of participation in an economic system that seems by necessity to produce “discarded people” that the system then looks to hide or remove from our communion by caring for them in distant and non-personal ways rather than walking with them. Francis certainly admonishes us not to do this; to go beyond being just Good Samaritans who care for the victims of our society but to work for systemic social change such that tomorrow’s victims will never come into being. And in this work, to not just give our time and our money, but to give all of ourselves. Until we give everything of ourselves we will never give “enough”. This too echoes the teaching of the Church reminding us that Christ asks us for total surrender.
There is much in this challenge for us to ponder and discern; for the way forward – the numerous ways in which we might think about this challenge and how to respond to it, and embrace it are not obvious. But here Francis provides some guidance by encouraging us to perhaps remain small; to remain the “seed, salt, and leaven” that is the real secret to change. He suggests we might become the leaven of a new economy, the “economy of the Kingdom”.
About the author
Dr. John Gallagher, Professor of Management, Maryville College
For the past decade, Gallagher has been involved in researching the business practices of companies that participate in the Economy of Communion, which promotes using private enterprise to address social problems. In 2014, he and Dr. Jeanne Buckeye of the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., published their first book: “Structures of Grace: Business Practices of the Economy of Communion” (New City Press).
Gallagher teaches strategic management and international business courses at Maryville College, as well as executive MBA courses at the University of Tennessee. Prior to his academic career, he spent over 20 years as a corporate executive and consultant in both manufacturing and service industries.
Gallagher completed his undergraduate education at Boston College, and earned his MBA and Ph.D. from The University of Tennessee.
By Nick Sanna
Members of the Economy of Communion initiative gathered from all over the world in Rome and met with Pope Francis on February 4th, 2017
“Economy and communion. These are two words that dominant culture keeps separate and often considers as opposites. You have united these words, by welcoming the invitation that Chiara Lubich extended to you in Brazil 25 years ago. Faced with the scandal of inequality in the city of Sao Paolo, she asked entrepreneurs to become agents of communion.” These are the words that Pope Francis used to greet the 1,100 entrepreneurs, students, and scholars of the Economy of Communion (EoC) on February 4th.
“I have been genuinely interested in your project for some time.” Among those listening to Pope Francis’ words were people that consider the EoC not just as a work project, but as their lifestyle. More than 50 countries from all the continents were represented. 25 of us representing the EoC in the US and Canada participated in this event, that marked the 25th anniversary of the EoC. The meeting started on February 1st with two days of concrete workshops to learn how to coach new entrepreneurs to develop businesses imbued by the spirit of the EoC, followed by 3 days of reflections and workgroups where we assessed the status of the EoC today, reflected on the possible next steps both on a regional and on a global basis, and deepened our understanding of the EoC.
The encounter with Pope Francis was certainly the highlight of the meeting. He managed to encourage, challenge and inspire us. He commended the EoC entrepreneurs for being actors of communion and for sharing their profits for the benefit of people in need, indicating that this was the antidote to the possible idolatry of money when the accumulation (versus the circulation) of money and goods by themselves becomes the aim of our actions.
Pope Francis went on to note that although there are many public and private initiatives to fight poverty, “capitalism continues to produce discarded people whom it would then like to care for.” That’s when he challenged the EoC to do more. If the EoC wants to be faithful to its original charism, it must not only take care of the victims of capitalism but also build a system where the victims are fewer and fewer, until there are no longer any and universal fraternity is fulfilled. “Therefore, we must work towards changing the rules of the socio-economic system,” the Pope continued. “Imitating the Good Samaritan is not enough.”
“Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion,” the Pope said. “It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those ‘crumbs.’ Instead, even just five loaves and two fishes can feed the multitude if they are sharing of all our life. In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.” He concluded: “May the ‘no’ to an economy that kills become a ‘yes’ to an economy that lets live, because it shares, includes the poor, uses profits to create communion.”
This was a strong experience for all of us who traveled from North America, that compels us to elevate our ‘game’. Here are just a few of the words shared at the end of the meeting:
- “I am challenged to examine my life in terms of the Gospel and words of Pope Francis.”
- “I was inspired by the many EoC actors who shared their stories and am prompted to reconsider what I can do better towards living out the EoC principles in my life and in my business.”
- “This was a holy fine in many ways, and I feel we are being guided by the Spirit particularly now. Pope Francis has challenged us – how will we respond.”
Prof. Luigino Bruni, who heads up the International commission of the EoC, concluded the meeting by highlighting a strong parallel between the pontificate of Pope Francis and the charism of Chiara Lubich. He observed that both have used strong words against an economy that excludes, that discards, that pollutes, that kills. They both invite entrepreneurs to re-think the meaning of profits, asking them to put them freely in common to create more distributed and inclusive wealth. Both show the direction to an economy that says ‘Yes to life’. “The EoC entrepreneurs demonstrate with their companies that you can sanctify yourself not despite business, but thanks to business and that you can experience a life of fulfillment and excellence by being an entrepreneur.”
Subscribe to our blog to get updates on future EoC events
(by clicking on the button on the right)
Dear members and supporters of the Economy of Communion (EoC),
It is with great joy that we have received the news that Pope Francis wants to meet with us and invites us to the Vatican. In a letter addressed to Luigino Bruni (the global coordinator for the EoC), the Prefect Georg Gänswein confirms that Pope Francis is looking forward to meeting members of the EoC in a private audience that will take place on February 4th, 2017 at 12 noon in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.
A maximum of 400 members representing the EoC from all over the world will be able to participate in the audience. A certain number of EoC members from North America will be allowed to participate as well and represent the various faces of the EoC, including entrepreneurs, students and aspiring entrepreneurs, academics, business consultants, “poor and rich”, etc.
Given the presence of so many EoC members from all over the world, a series of meetings are being organized around the audience with the Pope, including:
- February 1st: Train-the-trainer workshop to learn how to set up an’Entrepreneurship Bootcamp of Communion’ for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.
- February 2nd: Meeting of the EoC International Incubating Network (IIN) for entrepreneurs and professionals who donate their talent and experience to facilitate the growth of a new generation of entrepreneurs.
- February 3rd-5th: EoC Meeting, for all members of the EoC. Includes the audience with the Holy Father on Feb 4th.
Please let us know at your earliest convenience if you are interested in attending by signing up at the following page. We will keep you informed on more details regarding the trip including accommodations in Castelgandolfo, near Rome, at the Mariapolis Center and transportation to/from the airport. Each traveler will have to make his/her own travel arrangements to Rome.
We invite each of you and every local chapter of the EoC to put in communion what we can: both financial resources to balance the travel costs, as well as any other necessities (which are possibly first shared and resolved within your local communities).
Please note that the allocations of slots for the North American delegation might not allow all interested parties to participate, but our chances can increase if we provide a clear indication of numbers within the next 10 days. Again, you can confirm your concrete interest here.
By Maddie Maltese
At the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, MN, entrepreneurs, economists, business people and students from North America and Cameroon design new models of leadership and business inspired by the principles of the Economy of Communion (EoC).
There are some conventions that you attend out of duty and some with brilliant speakers that enchant an audience. And then there are gatherings that might not draw large numbers or are not widely advertised, but change your way of thinking and acting because the agenda is founded in real life stories and reflections, full of conversation about how social justice and business go hand in hand. I attended one such gathering June 9-12 at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, MN, and experienced that change is possible, desired, and shared by many; by a billionaire as much as by a business professor, by a priest heading an entrepreneurial university and by students that have left their country for an internship in businesses animated by economic principles founded in communion.
Among the participants at the 2016 North American Economy of Communion gathering were a group of academics from the Catholic University Institute di Buea (CUIB) in Cameroon. This university, which was founded in 2010 to foster entrepreneurship inspired by the principles of the EoC, already counts 2000 students. You’d expect classrooms, offices, laboratories and big screens. Instead, the university is made up of seven round ‘villages’; cement platforms where the pillars support a tin roof that hosts students across the schools of engineering, organic agriculture, economics and computer science. Father George, the president of the University explains that the “poor in developing countries are not objects in need of aid but subjects of change. We have wasted time accusing industrialized countries or in judging ourselves. Instead, our energies should be channeled into a true development of our communities, where the environment, business, spirituality and culture coexist side by side and develop businesses, schools, and community services. No student of the CUIB graduates without spending weekends over the course of a year volunteering and launching an entrepreneurial endeavor in their home community. The secret of CUIB’s success lies in the 30 minutes a day dedicated to Mass for Christians, in the prayer for Muslims, and in a time of spiritual reflection for the others. Without values you cannot provide direction to change.”
Poverty, Inc., a documentary that was presented at the EoC meeting by its director Michael Matheson Miller, challenged the work of humanitarian organizations that operate with paternalistic assistance in poor countries and that do not produce desired development outcomes. Examples include indiscriminate shipments of food in parts of Asia and Africa that cripple local agricultural production and alter the diet of entire villages as well as donations of clothing that can lead to crisis in local textile industries. “There have been two possible ways to act in humanitarian interventions: give people fish or teach people how to fish. Today, the developmental model must be one of ‘fishing together’. In other words, ‘fish with the other’ and listen to the real needs of the people, without out-of-context interventions that can cause unintended damage”, commented Miller. He encouraged the adoption of the EoC paradigm for development projects.
The EoC demands a new form of leadership, one that is capable of combining market expertise, innovation and care for others. A workshop led by Jim Funk, a management consultant, included role plays on how to solve complex conflicts within business organizations by applying the ethics of communion in which both management and employees are fully appreciated for their talents, intuitions, and ideas that can help the business and the person grow in a logic of shared social justice.
The experiences of various entrepreneurs and managers, who opened up and shared both successes and failures at the meeting, were key to demonstrating that change is a door through which one can see that even mistakes can lead to progress. In the entrepreneurial logic of the EoC, successes and failures can become opportunities to innovate and change.
This was demonstrated by the experiences of Anne Godbout, founder of a travel agency that specializes in pilgrimages and spiritual journeys; of Emery Koenig, who led hundreds of managers at a large global firm; of John Mundell, owner and CEO of an environmental services company who has succeeded in combining business, well-being and care of the environment. This very theme, addressed by the recent papal encyclical Laudato sì, was at the center of another presentation. The candid discussion that ensued reflected how little attention is paid to concrete action we can take individually and collectively to address environmental concerns and safeguard creation.
The story of Robert Ouimet, a successful Canadian entrepreneur in charge of a global food company, was particularly moving. When Ouimet met Mother Theresa in 1983, he offered to give away all of his goods for a social cause. The saint of Calcutta answered that he didn’t possess anything, rather that everything was lent to him and that his life needed to be at the service of his family, of his employees and of the environment, following the life style proposed by the Gospel. His human and financial capital were gifts received by God to be shared and put to good use. The choice to follow her words has not been without pain as his children and his financial backers did not always understand his decisions. Ouimet’s journey gave birth to a set of nine core business principles that guide his entrepreneurial actions. For example, one principle is to “Meet with terminated employees twice within six months following the termination”. Putting it into practice requires courage and readiness for emotional interactions. Ouimet stated, “I had to do it, because I wanted the persons to feel that, despite the reasons that led to the termination, I continued to value them, and that I would have helped them to find a path or occupation more suited to their talents. In all these years, only two persons refused to meet with me.”
Prof. Michael Naughton, director of the Center of Catholic Studies at the University of Saint Thomas, and Prof. John Gallagher, who teaches management at Maryville College, analyzed the cultural underpinnings of economic actions driven by communion. Naughton underlined that the principle of subsidiarity embodies the logic of gift; that every member of a business brings their gifts to the productive process and thereby produce not only products but also build community and hope. Gallagher confirmed the need for a new anthropology and of prophetic voices in the economic arena that can take risks in the name of hope and a sense of responsibility for future generations.
The economy of communion and its 25 years if history show that Chiara Lubich’s vision on the role business could play in connecting with people in need, encouraging a life of communion, now has solid roots in North America. Profit at all cost is not the sole motivator for all business activity. Many entrepreneurs, such as those involved with the EoC, are chasing a bigger vision made up of the gifts each person has to offer, putting hope for a better tomorrow into action.
The agenda and list of speakers for the upcoming EoC Meeting 2016 has been published and can we viewed at the following page.
The agenda includes:
- Presentations and workshops on integral entrepreneurship, spiritual management, and conflict resolution
- Discussions on the role of subsidiarity in business
- Experiences social and spiritual entrepreneurs
- Showing of the Poverty, Inc. documentary and subsequent panel discussion with the film director
- Daily meditation, community-building and renewal
It is not too late to register!
Looking for a way to respond to poverty, inequality, unemployment, and other broken systems in our world today? Do you feel, or ar you searchIng for a sense of calling in your work?
Join the annual gathering of the Economy of Communion network – a group of entrepreneurs, economists, and enthusiasts for purpose-filled work and life.
WHERE: St. Thomas University, St. Paul, MN
WHEN: June 10th, 9am – June 12th, noon (complimentary welcome reception June 9th, 5pm)
Register online. We look forward to your participation.
The North American Economy of Communion Association
Join us for the 2016 gathering of the Economy of Communion that will be hosted and co-sponsored by the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, MN.
The meeting will officially kick off Friday June 10th at 9am and conclude with lunch on Sunday June 12th.
Participants are also invited to join a dinner and reception with special visitors from Cameroon on Thursday June 9th beginning at 5pm.
“The Economy of Communion: Social Entrepreneurship Fostering Integral Development”
The Chair of Integral Economic Development invites you at the Catholic University of America on Wednesday, November 4th, for a seminar with Nick Sanna. Mr. Sanna is the COO of RiskLens, a cyber risk management software company.
Nick is a regular lecturer at universities across the US on the subject of social entrepreneurship. He is a board member of the Economy of Communion initiative in North America and is an advisory board member of the school of business and economics at CUA. Nick received a masters degree in Economics and Trade from the University of Rome La Sapienza.
Food and drinks will be served afterward. Our seminars are free and open to the public!
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
5:10 – 6:30 PM
McMahon Hall, Room 201
The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Ave NE
Washington, D.C. 20064
Please RSVP to email@example.com
The dates and venue for our annual conference of the Economy of Communion (EoC) have been set. So please mark your calendars and stay tuned for more information as we get closer to the event.
- The University of St Thomas in St. Paul, MN has kindly offered to host the event, following last year’s presentation of the EOC as part of the Higher Calling series.
- The meeting will be held on June 10-12, 2016.
On July 17-19, over 50 participants gathered from all over the US and Canada to attend the annual meeting of the Economy of Communion (EoC), which was hosted by the Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C.
The varied audience of entrepreneurs, academics, students and business professionals engaged in 3 days of rich and intense dialogue around an economy based on a culture of communion. The program featured exchanges about business practices and experiences of EoC members, alongside interactive workshops.
The experience of the EoC over the past few years has revealed how poverty and wealth can be seen through a richer lens when lived from the perspective of communion. Meeting participants explored the many facets of need (not just material), and how wealth can turn into ‘super-abundance’ when shared as part of relationships grounded in reciprocity.
The question and answer sessions by Prof. Gallagher (Maryville College) and Prof. Buckeye (St. Thomas), authors of the recent book on the EoC in North America called “Structures of Grace”, as well as a presentation led by Prof. Zuniga (CUA) on recent analysis of a social project supported by the EoC, provided examples of how the EoC can help generate true integral development of individuals and communities. These research contributions have helped to measure the impact of the EoC with new rigor, and more clearly articulate its activities and culture.
Experiences shared by EoC members and interactive sessions animated by Amy Uelmen (Georgetown University), Prof. Cloutier (Mount St Mary’s), Prof. Miguel Garcia-Cestona (Univ. Autonoma) and Claude Blanc (CHB Associates) highlighted the transformational role that each one of us can have in fostering a culture of communion in the workplace and in our communities, and how this often manifests itself in small everyday choices that we face.
The workshops were very hands-on and helped kick-start 3 new projects that were identified as priorities for the upcoming year:
- Form a strong EoC network in North America.
- Articulate the EoC principles in terms best suited for a North American audience.
- Identify the criteria for selecting a social development project in North America that the EoC can support, beyond current support of projects overseas.
Feedback from new and repeat participants point to a luminous discovery and re-discovery of the EoC, and of a renewed enthusiasm and commitment to the continued development of the EoC in North America.
For more information about the North American Association of the EoC and to register to the blog, go to www.eocnoam.org.
The Economy of Communion was featured at a “Higher Calling” event organized on April 14th, 2015 by the Opus College of Business of the University of St. Thomas and the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought.
130 people attended the event. Among them entrepreneurs, academics, students, young professional and members of local faith groups. The title of the event was: “The Entrepreneurial Vision of the Economy of Communion: Creating a Business Where All Can Flourish”.
Prof. Jeanne Buckeye of the John Ryan Institute made un introductory presentation of the EOC that was followed by the experience of two entrepreneurs – Nick Sanna and John Mundell – and an analysis of the EOC led by Prof. John Gallagher of Maryville College TN. A vibrant panel discussion and Q&A session with the audience concluded the evening.
The audience was very engaged and the Q&A session had to be interrupted while questions were still pending to conclude on time. Many of the participants told us that they wanted to learn more about the EOC and some indicated the interest to turn their own business into an Economy of Communion business and their intent to be the first ones in the Twin Cities. Our trip to the Twin Cities concluded by a formal invitation by Prof. Michael Naughton of the University of St. Thomas and the John A. Ryan Institute to host our annual 2016 meeting at the University of St. Thomas. We are excited about the possibility to continue develop our partnership with those institutions and to support the nascent EOC community in MN. The VIDEO of the presentation is accessible through the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIiynWcig7U