by Jim Funk
I never imagined I would get a chance to meet with the Pope. When I got the invitation, I thought maybe I was dreaming. As the owner of a business in the Economy of Communion (EoC) network, I’ve run my business striving to follow principles that keep the person in the center of what we do, serve the common good, and attend to the needs of others. Pope Francis has been interested in the success of the EoC model, which is why he invited EoC entrepreneurs to meet with him at the Vatican in February 2017.
Although you may be thinking that the EoC is only relevant for Catholic or non-profit businesses, that’s definitely not the case. Rather than focusing on religion, the EoC upholds principles that can (and should) apply to all businesses. In the meeting, we discussed how we can drive this message home and make a real impact in the world.
In short, Pope Francis was calling for a new economy. He put the challenge this way: “We must work toward changing the rules of the game of the socio-economic system. Imitating the Good Samaritan of the Gospel is not enough.” (Click here to read the full text of the Pope’s speech.)
Pope Francis started out by acknowledging that contemporary culture does not typically put the words economy and communion together. But he told us that by introducing into the economy the “good seed” of communion, we have begun a profound change in the way of seeing and living business. He said business can edify and promote communion among people, and that the economy becomes “more beautiful” when it’s comprised of the communion of goods, talents, and profits. Pope Francis went on to say, “Money is important, especially when there is none, and food, school, and the children’s future depend on it. But it becomes an idol when it becomes the aim.” My takeaway from these words is that money must not be an end in itself, but rather a means for individuals and communities to flourish—for people to be able to use their talents to work toward creating good products and services.
In describing the responsibilities of business leaders, the Pope said we need to ensure not only that our profits are used for the good of others, but also that we as leaders give of ourselves. He made it clear that money is only part of the equation. What he said is needed most is our spirit, respect, humility, and a desire to change the structures of the economy.
How can we do this? The Economy of Communion provides five principles for businesses that are a part of their network to follow:
- Build sound relationships based on mutual respect, care, and open communication
- Foster participative environments by promoting teamwork and encouraging innovation, creativity and responsibility
- Build cohesive and healthy organizations
- Adapt the highest ethical standards
- Voluntarily share business profits to provide direct aid for people in need, and to develop educational projects to foster a culture of giving
Actually, there are many businesses beyond the 850 or so members of the EoC that follow principles like these, and that have similar statements listed in their mission and core values. And as I have reflected on the message of Pope Francis since returning to the U.S., I feel he was speaking not only to Economy of Communion businesses, but to any business that strives to produce goods, services, and work that are “good” for people and for the world.
How is this accomplished? In every organization, it is the leaders who establish the mission, vision, values, strategic goals, and objectives to produce the desired results. While these leaders must obviously be competent and capable of driving results, I would maintain that they also must be “holistic leaders.”
Holistic leaders bring their whole selves to their leadership role, and they integrate their characteristics into the way they lead. They lead with moral character, humility, justice, compassion, transparency, trust and authenticity, as well as with the absolutely critical functional competencies that lead others to achieve results. These leaders also have the heart of a servant—that is, they have a natural desire to serve others, and to focus on people and their needs.
These are the leaders, in my view, who can walk the talk when it comes to implementing these principles, and who can produce the communion of goods, talents, and profits that Pope Francis referred to. But it requires not only a willingness to give; it involves the gift of the entrepreneur’s own person—the gift of self, as Pope Francis said.
How can you implement these ideas in your leadership, or your business?
- Consider what resonates with you about these ideas, and what would enhance your leadership or your business. Which of the principles discussed by Pope Francis and the EoC would you like to incorporate?
- You may wish to revisit your mission and values statements, and then identify new strategies or action steps that would align with your mission and values.
- Learn more about the Economy of Communion, and consider joining. Click here for information.
- Plan to attend EoC North American events for entrepreneurs and others interested in learning more about the EoC. (Click here for information)
- Click here to view a short (3 ½ minute) video about the February 4, 2017 meeting of the Economy of Communion with Pope Francis.
Please feel free to respond to this post, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you want to spread these business and leadership principles, please “like” and “share” this post!
Jim Funk is a consultant who helps leaders, teams and organizations discover and develop their full potential. He is passionate in believing that strong leadership competence combined with the leader’s personal characteristics, values and virtues are key to achieving goals and driving business results. In addition to his work at J L Funk & Associates, Jim has served on various boards and commissions, and is currently a member of the Economy of Communion in North America Commission. Learn more about Jim’s work at www.jlfunk.com and www.linkedin.com/in/jlfunk or e-mail him at email@example.com.
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.”
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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.