By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published March 4, 2010
The second annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference, held at St. Peter Chanel Church on Saturday, Feb. 20, brought together business leaders and professionals to discuss what it means to be Catholic in the workplace.
Sponsored by the St. Peter Chanel Business Association, the Woodstock Business Conference Atlanta chapter and the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University, the event welcomed more than 200 people and featured talks on being Christian leaders in interactions with clients and coworkers.
Event organizers said the conference is designed for Catholic business people and professionals who wish to more deeply understand the role of faith in the workplace.
Randy Hain, managing partner and shareholder of Bell Oaks, an executive search firm, served as a guest speaker and began the day with encouraging words before announcing the featured speaker, James Nolan.
“Use this (conference) as a catalyst to be lights of Christ in the workplace,” Hain said.
Nolan, a lawyer and Catholic business ethicist who recently returned as coordinator of the Woodstock Business Conference at Georgetown University that he directed from 1993-2000, spoke about how to be a steward leader. He presented qualities displayed by steward leaders and offered resources to help people grow in these qualities.
“A good steward is the one who uses talents for his master,” Nolan said. “We are all stewards of those resources entrusted to us by God.”
Self-awareness is something these leaders possess, meaning they realize their own strengths and weaknesses, Nolan said. They are continuously reflecting on how they can be better and thrive on knowing and learning more about themselves and others around them.
Each conference participant received a binder with a thorough outline of the day, including notes from the speakers and additional resources for them to use. During his talk, Nolan led the crowd to a “daily examen” in that binder, which included questions and prayer suggestions to help them reflect daily on events with God.
Dr. Phillip Thompson, executive director of the Aquinas Center, said he believed the conference addressed a deep need in the community.
“Catholics are trying to navigate their work lives in a culture that provides difficult challenges to their faith. They are hungry for a thoughtful engagement on how to be holy in all aspects of their lives,” he said.
The business conference began when Thompson, Hain and Deacon Mike Bickerstaff of St. Peter Chanel were trying to build on the success of the St. Peter Chanel Business Association speaker series. They wanted to create an opportunity for business and professional leaders to have a full day to learn, reflect and share on the issue of how Catholics connect their faith and work.
They felt there was a need for a sustained ministry to businesspersons and professionals. There are particular challenges and opportunities to be addressed in a way that makes sense to professionals and yet also builds on the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church, Thompson said.
The event continued with guided small group discussions, prayer and other speakers, including Terry Trout, vice president of customer experience for Cbeyond, Father Ricardo Bailey, a teacher and chaplain at Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, and Chris Lowney, business professional and author of several books on leadership and business.
“This year’s conference was a great success,” said Thompson. “For the first time we had table sponsors from major Catholic groups and businesses like the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia, Catholic Charities, the Catholic Business Exchange and Rosebud Technologies.”
“The most important issue addressed at this year’s conference is how to be Catholic in the workplace,” he continued. “We spend so much time at work, can we completely separate ourselves from our faith? If we do this, we can end up in a kind of spiritual schizophrenia. We lead one kind of life at work and one at home or in church. All of the speakers provided reflections on how to bridge these worlds—work and faith—from different but relevant perspectives.”
John Nee, chairman of the board of Catholic Charities Atlanta, said, “The issues they are addressing are the issues we face every day. … The key is how we get God back into the workplace.”
Regina Price, a parishioner at the Church of St. Monica, Duluth, came to the conference with a friend, Patricia Stultz. They enjoyed the speakers and the time in small groups dissecting some of the issues presented.
“Even as a non-Catholic, I can appreciate this,” Stultz said. “It is important for people to bring these issues to the forefront.”
“The attendees want inspiration, careful reflection and practical points they can apply to their work lives, Monday through Friday,” Thompson said. “Our speakers at the first two conferences have effectively addressed these needs and we will work every year to listen to the attendees’ assessments and make the conference even better.”
For more information visit www.stpeterchanel.org.