Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Spiritual Ministry To The Business Community

These notes are from a presentation by Fr. Max Oliva,S.J.,December 2, 2008. Oliva is a visiting fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and a leader in the field of spirituality and the workplace. He is the author of five books, the latest of which will be Beatitudes for the Workplace (Novalis-Toronto).



  1. The Worker-Priest Movement in France. Begun in 1941 by Dominican priest Jacques Loew. He was sent by his religious congregation to study the condition of the working classes in the docks of Marseilles. He, and other priests who joined him, ministered to France's secularized industrial working class by working alongside them on the docks and in factories.
  2. The British Industrial Mission was established in 1944 in the city of Sheffield, England. The local Bishop, concerned that the Church of England had been losing touch with people in the industrialized cities during the inter-war years, sent one of his priests into steelworks and other heavy industries to engage with workers and to enter into discussions about issues of importance to them.

  1. The British Industrial Mission has changed the focus of its missionary activities to airports and shopping centers due to the decrease of heavy industries in the United Kingdom.
  2. The Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission is a national, not for profit organization, based in Australia. This is very much an employment assistance kind of program. The chaplains, as of this time, are mostly lay people. They serve to support the objective of human resource management to mitigate, for example, the stresses and strains experienced at work.
  3. Industrial and Commercial Ministries (ICM) has its national office in Harrisonburg, Virginia. This is a training and placement organization of clergy and laity who serve as volunteer chaplains to people where they work. They are often hired by a company to be their 'in-house' chaplain. Chaplains emphasize being a 'ministry of presence'. The kinds of issues these chaplains deal with are pastoral in nature.
  4. National Institute of Business and Industrial Chaplains(NIBIC) is based in Houston, Texas. They see their ministry as representing "God's care and concern for people as they are" providing pastoral counseling and consultation in workplace settings.

  1. LEGATUS was founded by Thomas Monaghan (Domino Pizza founder). The purpose of this organization is to "strengthen business and other professional leaders in the knowledge and application of their faith in their personal and professional lives." Members meet monthly to pray and support one another; each gathering begins with a Mass, followed by a social, dinner, and invited speaker. Each chapter has a local clergyman for a chaplain.
  2. The Center for Spirit at Work is based in Kansas City, Missouri. It provides a forum for people to explore and reflect on the integration of their faith values and the workplace. There are a variety of programs for both men and women to to assist in dealing with job related issues, e.g. a career transition support group, team building, a coaches program, a working women's spirituality group, and so forth. The Center also provides for occasional spiritual retreat days.
  3. Breakfast Groups. There are a variety of organizations that sponsor breakfast meetings. These may include celebration of Mass as well as having a speaker. Such is the case, for example, for "St. Peter Speaks," which is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. It's purpose is to "create a community of Catholic leaders in Edmonton (the capital of Alberta)." Members are drawn from a variety of occupations, not merely business. "The Catholic Professional & Business Club" has chapters in various cities. Each chapter offers a monthly Mass at the beginning of the meeting and a speaker. The Club's purpose is to "enable Catholic professional and business men and women to reflect on their Christian ethical beliefs in their everyday personal and professional lives." "The Center for Christian Spirituality" is based at the University of San Diego, a Catholic university). It offers an eight week business leadership and spirituality breakfast seminar. Topics include such themes as: spiritual compass, having a sense of meaning in one's work, servant leadership, discernment in decision making, and courage - taking the 'high road'.
  4. Academic Centers. There are university academic centers such as "The Center for Spirituality and the Workplace", at St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the "Institute for Spiritual and Organizational Leadership" at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. Such centers offer opportunities for interchange between academia and men and women in the corporate world on spiritual and ethical issues.
  5. Independent Spiritual Coaches and Entrepreneurs. "Spirituality at Work" is a ministry of Fr. Max Oliva, a Jesuit priest, who lives in San Jose, California. Begun in 2002, while Father Oliva lived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, this ministry involves spiritual retreat offerings of differing durations: a six-day, individually, directed, retreat that a person makes while continuing to go to work or that one can make from one's home; weekend offerings, and single day events. Father Oliva also writes a monthly on-line newsletter called, "Spirituality and Ethics" which is available at Click on News. Then on the newsletter, to access it.

  1. When Protestant organizations, such as ICM, say they are ecumenical, they are most often speaking of other Protestant denominations.
  2. Protestant work-chaplains, from my research, are most frequently involved in employee assistance programs. Words like 'spiritual' or 'spirituality' or 'spiritual values' are infrequently used in their literature even though there are many Protestant bible study groups.
  3. Roman Catholic individuals and groups are focused on helping people deepen their faith life and their relationship with God as well as deal with ethical and pastoral issues. This is done in a variety of ways - by the kind of speakers they invite, by celebrating Mass together, by offering spiritual retreat opportunities, and so forth.
  4. In my experience, business and other professional people are hungering for a deeper prayer and spiritual life.

  1. Organizations that sponsor breakfast meetings for professional people need to have opportunities for follow-up - chances for deeper sharing, for discussion of ethical and spiritual issues, for ethical problem solving, etc.
  2. There are far more Protestant ministers, clergy and lay, tending to the pastoral needs of workers in the workplace than there are Roman Catholic ones. More Catholic laity, clergy, and religious need to be encouraged, and trained, to undertake this valuable ministry

New Materials

Center News