Hesburgh Lecture to examine Catholic Social Teaching in a business context

Friday, Sep. 13, 2019
By Linda Petersen
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — Within the context of working for a living, the true Christian can find ways to elevate his/her labor and their regard for the work of others to help build the kingdom of God. That is the premise behind the upcoming Hesburgh Lecture.

On Oct. 7, Father Oliver Williams, C.S.C., will speak on “Catholic Social Thought: A Spirituality for Business Life.”

“Spirituality can be defined as the desire to find ultimate purpose in life and to live accordingly,” Fr. Williams said. “Spirituality … means an overarching world view. For those of us that are Catholic, that comes from our belief in Jesus Christ and the fact that we can advance the Kingdom of God through our efforts here on this earth.

“The lay person in his or her professional life not only wants to be confident in the chosen profession …  but also try to bring the values of the Gospel into their secular order,” he said. “We should … see what we are doing as advancing the kingdom of God, that it’s a vocation.”

In his lecture Fr. Williams will explore the concept of work as a vocation as outlined in Vatican II’s “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.”

“Christ’s redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes also the renewal of the whole temporal order. Hence the mission of the Church is not only to bring the message and grace of Christ to men but also to penetrate and perfect the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel,” the decree says.   

For seniors who are retired and have investment portfolios, there are lessons to be learned and practices to be followed to honor this concept, Fr. Williams said.

Are the companies in which Catholics have investments “in fact simply trying to get a higher return on investment or are they trying to look out for all stakeholders — the employees, the communities where they have their operations, the customers, the suppliers?” he said. Responsible investors should be able to answer these questions, he said.

Fr. Williams will also address the concept that, to be in harmony with Catholic Social Teaching, a company needs to produce what he calls “good goods, good work and good will,” as explained by Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson in “Vocation of the Business Leader.”

Fr. Williams is a member of the faculty of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame and director of the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Religious Values. He served as associate provost of the university for seven years and is a past chair of the Social Issues Division of the Academy of Management.  In 2006, he was appointed a member of the United Nations Global Compact Foundation Board of Directors. Fr. Williams is the editor or author of 20 books as well as numerous articles on business ethics.

Annual Hesburgh lectures, which have been sponsored by the University of Notre Dame since 1986, bring university faculty members to Notre Dame clubs and their local communities to provide audiences with meaningful continuing education. This year’s lecture is sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of Utah and St. Vincent de Paul Parish and serves as the kickoff lecture in the annual Benvegnu Lecture Series (see sidebar, right).

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