Director of UTG at Work says new apostolate can help business leaders, professionals evangelize at the office
DETROIT — Catholic business leaders and professionals gathered Oct. 25 at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit for the 30th annual Mass for Commerce, giving God thanks for the fruits of their labor.
The gathering has become a staple on the Detroit business community’s calendar as a chance to pray together and discuss how best they can proclaim the kingdom of Jesus Christ in their workplaces.
Deacon Mike Houghton, executive director of UTG at Work, delivered the homily during the Mass, which was celebrated by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron. Since the time of Genesis, God has called on man to labor, and Jesus makes clear in the Gospels part of man’s labor is to evangelize, Deacon Houghton said.
“The connection between our professional lives and Jesus’ command to go and make disciples is this: we are called to live our faith and witness to Christ in the Gospel everywhere, even in our places of work,” Deacon Houghton said. “We’re called to be disciples and evangelize in every circumstance of our lives, even the workplace.”
Deacon Houghton praised the work of Archbishop Vigneron, who turned 75 this past Saturday and submitted his resignation letter to the pope, as required by canon law, in leading the Archdiocese of Detroit to be more mission-oriented through Synod 16 and his pastoral letter Unleash the Gospel, which calls on all people in the Archdiocese of Detroit to embrace their role in evangelization.
“If you haven’t read Unleash the Gospel, you must read it,” Deacon Houghton said. “It is a masterpiece that is so profound that it’s been studied by many other dioceses outside Detroit. In fact, Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, read Unleash the Gospel and wrote the archbishop and said, and my translation might be off, ‘Dude, you nailed it.’”
The Mass for Commerce was originally started by Thomas Angott, a member the Cardinal Club, a group of advisers to Cardinal Adam J. Maida, who served as archbishop of Detroit from 1990 to 2009, who felt there should be a Mass celebrating the area’s business community.
“Tom said we didn’t really have anything for the business community, while other faiths have a closer culture with their business communities,” John Sier, a member of the Mass for Commerce Steering Committee, told Detroit Catholic. “He felt, and so did Cardinal Maida, that the Detroit business community needed to come together to reaffirm the role of the Gospel in daily life in commerce.”
Sier said the liturgy has become a place to start or rekindle relationships with other Catholics in the business community, while also sharing best practices in celebrating one’s faith and maintaining their identity as sons and daughters of Christ in the office.
“You should be living your faith in your work,” Sier said. “It should inform your decision making, inform your activities, your relationships with other people. It should be something people notice that they realize you have a different way of treating people because your faith informs you to do what you do.”
During his homily, Deacon Houghton said the mission of evangelization extends to the workplace, which is why the lay faithful have a critical role in preaching the Gospel.
“Unleash the Gospel is not about how the clergy will led us into being more missionary,” Deacon Houghton said. “Certainly priests, bishops and deacons like myself need to double down our efforts, but that won’t be enough to put our archdiocese on mission. As you probably know, the number of clergy is dwindling, while at the same time, the opposition coming from the secular world to our Christian message is growing. In order to succeed, we need the laity to step up to the task as well.”
After Mass, Deacon Houghton gave a presentation on UTG at Work, noting how more than 400 people have subscribed as members who have access to articles, podcasts and quarterly faith formation opportunities to learn from Catholic leaders on how they share their faith at work.
The next quarterly faith formation opportunity will be Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the Westin Book Cadillac, where Dr. Kevin Grady, CEO of Ascension Hospitals Michigan, will be the health care roundtable speaker.
“It’s a sad reality today, but you may be the only Christian your coworkers get to know on a personal basis,” Deacon Houghton said. “With this in mind, the archbishop has launched a new apostolate, called UTG at Work. I’m blessed to lead this effort, and I view it as a tangible outgrowth of the synod and the pastoral letter.”
Archbishop Vigneron thanked those in attendance for their Christian witness, which they show in their occupations.
“I give God praise and thanks for my responsibility of being a priest for you, for being an instrument in which we have offered today all you do both at home and at work, for being God’s faithful sons and daughters,” Archbishop Vigneron said.
As the crowd left breakfast and returned to the 9-to-5, Deacon Houghton reminded them that being a disciple of Jesus has no punch clock, but has tremendous compensation.
“Jesus didn’t say being a Christian was going to be easy. In fact, he said pick up our cross and carry it,” Deacon Houghton said. “For many of us, the path of that cross is heaviest at work. It is easy to live the life of a Christian among like-minded friends, but not so easy in a very secular world.
“I like to think most of us are like the servant with the five or two talents, who double what the Lord gives us,” Deacon Houghton continued. “But if you feel like the servant with the one talent, try to spread your love of Jesus with someone you know today, and he will reward you. One day, the Lord will greet you and say, come share in the Master’s joy.”
Faith in the workplace