College of Fellows

A Workplace Spirituality Perspective For Viewing: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith (Lineamenta)

Dr. André Delbecq, DSPT Fellow

Introduction – My Perspective

Thank you for inviting me to offer an initial reflection on the Lineamenta lin. There is no presumption my brief comments are encyclopedic or summative. They aim simply to stimulate further discussion by sharing a personal perspective.

How one responds to the Lineamenta lin doubtless depends very much on where one resides in the life of both the Church and the secular world. So let me clarify my intellectual and spiritual “residence”. I am an active lay Roman Catholic. I hold an appointment at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit, Catholic university. I teach a seminar Spirituality of Organizational Leadership for working professional MBAs and senior technology executives in our Graduate School. [1] I am also active in leadership formation programs for senior executives in Catholic healthcare as well as faculty formation programs in Catholic higher education. [2]

Mine is a rather privileged vantage point. I work with those whom sociologists term “institutional elites”. However, I would posit this provides an important perspective. Ignatius of Loyola argued institutional leaders are worthy of attention both for reading the signs of the times and because they exercise powerful influence.

- they are in a position to cause good to spread

- their institutions impact many people

- solutions they design can yield results that can be durable

- they lead entities that greatly impact the poor [3]

So let me offer just a few short reflections from this point of view.

Reflection 1. I believe there is more emergent spiritual energy in our contemporary world than the tone of the document often seems to suggest. In the preface this statement very much spoke to me:

Jesus sent His Disciples to proclaim the Good News to the whole world … promising the gift of the Paraclete and assuring them of His abiding presence.

I work with many organizational leaders who are responding to the Paraclete in our difficult times. Yet their evangelization efforts appear to be somewhat off the radar screen of the Lineamenta lin. There is little reference in the document to organizational spirituality that has been identified as a “megatrend” at the beginning of our new century. Within the Academy of Management, the international home for organizational scholars and teachers who study organizational leadership, the fastest growing interest group is Management, Spirituality and Religion formed in 2002. Similarly, Psychology and Religion is the most rapidly growing Division in the American Psychological Association. Family practice medicine, nursing, clinical psychology, business education, healthcare education, neuro-science … many disciplines now give attention to spirituality as a critical element for both personal development and leadership formation as well as a precondition for effective client service. While these endeavors are recent and have largely emerged in the last decade, they are not fragile. The Holy Spirit is provoking countervailing energy even in these most difficult of times under the rubric of “spirituality” that I believe deserves more careful attention in the document.

Referencing just my own small sphere, last year saw inquires from and communication with some 40 organizations interested in integrating spirituality into leadership and organizational life including:

Clearwater Consulting Group, Boston, 9/7/10

Center for Faith at Work, Princeton, 9/10/10

Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, 9/20/10

Ashridge Business School, England, 10/17/10

ISOL Foundation, India, 10/28/10

University of St. Edward Island, CN, 10/28/10

Contemplative Mind in Society Fellowship Evaluation study, 11/4/10

École Biblique, Jerusalem, 11/9/10

Ben-Gurion University, 11/25/10

Klinikum St. Elisabeth Straubing GmbH, Germany, 12/27/10

Harvard Divinity School, 1/3/11

Heart's Home Movement, San Francisco, 1/4/11

Oregon Health and Science University, 1/6/ 11

Morton Community College, Cicero, IL, 1/14/11

Stewart Consulting, Austin, 1/27/11

Omidyar Networks, 2/2/11

Tulane University, April 2/6/11

Eastern Tennessee State University, 4/18/11

Massey University New Zealand, 5/11/11

East Tennessee State University, 5/11/11

Better Tomorrow Foundation, San Jose, 5/17/11

ESADE Professorship of Ethics, Barcelona, 6/3/11

University of San Diego, 6/4/11

John Carroll University, 6/4/11

Chief Medical Officer at Affymax, 6/6/11

Catholic Relief Services, 6/8/11

Catholic Hospital System, Sydney, Australia, 6/27/11

CEO Emergent Success, Malibu, 7/7/11

University of Southern California, 7/ 8/11

China Europe InternationalBusiness School, 6/25/11

Stanford University Energy Scientist, 7/12/11

Steinway Association, 8/23/11

Interdisciplinary International Spirituality Conference, Prague, 3/12

Jesus is sending disciples to proclaim the Good News to the whole world, is providing the gift of the Paraclete and is motivating important efforts assuring His abiding presence through these many efforts.

None of this diminishes the magnitude of the challenges set forth in the Lineamenta lin. But I would echo an observation by the Jesuit theologian John Haughey:

I have long thought that there is a lacuna in the ecclesiology with which most of the churches, especially the Catholic Church, function. The lacuna is that the churches are often full of people uniquely gifted with the Spirit. (They are very much involved in bringing light to the secular world). But this tends to be seldom adverted to because they usually exercise their gifts beyond the boundaries of congregational life. …. Without intending it, the impression is given that participation in the activities of the congregation is primary and the leavening of faith in the world, secondary.

… My conviction is that the Spirit of God runs the world when the world is running at its best through the charisms of these lay individuals and groups.”

John Haughey, “Originality and Faith in the Commons”
Woodstock Report, No 100, June, 2011

To conclude this small opening point, it would increase a positive tone in the Lineamenta lin if acknowledgement of much discipleship associated with the workplace spirituality movement were taken more seriously as an important locus of evangelization. More than eighty percent of baptized Christians work in complex organizations in modern societies. We should not be surprised that the Holy Spirit is stirring through this societal movement.

Reflection 2. The contemporary organization is a critical locus of interaction for evangelization in these times.

In the first chapter of the Lineamenta lin the case is made that “God will be where his people are, carrying on dialog with humanity” p. 6. We are asked: “but as for us, can we gain salvation, if through negligence, fear, shame or what St. Paul called “shrinking from the Gospel – we fail to preach it?"

Most of God's people are found in contemporary organizations in advanced societies. These institutions are the “neighborhood” where God's people largely gather. For most of the baptized, it is not a geographic village next to a geographic parish church where daily life unfolds. Rather, God's people commute into business centers where they spend the bulk of their days (and often evenings) Monday through Friday (and often Saturday). In product producing, commercial, service providing, not-for-profit, educational, legal, transportation and many other sectors, love of neighbor is expressed by meeting important human needs through these organizations and by the quality of interpersonal relations within these organizations. Yes, there are institutionalized injustices and serious human challenges also present. But it is exactly by wrestling with these principalities and powers that the lay vocation unfolds.

Recently I asked a focus group of managers and executives the following question: How do you express your spirituality within a secular corporate setting where spirituality is not formally recognized as part of corporate culture? I would posit this is the evangelization challenge many of the laity face.

In this brief reflection I cannot report on more than forty themes that emerged from this focus group [4] except to set forth six priority categories chosen through rank ordering and rating. These were:

1. Be faithful to your own true self and serve as a role model for others.

These informants were clear that their first priority is concern that one's actions, words and behaviors be consistent with an inner integrity, with deep values and ethics. They saw everything else as depending on this inner constancy.

"Let your life speak and as a last resort use words." Francis of Assisi

2. Find ways to express spiritual values in universal humanistic language.

It is important to note that the tone of this discussion was not one of hesitancy or avoidance of value-centric conversation. Rather, informants emphasized the importance of couching values in language that “made sense contextually” and was not “off-putting” and that emerged in the natural flow of organizational life. Particular attention was given to punctuation points such as beginnings and endings, crisis intervention, etc. They echoed very much an incarnational and sacramental imagination.

3. Show courage in the face of adversity thereby witnessing to hope with patience.

Informants were conscious they needed to model discernment behavior that would guide others through times of difficulty. They referenced such interventions as utilizing silence, taking time for reflection in light of values and careful attention to inner affect and intuition (the language of heart). It was clear to these informants that strategic difficulties were the battleground that would test spiritual maturity.

"For even the unskilled seaman can guide a ship on an even keel in a tranquil sea, but in a sea that is tossed with tempestuous waves, even a skilled seaman is greatly troubled. How, then, can any course be taken in the midst of these perils, and how can a course be held, unless the leader who comes to the office of governing abounds in virtue." St. Gregory the Great

4. Manifest particular sensitivity in interpersonal relations

Mentoring, coaching, and one-on-one problem solving were seen as special opportunities to speak of values, connect with others at a deep level, and affirm acceptance of diversity as a particular important aspect of human dignity.

"It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself to the world by playing your role in the concert." Jacques Yves Cousteau

5. Be of service to others rather than thinking of how others can serve you.

Here the discussion echoed the literature on “Servant Leadership” but with a particular nuance. There was acknowledgement that leadership necessarily involved sacrifice and suffering. Informants stated that in their organizations one should not expect greater sensitivity than is realistic in a secular setting. Thus, the “informal” spiritual leader will need to find motivation and reinforcement for the inner life without expecting the organization, with its inexorable politics and interpersonal tensions, to overtly “reward” the spiritual leader's commitment to service. Here is the opening of a door to returning to the spiritual riches of the prayer and sacramental life of the Church.

The Lineamenta lin speaks of The Court of the Gentiles where God is known only from afar. Where people might in some way latch on to God … before gaining access to his mystery. p. 12 … an avenue where people's deepest expectations and their thirst for God can be discovered. p. 13.

I would posit that the workplace is one such court. Social psychology has long argued that primary groups have the greatest influence on personal life. While we can and must evaluate large institutional distortions (for example the recent fall from grace of financial services, the dark side of media, etc.,) most individuals do not exercise influence on national stages, in political arenas, as policy makers in economic think tanks, etc. But most of the baptized laity do exercise importance influence “within” contemporary organizations. In the end, light must be brought into these institutions through an infinite number of small efforts. In laboratories, on audit teams, on executive compensation committees, through innovation design efforts, on environmental impact committees … within millions of committees and task force efforts God's light must be witnessed to in the contemporary organization. So it is not enough to “evaluate these sectors” as is spoken of on p. 16. This largely places the Church in a position of “opposition”. The document asks: “Are we truly missionary at heart?” p. 19

I find contemporary organizational leaders very desirous of being “missionaries” (no part of the Church is exempt from this project p. 19). But few find spiritual support for or understanding of their calling. They see the institutional Church largely standing “outside” contemporary organizational life as critic rather than making her ministry available inside organizational life to those seeking to (re)transform modern organizations.

To close this second point: The Lineamenta lin asks: “How does the Church fulfill her missionary role of taking part in people's everyday-lives, ‘in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters?” p. 19? I would posit the Church needs to recognize that the “carpenter's work bench is no longer in the “home” but in the corporate workplace. Yet the workplace is not spoken of as a primary locus of missionary activity despite its being the dominate locus of contemporary life. Where one does find serious Christian evangelization within the work place it has more frequently been the missionary activity of evangelical and protestant church groups.

Reflection 3. Lay Formation

The document properly points out: What is not believed or lived cannot be transferred. The lay faithful are fully part of this work of the church. Evangelization is an initial proclamation which calls persons to conversion, then through catechesis and the sacraments it initiates in the faith and the Christian life those who are converted … but also those who have returned. p. 22

My experience with MBAs and Executives is that a large number of our laity absent formation programs are “Cultural Catholics” only modestly attachedto or educated by the fullness of the Church's richness. This is true even within faith-based Catholic Higher Education and Catholic Healthcare until individuals participate in some type of a formation program.

A source of light from the Church in North America is that we have learned a great deal during the last decade regarding successful lay formation. Catholic Higher Education and Catholic Healthcare have been leaders in this development. [5] Both sectors have evolved a robust adult-based pedagogy in which faith sharing foundational for formation is central. Both have identified approaches to understanding leadership and professional life as a calling, not simply a career or a job. [6] Both have learned how to integrate spiritual practices into the busy lives of contemporary leaders. [7] Both have made great progress on how to adapt all of this within religiously plural settings. [8] Quite separately, but in many ways that are parallel, spiritual understanding and formation is being facilitated by executive coaches and organizational development training organizations. Common across all these efforts is an incarnational perspective where the transcendent is made discoverable in the lived experiences of organizational life, where new meaning and purpose is discovered in the calling to servant leadership and where discernment integrates mind, heart and spirit through its juxtaposition with decision-making. [9] Parallels to the earlier “Observe, Judge, Act” protocols of Catholic Action are obvious.

So my third reflection is that attention to the emerging and successful protocols associated with “Formation for Organizational Leadership” deserve attention as an important gift from North America to the larger Church in answer to the Lineamenta lin Question on p.28: How are our Christian communities places in the Church which provide people with a spiritual experience? Work-place leadership formation programs are not referenced in the document as a special form of Christian community. Yet they are emerging as a central fruit of the Holy Spirit. Work-place spirituality and leadership formation attest to an important transformation that is possible and witness to the truth expressed in the Lineamenta lin: that once God is discovered after “working in the desert of God's darkness and the emptiness of souls” p. 27 none of the barriers of secularism, consumerism, greed etc., “none of these barriers is any longer insurmountable”.

Further, these efforts encompass “a sense of ecumenical spirituality capable of dialogue with other religions. p. 28. The workplace is religiously plural: the associates in the workplace are religiously diverse and those served are religiously diverse (even in the case of faith-based education and healthcare). So the workplace is a laboratory for understanding evangelization in religiously plural settings.


In summary, I believe one important answer to the Question: How are our Christian communities places in the Church which provide people with a spiritual experience p. 28 must acknowledge that one primary community that must be evangelized is the contemporary organization. Unless we form leaders able to transform the workplace into communities where Jesus can be encountered and served, a primary locus of motivation to access “the Work of God and the Eucharist” is missed. Indeed, the very societal struggles the Lineamenta lin laments creates strong motivations on the part of leaders who undergo conversion to reach out to an encounter with God through Sacraments and Prayer. True callings take us to difficult places where we learn we can go forward only with the help of God. Thus the very struggles against darkness within contemporary organizations can be a motivation of conversion.

But if we neglect the contemporary complex organization as a locus of evangelization we risk continuing a false dualism decried by John XXIII where the workplace as seen as “only secular”. [10] Until the workplace is evangelized, question 19 “have the baptized grown in the consciousness that they are being called in the first person to make the proclamation?” will too often remain answered in the negative for the baptized in contemporary societies largely must find Jesus and community within organizational life.

In this perspective workplace spirituality offers a locus for a contemporary evangelization and a path toward a new form of spiritual community that will strengthen the local Church, help to transform institutions and motivate societal leaders to return to the bosom of the Church in order to carry out the difficult challenges of their calling.


[1] André L. Delbecq, Spirituality for Business Leadership: "Reporting on a Pilot Course for MBAs and CEOs." Journal of Management Inquiry, Vol. 9, No. 2, June 2000 pp. 12-17 Back to text.

[2] André L. Delbecq, The Ignatian Faculty Forum: A Faculty Formation Program Within the Jesuit University. 2008. ; McCready, William C., O'Connell, L.J. and Shea, J. (2010) An Innovative Executive Formation Program: Sustaining a Religiously-based Vision of Leadership”, presentation to The Academy of Management Annual Meeting, August 6-10, Montreal, Canada. Back to text.

[3] Thomas Lucas, Landmarking City, Church and Jesuit Urban Strategy, Chapter VII, “The More Universal, the More Divine”, Chicago IL, Loyola Press, 1997 pp. 107-127 Back to text.

[4] André L. Delbecq, “Informal Spirituality: How Leaders Engage Spirituality in Organizations Where Spirituality is Not an Overt Part of Spiritual Culture.” Academy of Management Boston, 2012 (forthcoming) Back to text.

[5] André L. Delbecq, Celeste Mueller and Jack Mudd, “Formation of Organizational Leaders for Catholic Mission and Identity. Journal of Jesuit Business Education, Vol. 3, 2012. (forthcoming); Catholic Hospital Association of North America, Senior Leadership Formation Framework. Back to text.

[6] André L. Delbecq, "Business Leadership as a Spiritual Calling: Pedagogical Approaches and Spiritual Journeys of Silicon Valley MBAs", Vol. I, Proceedings of Fifth International Symposium on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education, "Business as a Calling - The Calling of Business”, Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain, July l5- 18, 2003; André L. Delbecq. and James McGee, "Business as a Calling", Chapter in Oliver F. Williams, (ed.) Business Religion and Spirituality University of Notre Dame Press, 2003. Back to text.

[7] André L. Delbecq, “Business Executives and Prayer: How a core spiritual discipline is expressed in the life of contemporary organizational leaders – Part 1” Spirit in Work, Issue 6, March, 2006. pp. 3-8: André L. Delbecq, “Business Executives and Prayer: How a core spiritual discipline is expressed in the life of contemporary organizational leaders – Part 2” Spirit in Work, Issue 7, July, 2006. pp. 3-7 Back to text.

[8] André L. Delbecq, The Ignatian Faculty Forum. Ibid. Back to text.

[9] André L. Delbecq, Elizabeth Liebert, John Mostyn, Paul C. Nutt and Gordan Walter, Discernment and Strategic Decision Making, Reflections for a Spirituality of Organizational Leadership, in Moses L. Pava,(Ed.), Spiritual Intelligence at Work: Meaning, Metaphor, and Morals., Elsiver JAI Ltd, San Francisco, 2004. Pp.139-174 Back to text.

[10] Pope John Paul II, The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People vatican, (Apostolic Exhortation) Boston, Pauline Books and Media, 1998. Back to text.