Start an apostolate? Insight from a guy who did

| Tom Bengtson | December 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dale Ahlquist

Have you ever wondered whether you should quit your job and start an apostolate serving God full time? A good friend of mine actually did that.

Dale Ahlquist was working as a lobbyist for the National Airspace Coalition in the early 1990s, honing the skills he would need to launch the American Chesterton Society in 1997.

After having worked as a project manager in real estate development, Ahlquist went to work for the NAC, heading up an effort to limit the growth of military airspace over private property.

“That experience helped me to learn about the operation of a non-profit organization,” explained Ahlquist from his home in Bloomington. “I also traveled all over the country and spoke to groups, organizing people into local coalitions. This would prove to be great training for the ACS.”

Persuasive writer

At the same time, Ahlquist was developing an affinity for G.K. Chesterton, the British writer who authored thousands of essays and several books during his life, which spanned from 1874 to 1936.

Ahlquist was so enamored with Chesterton’s work that he began inviting friends to get together for monthly meetings to talk about it. Ahlquist, who grew up Baptist, felt himself called to the Catholic Church because of Chesterton’s persuasive writing; Chesterton himself converted to Catholicism in 1922. Ahlquist and his family were accepted into the Catholic Church on the Feast of the Holy Family, the Sunday after Christmas, in 1997.

In February 2001, when he and his wife Laura were on a marriage retreat, Dale felt a calling to turn his love for Chesterton into a full-time apostolate. They had no savings and Laura was pregnant. “Well, let’s give it a try,” Laura said.

I have always believed that one of the most important things an entrepreneur needs to be successful is a supportive spouse. With Laura’s cautious endorsement, Dale quit his work for the NAC and devoted himself exclusively to the ACS. Laura worked for the organization, too, as did their oldest daughter, Ashley.

Eighteen months prior, Ahlquist had appeared on Marcus Grodi’s “Journey Home” EWTN television show. Ahlquist talked about Chesterton’s conversion and how it led to his own conversion. The producer was so intrigued by Ahlquist’s presentation that he offered him his own television series. “The Apostle of Common Sense” began running on EWTN in 2001.

A woman in Chicago saw one of those first-year shows and immediately contacted Ahlquist.

“She said she was so glad to see a TV show about G.K. Chesterton,” Ahlquist explained. “She said she had been influenced to become a stay-at-home mom because of what she read from Chesterton. She said she wanted to do something to help us.”

Shortly thereafter, Ahlquist and the ACS received a $30,000 donation from the woman. Ahlquist said that if there had been any doubt about venturing into the ACS full time, those doubts were dispelled by the sizable gift.

Changing lives

Today, with thousands of members around the world, the ACS puts on a major annual conference in addition to hosting numerous local events. ACS continues to produce its television show and publish a magazine.

When he’s not traveling to talk about Chesterton to university students and other audiences, Ahlquist is writing. He has written countless essays in addition to three books on Chesterton, including the just-released “The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton.”

Ahlquist said the ACS has never made a lot of money but that God has provided for him and his family. More important, he has seen many people come to the faith or grow in their faith as a result of reading G.K. Chesterton.

So if someone feels called to start an apostolate, should they? “When people ask me that question, I tell them what I did,” Ahlquist said. “To most people an act of faith seems like a big risk. But what usually happens is that God gives us a passion to do something, and then blesses us when we actually do it.”

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Category: Faith and the Workplace