Leading With Faith honoree – Michael Naughton

| August 9, 2018 | 0 Comments
Michael Naughton

Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Michael Naughton

Director, University of St. Thomas’ Center for Catholic Studies

Age 57

Parish Holy Spirit, St. Paul

Spouse Teresa

Children Clare Gooding (29), Noel (26), Mary (23), Eamon (21), Annie (18)

Volunteer activities RCIA

Education PhD, Marquette University, 1991; MBA, University of St. Thomas, 1995.

Number of years with organization 27

For Michael Naughton, the idea of leading with faith is rooted in following: that he is led by God’s will and not his own. The director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Naughton has written extensively on the relationship between faith and work, and he strives to live out his vocation in his own workplace by prioritizing prayer, keeping Sundays holy and valuing his colleagues’ diverse gifts.

Q. Describe your organization.

A. Established 25 years ago, the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas is the oldest and largest of its kind. I work with a group of talented and joyful faculty and staff who educate and form Catholic leaders for the Church and world. Informed by a belief in the unity of knowledge, Catholic Studies brings together multiple academic disciplines — theology, philosophy, history, literature, law, business — to explore how “Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11). The academic department and the Center, through its institutes, explores how the reality of Christ’s self-gift, the incarnation, holds profound meaning in every aspect of human experience, including the professional and private life.

Q. Describe your position and role.

A. I am the director of the Center. I oversee three institutes, the journal “Logos,” and a wide variety of activities and programs. A major part of my work has been the integration of faith and business through the courses I teach in both the Department of Catholic Studies and the business school, as well as the Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, of which I was the director before assuming the role as Center director in 2014. I have been blessed to serve as the board chair of Reell Precision Manufacturing, which makes my academic work more applied. More recently, I have been working with Dr. John Boyle, developing materials and courses in the importance of mission and culture in Catholic education, specifically the Mission and Culture Two-Course Study for Catholic School Educators.

Q. What does “leading with faith” mean to you?

A. At the heart of “leading with faith” is that I am led by God’s will and not my own. The first point of leadership is “followership.” The foundational question is not how I lead but what I follow. Faith is a gift that I do not own or dictate, but it owns me. It guides me, corrects me, as well as comforts me, especially in moments of failure and difficulty. Faith helps me to see that I do not bring God to work, but rather God is already at work. Faith gives me the eyes to see his presence.

Q. How do you concretely apply your faith and Catholic values at work?

A. First, I apply my faith to work by not working and obeying the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. My wife, Teresa, and I find that keeping the Lord’s Day bears great fruit for the week. Second, with the Lord’s Day in place, I need to ask what is the good I must do at work. I find at work three goods of particular importance. The first good is defined in terms of mission, especially in terms of how I educate and form my students. The second good is in terms of culture, especially in terms of the kind of life I form with staff and faculty. And the third good is in terms of stewardship, of how we utilize the resources we have available to us.

Q. Please tell a story about a time when living out your faith at work really made a difference.

A. What our faith helps us to see is that those we work with are not mere eight-hour units — cogs in a machine — but persons who have gifts to offer. Sometimes it is a negative experience that helps one live one’s faith at work. My personal lesson went like this. I mentioned to my wife one day my appreciation of the gifts of some of my colleagues at St. Thomas. What I thought was a nice and benign thought soon led us into a rather heated exchange. My wife called me out on my apparent “gift recognition,” which was not as noble a sentiment as I had thought. She explained that I overvalued certain gifts, while seriously discounting others. In the academy, we value intelligence and high IQ, analytical skills, a sharp wit, and the ability to “think critically” and to debate with rhetorical flair. But my wife saw something that I did not. My appreciation for these people clouded my vision and inhibited the recognition of the gifts of other men and women at the university.

I was discounting people who were less articulate but more intuitive, and whose intuition was in tune to realities that could see things as a whole; whose IQ may not have been as high as certain colleagues, but whose EQ (emotional intelligence) was off the charts. It was this experience that helped me to better live out my faith at work.

Q. Who or what has inspired you to bring your faith to the marketplace?

A. The what: Several readings have inspired my relationship between faith and work. Three in particular stick out: St. John Paul II’s encyclical letter “Laborem Exercens,” Josef Pieper’s “Leisure, the Basis of Culture” and Dorothy Day’s writings on English Distributism and French Personalism. The who: While there are many colleagues at St. Thomas who have influenced me, along with friends and family, my wife of 30 years has been most influential in helping me see both more deeply and more broadly not only what I am to do, but also who am I to be. Her wisdom and counsel has helped me to see more clearly the reality in front of me.

Q. What achievement at work are you most proud of?

A. While I have published a lot of material on faith and work, I was blessed to work with an international group of scholars and practitioners to produce the “Vocation of the Business Leader” which was issued by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. The document has been translated in over 18 different languages and its fifth edition will be published this fall.

Q. In what specific ways have you experienced God’s presence in your workplace?

A. One of the great joys of working in Catholic Studies has been the students I have met over the years. We have 1,200 alum. Of those, 150 are priests, 45 have entered religious life and hundreds have entered holy marriages. Despite all the problems of our culture, and there are plenty of them, these young people are renewing the culture through a lived faith that is creative and intellectually informed by the fullness of the Catholic tradition.

Q. What advice do you have for others who want to lead with faith?

A. Francis and Benedict are fond of saying that at the heart of our faith is not an ethic or a theory, but a Person. Our relationship with Christ is nurtured in prayer, the sacraments, scripture and, in particular, through the Lord’s Day. If we don’t get prayer right, we will not get work right, and if we don’t get Sunday right, we will not get Monday right. Without this foundation, our work will always be prone to disorder.


Category: Leading With Faith