Concluding Reflections on the Vocation of the Business Leader

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St peters night

In concluding this reflection, we may acknowledge that the challenges confronting business and the larger culture are substantial. Business leaders may be tempted by self-doubt about their personal ability to integrate the Gospel within their daily work. Weighed down by the challenges that often confront them, business leaders may wonder whether the Church’s social tradition can offer guidance in their professional lives.

Business leaders need to be open to receiving support and correction from fellow members of the living Church, responding to their doubts and hesitations not with fear or cynicism, but with the virtues coming from their vocation:

  • with faith that sees their actions not just in terms of the impact on the bottom line, but in the larger context of the impact of those actions, in collaboration with others, on themselves and the world, in the light of God’s ongoing creation;
  • with hope that their work and institutions will not be predetermined by market forces or legal constructs, but rather that their actions will give witness to God’s kingdom;
  • with love, so that their work is not merely an exercise in self-interest, but a cultivation of relationships, building communities of people.

To live out their vocation as faithful stewards to their calling, businesspeople need to be formed in a religious culture that shows them the possibilities and promise of the good they can do and ought to do—the good that is distinctively theirs. Family, Church and school are critical institutions in this formation. Like all people, Christian business leaders come into the world through a gift, not through a contract or a market exchange. No person is born into a corporation, but into a family, baptised in a church, educated in schools, and welcomed into a community.

One critical part of this formation is university education, where future business leaders are often first introduced to the experiences, skills, principles, and purposes of business. With close to 1,800 institutions of higher learning world-wide, and approximately 800 of these with business programs, the Church has invested herself in the formation of future business leaders. Some of these programs rank among the best in the world. This education seeks the unity of knowledge and a rich dialogue between faith and reason, which provides the resources to meet the modern
challenges found in business and the wider culture.1 Catholic business education has achieved a lot, but has ever new challenges to address.

An education in business, like every professional education, does not merely constitute training in specific skills or theories. Faithful to its own tradition, Catholic higher education cannot fail to be a formation in the moral teaching and social principles of the Church, and the dimensions of prudence and justice proper to business. A proper business education includes all appropriate theoretical material, training in every relevant skill and a thorough treatment of the moral teaching and social principles of the Church that must animate professional practice. Exaggerated emphasis in one of these areas cannot compensate for the neglect of another.

In our own time, business students are informed by powerful theories and highly trained in technical skills; but some unfortunately leave university without the ethical and spiritual formation that would ensure that their insights and skills are used for the welfare of others and the support of the common good. Indeed, some leave with a formation that predisposes them to live the divided life rather than giving them the fundamentals for an integrated life. Consideration of the ideas presented here can contribute to a more complete formation of these students, educating them to be highly principled and effective business leaders. Teachers need to inspire their students to discover the good that is within them and to follow their call to use their professional skills and judgment as a force for good in the world.

Entrepreneurs, managers, and all who work in business, should be encouraged to recognise their work as a true vocation and to respond to God’s call in the spirit of true disciples. In doing so, they engage in the noble task of serving their brothers and sisters and of building up the Kingdom of God. This message has the aim of providing inspiration and encouragement to business leaders, calling them to ever deepen their faithfulness at work. We are inspired by the many contributions lay leaders and business professionals have made to the implementation of the Church’s social doctrine. We invite educators and catechists at parochial and diocesan levels, and specifically business educators, to make use of this document with their students, inspiring them to respect and encourage human dignity and to pursue the common good in their management undertakings. We hope that this message will stimulate discussions in businesses and universities, helping business leaders, faculty and students to: see the challenges and opportunities in the world of work; judge them according to the social principles of the Church; and act as leaders who serve God.