Sam works for one of Calgary’s top coffee roasters and Caiti is an interior designer with a leading architecture and design company in the city. Both are faithful Catholics working in their secular fields.
“We can't underestimate the power of trying to set an example,” said Caiti. “If you can bring peace into a meeting, or a project, or the way you handle setbacks or stress, I think those things stand out. It plants little seeds and over time people start to wonder what’s different about this person.”
For five years Caiti has worked in a close knit mainly female firm. Relationships between clients, coworkers and management are essential. One way that Caiti builds trust and rapport in her relationships is by having a good attitude, working hard, being helpful, laughing and joking and trying to bring joy and calm into her office. She stresses that she is a "work in progress" in this regard, but that it is the striving that counts.
“There are a lot of reasons not to have a good attitude in my work with deadlines, pressure and stress and that can be really toxic and people can feed off each other,” said Caiti. “My hope is that people just know that they can come to me and I’ll help them.
“I think because of the stress at my work, it can be a pressure cooker for relationships sometimes. So I think in that sense there is a big opportunity to connect with them.”
Caiti has also found connection in the professional realm through shared values around family life. She’s been able to witness to her faith by sharing personally that she and Sam did not live together before getting married, for example.
“It always strikes me that I see families everywhere. A lot of my clients have families. I just see how prevalent the family still is,” said Caiti.
Caiti is grateful that when she is faced with tough situations she can go home and discuss the matter with her husband Sam and their circle of faithful friends. And for now, Caiti’s focus has turned toward her daughter Lucy while she’s currently on maternity leave this year.
For Sam, his work environment and his approach have allowed him to have lots of direct conversations about faith with his boss and co-workers. In the six years Sam has worked in management for his coffee company, his boss has initiated a lot of religious conversations with him and he asks for Sam’s opinion about Catholic matters.
“I often come away hoping I was a good representation (of Catholicism),” said Sam. “Like many conversations in life, you don’t feel you have the time to really suss things out and that’s why I come away hoping I said things properly. I guess that’s where prayer and trusting the Holy Spirit comes in.
“Coming in I expected a Catholic versus secular battle, like the secularism would be hitting me in the face everywhere, but I think I had maybe the wrong idea of what it’s like to work in the world. Most people are kind because everyone is made in the image of Christ and most people’s base setting is kindness or openness,” said Sam, a wholesale manager.
Sam tries to keep a plan of life that grounds him throughout the day, like praying the Angelus at noon, trying to get to Mass at least one other time besides Sunday, going to confession regularly and spending time with other Catholics who are also trying to live their faith in their careers.
Sam has had discussions where Catholicism is not understood and he’s faced situations where people will try to push his buttons because they know he’s Catholic, but it’s not the norm. And while there is a significant Christian presence in the coffee industry, Sam has not always felt on the same page with his fellow Christians in terms of shared values and morals.
“That’s why community is so important and to have confession and spiritual direction because without those things it’s so easy to not be able to start again when maybe you do have a compromise or you didn’t speak up,” said Sam.
But these challenges remind Sam all the more that it’s imperative that Catholics not retreat, but rather remain present in the secular world.
“I think it’s important that we Catholics go into the workplace and out into the world and try to be present, to be good examples of virtues and hope for those conversations. I think it’s important that we do that because think of a world where we have Catholics in all the trades, and boardrooms, and the legislatures, and malls. If we have Catholics in all those environments we will bring back the true understanding of what Catholicism is and we won’t have as many misconceptions and caricatures of people.”
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers