A few weeks ago at a conference, I was talking with a young woman in college who was telling me about her plans for the future. She expressed that she wants to be a lawyer, but that she doesn’t know how she could do ministry as a lawyer. She said that she thinks she might have to forego her dream in order to become a youth minister in order to do ministry in her life.
I was grateful to be able to provide her with an alternate view - the truth that ministry can be practiced in each and every profession she could ever imagine pursuing. I told her about our ever-growing need for steadfast and unwavering Catholic lawyers to fight for what is good and true in our system of law. It was obvious that she had never thought of it this way before…anyone in any profession can do incredible ministry.
In fact, one of the millions of divine synchronicities that occurred to bring about my existence in this world was the generosity of one amazing Catholic lawyer. His name was Marcel Viti.
My wonderful grandfather, Thomas F. Wilson, grew up in an orphanage. During the Depression, his father left the family and his mother could not afford to take care of her children alone. I cannot imagine the excruciatingly difficult decisions people had to make during this time in our country’s history. She decided it was necessary to send them to a Catholic orphanage in Philadelphia to be raised, educated, and cared for, so my grandfather was raised by nuns. He was sent through their high school, and upon his graduation day, he was given a one dollar bill and a rosary. It was all these nuns could send the young boys into the world with - education and faith.
My grandfather worked different trade jobs throughout his teenage years and into young adulthood. In his twenties, my great uncle George told my grandfather about a lawyer named Marcel Viti who was in need of a secretary in his office. My grandfather applied for the job, and became Marcel Viti’s secretary.
Marcel was an extremely influential lawyer and highly-regarded man throughout the world. As my grandfather continued to work in his law office, Marcel saw his dedication to working hard and learning. He made a proposition and offer to my grandfather - he offered to put him through law school if he continued to work in his office during the day. My grandfather accepted and went to the University of Pennsylvania, and after went on to attend night classes at the Temple University School of Law.
Marcel supported him financially through his journey to becoming a lawyer. But I can only imagine how badly many children raised in orphanages need someone to look them square in the eyes and say, “I believe in you.” Marcel Viti seized that role for my grandfather. He didn’t need to have “minister” in any of his titles to do powerful and life-altering ministry. He taught my grandfather one invaluable truth that changed the course of his entire life...You can do anything you set your mind to. No matter your past, no matter what you may think your limitations are, no matter what anyone has said you can or cannot do - you. can. do. anything.
My grandfather did go on to graduate and become a lawyer in Philadelphia. He also went on to meet my grandmother at a party with other lawyers - only God knows how they would have met if not for at this party and had he not gone to law school. He and my grandmother went on to get married and have 5 children - their first being my father.
I share this with you today because I want you to truly believe that ministry does not always look like “ministry.” There are too many people with a strict view of ministry as a job in a church or working within an arena that has the title of “ministry” on it - youth ministry, homeless ministry, mom’s ministry, campus ministry. The kindness and generosity of one person who practices everyday ministry can have a ripple effect that touches an incalculable amount of lives. And you can do that in any profession - lawyer, doctor, construction worker, barista, teacher, janitor - you name it - whatever profession it is - it is a space where ministry can happen. It is a space where you can show people in great need great love. Each and every profession can be utilized as an avenue for God to work in limitless ways.
So today I say thank you - to all Catholic lawyers who have dedicated themselves to doing ministry within their work, who help people in need with their intellect, experience, and influence at every opportunity they can. My life has been affected in powerful ways by your ministry.
And most especially, I thank Marcel Viti for responding to the call to take my grandfather under his wing and help set him free to become who God created him to be.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17