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Turn to Jesus (Article)

God on Tap
At a Theology on Tap event, Fordham Law’s Amy Uelmen spoke on the challenge of living out her Catholic faith in a secular workplace.

Fr Thomas Vendetti, LC, talks with a participant at Connolly's Pub and Restaurant in Manhattan.

The following article, written by Colombia University student Dennis Murphy, was first published on the Covering Sacred Ground web site.

God on Tap
By Dennis Murphy

In church, at home, in nature. People find God in all sorts of places, so there’s no reason why you can’t find Him in the office or even in a bar.

That is the premise of a regularly scheduled program called “Theology on Tap,” an evening of brews, cheap bar food and Catholic solidarity for Catholic New Yorkers 21-years and older. On a recent Monday night the group gathered at Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant at 121 W. 35th St. And in between swapping Sunday Mass homily critiques over a beer and having their formal confessions heard by two priests, each sitting in windowsills along the back wall of the Irish pub, patrons were treated to a theology lesson on the house – a talk on faith and professional life, courtesy of Fordham Law’s Amy Uelmen.

Unlike many of Theology on Tap’s previous Catholic commentators, which include a slew of bishops, monsignors and VIP priests, Uelmen is not part of a religious order. But this group values the wisdom of the laity as well. “How does my life hang together as a person who is a lawyer, who is a Catholic, who is working in a particular environment? That’s what’s at stake,” said Uelmen, director of Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work. “For a good number of people religion offers answers to some really practical questions about why try to be a good person. Why try to fight the good fight?”

Though she eventually left the Manhattan law firm of Arnold & Porter for a teaching job at Fordham Law, Uelmen says she fought to maintain her religious identity in the workplace when she was working as an associate at the firm. Ultimately, she found her faith to be a legal asset. She said her Catholic background gave her a sense of integrity and identity – the security she needed in herself not to care about what others thought, but to have “tenacity and backbone,” to take stands and to take risks in her professional life.

When her firm reveled their win in court for an abortion rights advocate client of theirs, Uelmen said that it was her Catholic faith that compelled her to speak up and vocalize her objections to celebratory mood in the office. She said that her willingness to take an unpopular stand encouraged others in her office to speak up and voice their similar opinions. Oddly enough, her co-workers were more than happy to hear her out, she said, resulting in a more open and tolerant working environment.

The expression of one’s own beliefs and values – be they religious or otherwise – makes individuals more tolerant and open to discussion, Uelmen suggested in her talk.

“There’s a lot of room to bring a faith perspective into professional life. It can be done with respect and care,” she said. “It’s a path to personal integrity.”

But for many professionals, that’s easier said than done.

Rosa Rios has struggled to find balance between her job and her faith. Working in a corporate setting, Rosa Rios said religion and work don’t always mix well with co-workers. According to Rios, she has had to fight her natural inclinations about talking about God in the workplace and has had to work hard to keep her religious roots in check.

“It’s little, petty things, like when the holidays come around. You can’t say ‘Merry Christmas,’” said Rios. “In that type of setting you always need to be politically correct with what you say.”

The night’s organizer, Mario Bruschi, was pleased with the turnout of nearly 100 people. “We’re searching for meaning, something outside of the daily grind, a sacred place to go,” he said. “We want a place were we can go to hear a good spiritual talk.”

With Uelmen reminding the crowd about the importance carving out time for themselves regardless of the demands of work and to remember that everyone – from managing partner to mail clerk – is made in the image of God, Bruschi said the night’s talk was full of practical tips for professionals on how to live fuller, non-compartmentalized lives and how to keep their Christian beliefs alive in the cutthroat corporate world.

“This is New York City. We have a lot of business professionals,” said the 34-year-old. “Sometimes you’ve got to be tough on employees. At the same time you got to be Catholic-minded, be gentle on people and follow Jesus Christ.”



Related links web site
Mission Network
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and the Center for Family Development
Changing Hearts
Cancun-Chetumal Prelature
Helping Hands Medical Missions

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