By Aimee Sheppard
If the hype of the holidays is getting to be too much for
you then perhaps the patron saint of business can help you
find the season’s true meaning. Homobonus Tucingo,
an Italian businessman, who dedicated his life to philanthropic
activities and helping the poor, became a saint more than
900 years ago. However, his good works and acts of social
responsibility are still earning him a place in ethics discussions.
Dr. Robert Sexty, a professor at Memorial’s Faculty
of Business Administration, and his wife Suzanne are working
on a Web site dedicated to Saint Homobonus, the only one
of its kind. In his graduate-level ethics class, Dr. Sexty
uses Saint Homobonus to illustrate to MBA students that
good corporate citizenship can be good for business.
Born during the first half of the 12th century in Cremona,
Italy, Homobonus operated a successful business while devoting
himself to relieving the sorrows of the poor. It is believed
that the more he gave away, the more prosperous he became.
At about age 50, he gave up his business and devoted all
of his efforts to charitable works. He died at the Church
of Saint Edigio in Cremona, in November 1197, while kneeling
before a crucifix with his arms stretched out in the form
of a cross as the choir was singing Gloria in excelsis.
His death was not noticed at first because people thought
his falling to the ground was a manifestation of devotion.
If Homobonus had had a marketing department they surely
would agree they could not have scripted a more dramatic
He became Saint Homobonus two years after his death and
is listed as the patron to merchants, cloth workers, garment
workers, tailors, shoemakers, and trades people. He is also
recognized as the patron of business people, the only saint
recognized as such. Patron saints are called upon by the
faithful for guidance, particularly in times of trouble,
and have been chosen as special protectors or guardians
over virtually everything including causes, illnesses, countries,
hobbies, special interests, and even professions like accounting
and public relations.
“In addition to being a lay person, what was interesting
about Homobonus is how quickly he was canonized,”
said Dr. Sexty. “Usually it’s five years before
the church even considers you for beatification, the step
prior to canonization.”
“The story of Saint Homobonus raises a lot of questions
about contemporary acts of social responsibility. The trend
in giving in the last few years has been of a strategic
nature; giving has been tied to an economic or social return.
There’s been a shift away from pure giving with no
strings attached,” he said. “Businesses and
individuals should consider doing good works that are not
directly connected to a financial return.” So for
those of you who set New Year’s resolutions, you may
want to keep that in mind, even if you’re not banking
on being a future candidate for sainthood.