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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

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December 11, 2003


Patron saint of business
Holiday help from a business icon


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 event.

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.


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Next issue: January 8, 2003

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