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Manual labor makes for good servants in God’s vineyard

Sister Clare Hunter at Legatus

PALM BEACH GARDENS  |  Speaking May 21 to the Jupiter-Palm Beach chapter of Legatus, Franciscan Sister Clare Hunter reflected on the value of manual labor and its relation to creation. A member of the faculty and staff of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, her talk was on “The Work of Human Hands: God’s Gift of Work.”

“This idea of work and also creation has been part of my whole experience of being a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist, which is what I am, for the past 30 years,” Sister Hunter said. “What’s happened over these years is that I’ve become more aware of the aspects of ‘What purpose does work have in our life?’”

Legatus, an organization for Catholic business executives and their spouses, meets monthly to pray the rosary, celebrate Mass and listen to a dinner presentation by a Catholic speaker. Members of Legatus receive spiritual and professional support at chapter and national meetings, retreats, webinars, pilgrimages and special gatherings, and fellowship among other Catholics with like-minded values.

Sister Hunter, who holds a bachelor’s degree in corporate communications and media and master’s degrees in theological studies and education administration, is pursuing a doctorate in ministry from the Catholic University of America. Sister Hunter’s dissertation involves the effects of physical labor on human development, specifically of men discerning the priesthood.

Talking to the Legatus members, she said, “If they’ve never had an experience of tilling, or working with creation, does it make a difference for him and his understanding of his own priesthood in imitation of Jesus Christ? So, I’m working on a project to see what impact it does have if the seminarians do very manual labor and if there’s any impact on their own formation in relationship to God, self and others.”

To try out some of her hypotheses, Sister Hunter worked with a northern seminary that assigns its students to work part time on a farm. She now has the survey results and is writing the dissertation.

Recently and unrelated to her project, the seminarians at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary have started a large garden. “We’ve been clearing some of the land, we got machetes, and we got rototillers. We have all these things, and we got to do some work on the land at the seminary, and it’s been really very interesting to see the experience of seminarians working in this garden,” Sister Hunter said. 

Some students had never used a shovel or seen how hard it is to remove rocks and roots from a plot of land, she said. It is hoped that those experiences broaden their perspective as future priests.

To apply for membership in Legatus, applicants must meet certain criteria, such as being a Catholic in good standing; holding the top position at a qualifying company, subsidiary or division (chairman, president, CEO, managing director, division head, owner); with at least 40 employees or a payroll of $1.5 million; and revenue of at least $9 million, or $2 million for financial or commission-based client services. Potential members can apply on the website or contact the Jupiter-Palm Beach chapter at Father Brian Campbell, pastor of St. John of the Cross Parish in Vero Beach and a Florida Catholic columnist, is scheduled to speak at the Tuesday, June 18, Legatus meeting in Jupiter.