MA Resident, a Former Swiss Guard to Pope John Paul II, Writes Book on Leadership and Faith

Posted by eszter vajda

Andreas Widmer was in his early 20s when he took an oath of loyalty to Pope John Paul II and became a Swiss Guard at the Vatican in Rome. Born in a small farming village in Switzerland, Widmer just wanted to leave his hometown and do something “cool.” Never did he think that he would end up witnessing  history by guarding one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

Between 1986 and 1988, Widmer did not only serve as John Paul II’s personal body guard as he greeted the many important visitors and dignitaries to the Vatican, but Widmer also had personal exchanges with the Pope. In his book released in September, The Pope and The CEO, Widmer recollects some of these encounters and lays out lessons in leadership that he gleaned while observing the Pontiff.

Widmer remembers the first time the Pope spoke to him; it was only weeks after he arrived on December 24th, 1986. Widmer had previously not spent much time away from his family, much less during Christmas.

“I was in very bad shape and he came out and he saw that  I was crying,” noted Widmer. The Pope was headed to give midnight Mass when he noticed the new young guard.

The Pope asked Widmer: “This is the first time away from your family?… Andreas, I want to thank you for the sacrifice you are making for the Church. I will pray for you during Mass this evening.”

That encounter would serve as a base for one of nine lessons — and corresponding chapters — that Widmer lays out in his book: ‘Know Who You Are: The Importance of Vocation.’ Widmer writes:

He saw both the big picture and the little picture, never losing sight of the importance of either one… It continues to amaze me that in my meeting with him on that Christmas Eve in 1986—at the height of the Cold War, a time when he had millions of reasons to be preoccupied and absorbed in far more important matters—the Pope noticed me. It was rather like a person noticing a chirping grasshopper in the middle of a bustling city.

Other chapters are titled ‘Know What’s Right: Ethics and the Human Person’ and ‘Live Balance Life: All Things in Moderation’. Each section ends with a chance for the reader to examine their own lives through ‘Questions for Reflection’.

Widmer says one of his goals with the book is to help people find fulfillment through their vocation. He describes vocation as a person’s life calling not only in their career but in all areas of life. He says “only when you’re living out your vocation can you find fulfillment in life”. Fulfillment is not just happiness, but rather a “full life versus a pleasurable life at work, home or with friends”.

“Different take always for different people depends where they are at in life. Some readers will value most the books treatment of how to find one’s vocation in life. Others will be inspired to start looking at work in a more spiritual way. Still others will find the sections on how to be a servant leader rather than a selfish leader of consequence in their life.”

Widmer describes his service to Pope John Paul II as a privilege. He admits it took years for him to grasp the importance of his time at the Vatican and to make a connection between what he observed to cultivating strategies in virtuous and successful leadership. Along the way, Widmer says he made mistakes, and he also made and lost millions of dollars before finding his vocation as a Christian CEO.

Today, Widmer resides in Massachusetts and is a successful business leader. He is co-founder of the SEVEN Fund, a non-profit organization that seeks and promotes the best entrepreneurs with a focus on emerging markets. Widmer bases the organization’s principles on what he learned from the Pope.

“What John Paul said was don’t measure poverty in dollars and cents. That is demeaning to the human person and narrow definition of the problem. It begs for redistribution of wealth as a solution rather than looking to expand markets and productivity. He suggested that instead, the issue of poverty stems from the fact that the poor are excluded from networks of productivity and exchange.”

‘Networks of productivity and exchange’ can range from Internet access, to cell phones, education and infrastructure. Instead of “throwing money at the poor”, the SEVEN Fund connects small entrepreneurs in places like Africa, Central America, and Asia to potential investors. Widmer helps motivate and guide them to the appropriate resources that can flourish their business.

This short and quick read book is filled with interesting anecdotes, philosophical observations about faith and humanity, and poignant principles that can be integrated into the lives of not only business leaders, but anyone interested in living an authentic faith-filled life.

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Posted by eszter vajda on Oct 24 2011. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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