The founder of a global organization reserved for top-ranking Catholic business leaders knows what it takes to be a Catholic in the marketplace.

Tom Monohan (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Tom Monaghan (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Thomas Monaghan, well-known for founding Domino’s Pizza and a former owner of the Detroit Tigers, bases his time around prayer — especially while at work. Beyond that, it’s as simple as following the Golden Rule.

“I wanted all involved in business with me to make a profit,” Monaghan told The Catholic Sun during a luncheon with the Phoenix Chapter of Legatus Feb. 9.

He was in the Valley for Legatus’ annual summit which drew 500 Catholic business leaders and their spouses from across the globe. Their three-day gathering focused on the “Door of Faith: A summons to a Deeper Conversion.”

Drawing closer to Christ is something Monaghan has strived for most of his life. He lost his father at age 4 and spent most of his childhood in foster homes and an orphanage. The nuns who raised him introduced him to the practice of daily Mass and benediction. Monaghan, in turn, thought he would become a priest.

“I thought that was the best thing I could do with my life. The benefits are out of this world,” Monaghan quipped.

He had second thoughts in seventh-grade when he sat behind a girl, but by tenth grade, entered a seminary anyway. His birth mother, who he didn’t have a steady relationship with, complained that he wasn’t writing home much and the seminary asked him to leave. Monaghan carried his faith with him, however, and went from high school to the Marine Corps to college as an aspiring architect.

That’s when he and his brother bought a local pizza shop hoping to pay his way through college. He later bought his brother’s share, and by 1998 when he sold the franchise, had 6,250 stores and ranked as the world’s largest pizza delivery chain.

Monaghan had left his mark at Domino’s though. He realized a lot of young franchise owners were getting divorced. His public witness to the faith made others start making religion a bigger part of their life and he said many appreciated Monaghan’s example.

“I saw statistics if you worship every week, your marriage almost always succeeds,” Monaghan said.

His separation from Domino’s — where Masses were offered four times a day and confessions monthly as well as Protestant and Catholic chaplains always within reach — allowed Monaghan to focus more intently on a related interest: helping others get to heaven. Monaghan had long been known for his philanthropy, particularly to Catholic causes.

Legatus, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, was drawing in more Catholic CEOs, so Monaghan focused efforts on the next generation of Catholic leaders. He began underwriting Catholic higher education.

The same year he sold Domino’s, he provided the impetus for Ave Maria Institute, which later became Ave Maria University in Florida. His Ave Maria Foundation also helped establish the Thomas More Law Center and Ave Maria Radio.

Leaders from all of those groups converged at the Legatus Summit where its members have seen their share of success stories. Tim Flanagan, founder of the Catholic Leaders Institute, credited his involvement with Legatus to forming the “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” formation program for pastors. It’s now in about half of the dioceses in the U.S. It also inspired Timothy Busch to start private Catholic elementary and high schools.

“I don’t think there’s any member who spent a year in Legatus whose faith wasn’t enriched by it,” Monaghan said. “The biggest thing is the table talk. Just by being there, they’re saying, ‘I want to be a better Catholic.’”

“We wanted to gather the people who are the most proven leaders in the Catholic Church — that’s it.”