Saint’s heroic death overshadows his life as "unusual entrepreneur" who used techniques "two decades ahead of their time"
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A group of Polish businessmen want St. Maximilian to be officially declared the patron saint of start-ups and entrepreneurs. The petition has more than a thousand signatures and they want to present it to Pope Francis during World Youth Day.
Can a bearded monk who died a martyr’s death 75 years ago be a good partner for a businessman? This is precisely the belief of a group of Polish entrepreneurs who are trying to have St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe declared the patron saint of start-ups and entrepreneurs.
When the future saint got hold of five acres of farmland near Sochaczew, within 10 years he had built there the largest Catholic monastery in the world. When he decided to publish a newspaper, within a few years The Knight of the Immaculate had a print-run of 750,000 and was part of a communications media network which issued over a dozen periodicals and had a nationwide radio station. If not for the outbreak of World War II, he would probably have launched a TV station.
“This is now a barren land, but it will be San Francisco” … if he had known the lyrics of a song by the Golec Brothers, he would have sung it all his life.
He would invariably start with “a barren land” and embark on projects that everyone else expected to fail. But his “San Francisco” was called Niepokalanów, named after an attribute of Our Lady (the Immaculate). It is for her and for her Son that he did everything … and for the salvation of souls.
However, he is not appreciated as an entrepreneur. This is hardly surprising since everything he did in life was overshadowed by how he died.
But a group of Polish entrepreneurs are trying to get as many people as possible to hear not only about the heroic death of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, but also about his organizational talents and leadership, which he so deftly applied during his lifetime.
Taking up the cause
Their cause sprung from two issues, a health problem and an occupational dilemma.
The health problem regarded the unborn son of Maciej Gnyszka, an architect, entrepreneur and business advisor. The Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe Year was being celebrated in Poland at that time and Gnyszka decided to pray for the health of his unborn baby through the intercession of St. Maximilian.
“It was a sponsorship deal; I promised to name my son after St. Maximilian,” he recalls today. He also decided that throughout one year he would daily read a passage from the writings of the Franciscan friar. Little Max was born healthy and is four years old today. Gryszka Senior, however, quickly came to the conclusion that his part of the agreement had been far too modest. He decided to give his time and energies to the cause of promoting a recognition of St. Maximilian as patron saint of entrepreneurs!
“He had a zeal and ingenuity matched by hardly any businessman,” Maciej Gnyszka explained. “He is the best intermediary for entrepreneurs who want to pray for money to use it to change the world for the better.” And although the Franciscan’s heroic death was a jewel in the crown of his life, people should be aware not only of the pearl, but also of the entire crown.
At about the same time, another businessman, Maciej Pawlica, was toying with the idea of launching an online business. He had had one company earlier but had committed many mistakes when setting it up and was wondering if taking up something else would be a good idea.
“I decided to entrust my company to St. Maximilian. The word ‘entrust’ is not quite accurate, though; I entered into a kind of business associate agreement with him. ‘I will set up a company as a living memorial for you and you will help me develop it’; this is more or less what it looked like,” Pawlica reminisced.
He grew deeply associated with this saint, especially after seeing in the Niepokalanów Museum a display highlighting all of St. Maximilian’s projects. “I looked at it for some time and grew more and more convinced that he was an unusual entrepreneur. All the techniques and patterns he applied were at least two decades ahead of their time,” he recalled.
Pawlica admires the Franciscan moreover for his ability to combine deep spirituality with top work organization. The advocacy of St. Maximilian proved very effective. After a year of the company’s operations, the results exceeded the owner’s wildest expectations.
Pawlica and Gnyszka met and discovered by coincidence – let’s refer to it that way, although terms like “coincidence” seem hardly appropriate here – that they had similar backgrounds as well as thoughts concerning the figure of St. Maximilian Kolbe. All they had to do was take action.
They set up a website to collect signatures on a petition seeking to declare St. Maximilian the patron saint of entrepreneurs and start-up companies. They are trying to convince as many people as possible of the idea, and they are being helped in this regard by, among other strategies, one particularity: growing beards.
Gnyszka and Pawlica want to make a cartoon film about St. Maximilian as an entrepreneur and need 75,000 PLN ($19,000USD) for this purpose. They agreed that both would not shave until they have raised the requisite amount. For the time being they have raised 15,000 PLN. As they observe on their website: “Since our wives prefer us clean-shaven, please donate lavishly.”