Recently the newly established Benedict Leadership Institute at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte presented its first Benedict Leadership award to Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus. The presentation highlighted, among other things, the Knights’ civic and religious work and their support and activism on the part of ISIS genocide victims – persecuted Christians often forgotten by the West. The Institute is part of the family of Catholic publishers at Saint Benedict Press and TAN Books, of which Conor Gallagher is president. He talks here about Benedict and leadership, education and publishing in our times.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What’s the publisher’s relationship with Belmont Abbey?
Gallagher: Our company’s name pays homage to the guiding influence of the Rule of Saint Benedict and that’s largely due to the influence the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey have had on my family. Our family business is in its 4th generation, and the monks of Belmont Abbey have been guides and mentors for the Gallaghers for most of that time. My grandfather was raised for a time by the monks, when his father became a widower at a young age. My own father’s most important friend and mentor, Fr. John Bradley, was president of Belmont Abbey College, and my father has been greatly involved with the Abbey over the years, serving in just about every administrative role other than Abbot!
The idea for the Benedict Leadership Institute was a natural outgrowth from the amazing tradition of Belmont Abbey College where, for some time now, there has been a focus on developing the next generation of Catholic leaders.
Saint Benedict Press and TAN Books have been the repository of a great deal of holy writing over the years. What kind of responsibilities does that bring with it?
At TAN we like to say that we’re “The publishers you can trust with your faith.” And I don’t take that lightly. Since its founding in 1967 TAN has been committed to the preservation and promotion of the spiritual, theological and liturgical traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.
When Saint Benedict Press acquired TAN in 2008 I knew we were taking over an established imprint with a loyal customer base, and with that came significant responsibility.
I wanted our customers to know that they could count on us to continue the publication of the classic Catholic books they’d come to know and love from TAN and I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to continue that tradition. But I’m even more proud of the way we’ve responded to the call of the New Evangelization. Through our parish programs and home studies we are able to share the riches of our Catholic intellectual tradition while using top of the line audio and video production. As a Catholic publisher my goal is to present the beauty and the richness of the Catholic faith in the most attractive and accessible way possible.
Has it had an impact on your life?
Absolutely! I’m fortunate to have grown up in a strong, active Catholic family, and one involved as well in publishing and the world of ideas. So from my early years I’ve been blessed to spend time with Catholic writers and leaders, and even saints. One of the transformative days of my life was serving as St. Teresa of Calcutta’s chauffeur for the day when she came to Charlotte when I was in high school.
As an adult, with student loans to pay and a quickly-growing family, I was all set to put my law degree to work with a big firm here in Charlotte. Then our family business acquired TAN. When I was asked to help run it, it was one of the biggest decisions of my life — and saying “yes” was one of the best. I get to spend my day again with great Catholic writers and thinkers again, living and deceased. I get to spend my day among so many saints whose writings and biographies TAN publishes. It’s a great place for me personally to work on the mission TAN proclaims: Become a Saint!
You got me to work on an upcoming book for your “Year with” series (on mystic saints). What does “success” look like for these books? Why do you think they are working well for you?
Our “Year with” series began with A Year with the Church Fathers by Mike Aquilina. It was immediately obvious that people desired to meditate upon the great insights of saints and important figures through Church history. And, very importantly, they wanted to have a beautiful deluxe volume in their hands when they did so. We have had many successful volumes in this “Year with” series, and I eagerly await yours, entitled A Year with the Mystics.
In terms of financial success, I will say that this product will have a long tail like few books do. Fifty percent of all books purchased are gifts (not including ebooks). A Year with the Mystics will be an amazing gift to anyone interested in the miraculous, and perhaps a gift to anyone who struggles with the miraculous. The mystics are models for us all. God speaks to each of us in unique and powerful ways. Maybe not with a burning bush. Maybe not by locutions. But if we listen, we will hear Him speaking.
Success? Truly, it is if one soul is saved from reading this book. This may sound sappy or like a canned answered from a Catholic publisher. But if you could see inside my soul, that’s what’s in there.