I received the news this week that my friend Jim Nolan died on July 28th after a long battle with cancer. As I reflected on how to write about his life and honor his memory, I remembered my first conversation with Jim in the summer of 2006. I was about to join the RCIA program at my parish and was developing a strong interest around integrating my new Catholic faith with my work. I did some research online and was surprised to find that one of the only books on this subject was Jim’s Doing the Right Thing at Work: A Catholic’s Guide to Faith, Business and Ethics. I read this excellent book, tracked down his phone number and gave him a call.
If you can picture the scene, I was an enthusiastic 40-year old filled with the typical passion of the newly converted (even though I had not officially joined the Church) about to call a Catholic author who I would discover was a legend in certain circles for his pioneering work on integrating faith and work and his earlier career as a successful attorney. Jim could not have been more gracious or encouraging about my desire to learn from him and to start a chapter in Atlanta of the Woodstock Business Conference group he had begun years before. That initial conversation led to a series of calls, email exchanges and visits by Jim to Atlanta over the years that strengthened our friendship and cemented his role as a strong Catholic mentor in my life.
I was privileged to know Jim for his work, but I also learned about his love for his wonderful wife Karen and their large family of children and grandchildren who Jim frequently and lovingly talked about when we spoke. His example as a loving husband and father is rare in this age and one I hope to emulate.
Jim’s passion for the work our Woodstock chapter was doing in Atlanta and for his own projects was never more evident than during the rare occasions when Jim could join our group for dinner and a few glasses of wine. He was a master storyteller with a great head for facts about the Church and history in general. He talked of his beloved Jesuits and future books he wanted to write. We had lengthy discussions about how we could expand the idea of faith at work to more Catholics around the world. When Jim took the time to read the early manuscript for my first book, The Catholic Briefcase, and provide his endorsement, I was thrilled because his was the approval I sought above any others. Reflecting on his excitement for the book always brings a smile to my face.
In February, 2010, the Woodstock Atlanta chapter had an opportunity to honor Jim for his lifelong contributions to our Catholic faith and the practical application of faith at work at the 2nd Annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference where he was a featured speaker. It was a very moving experience for the attendees and there were tears on many faces that day, but I was struck most by the genuine humility Jim Nolan expressed when he received the plaque before he began his presentation. He wondered what he had done to deserve such an honor. That speaks volumes about the kind of man he was.
I will miss my friend Jim Nolan as will many others who were blessed to know him. His legacy will live on in the lives of his beautiful family, his devoted wife Karen and those of us privileged to collaborate with him and carry on the work he began.
Let us remember this good man for a life well-lived as I believe that Jim would wish no tears or sadness from those who knew and loved him. Instead, he would desire that we pursue excellence, show love and compassion for others and have a sincere commitment for doing the right thing at work.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen
Here is a link to a wonderful talk Jim gave some years ago entitled “Doing the Right Thing at Work” which sums up much of his thinking around the need for faith in the workplace: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2011/01/doing-the-right-thing-at-work/
Biography of James Nolan:
James Nolan earned a J.D., UCLA School of Law and a M.A. in Theology, Washington Theological Union. He was the program coordinator of the Arrupe Program in Social Ethics for Business, the program coordinator of the Woodstock Business Conference and a research fellow for the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He was a former Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Washington Theological Union. Jim practiced law as a trial and appellate attorney representing corporations and individuals in business, commercial and insurance disputes.
He was the author of Doing the Right Thing at Work: A Catholic’s Guide to Faith, Business and Ethics, a book on moral values and business ethics as reflected in the lives and challenges of business and professional leaders who participated in the Woodstock Business Conference monthly conversations.
Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was recently released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and your local Catholic bookstore.
The Catholic Briefcase was recently voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith will be released by Liguori Publications in November 2012 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
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