Living the Call: An Introduction to the Lay Vocation,
by Michael Novak and William E. Simon Jr.
Drawing on decades of reflection and personal experience, theologian Novak and philanthropist Simon offer a new primer on the lay vocation. In engaging and often poignant terms, Living the Call presents the idea of vocation as a Christian responsibility and an opportunity to deepen one’s faith. Writing in an era of declining vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life, they profile nine lay Catholics to illustrate the principle that all Catholics—religious and secular—are called to a life of Christian vocation. Indeed, the book’s second part is devoted to elaborating how the laity can cultivate the “inner life” necessary to finding and filling a vocation. While philanthropy is one of many topics in Novak and Simon’s book, they clearly see charitable giving as an expression of the lay vocation. Nowhere is it made clearer than in their chapter on the work of prominent businessman Peter Flanigan. In 1986, Flanigan started Student Sponsor Partners, which pairs disadvantaged students with mentors and provides scholarships to New York’s inner-city Catholic schools. More recently Flanigan and his son founded an academy to train teachers to become principals at Catholic schools. Flanigan’s example nicely illustrates Novak and Simon’s broader point. While his wealth and experience were instrumental to his philanthropy, ultimately it was his faith that inspired Flanigan. Resolving to address disparities in New York’s schools, he concluded, “the Church does teach you to love your brother.…You have a communal obligation.”
The Magnificent Medills: America’s Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor,
by Megan McKinney
From the Chicago Tribune to the New York Daily News, several of the country’s most successful papers were run by Joseph Medill and his descendants. Chicago historian McKinney provides the first comprehensive chronicle of the Medill newspaper dynasty in The Magnificent Medills—the first volume to look at several generations of Medills and explore their complicated relationships with one another. As one of the country’s first media moguls, Joseph Medill was also a key political player—a founder of the Republican Party who was instrumental in the nomination of his friend Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. Joseph Medill passed on his keen editorial sense and publishing genius to his descendants, who became driving media forces in Chicago, New York, and Washington. His legendary grandson Col. Robert R. McCormick would eventually take the helm at the Tribune after managing the paper with his cousin Joseph Medill Patterson, who went on to found the Daily News. The Colonel devoted much of his time to his experimental farm Cantigny—left, as was the majority of his estate, to the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. As part of the foundation, Cantigny Park continues work in horticultural education and experimentation, and serves as a home for the First Division Museum. While McKinney deftly tells the tale of one of America’s first families of business, along the way providing insights into the Medills’ role in American history, she only makes passing references to the family’s rather impressive philanthropy. One would have liked to learn more about the Medill family’s charitable giving, which ranges from the McCormick Foundation and Cantigny Park to the Patterson Foundation and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity,
by Mario Morino
Retired software entrepreneur and leading venture philanthropist Morino offers his contribution to the growing literature on nonprofit and philanthropic effectiveness. Much of the book exhorts nonprofit leaders to embrace “managing to outcomes”—which Morino admits “may sound to some like fuzzy jargon”—lest they get caught unawares by the imminent age of austerity, in which “our nation simply will not be able to justify huge subsidies for social-sector activities without more assurance that they’re on track to realize results.” Morino’s perspective as a funder allows him to offer some tips for donors who hope to spur their grantees to focus on outcomes without “foisting unfunded, often simplistic, self-serving mandates on [them].” Among these tips: provide support for grantees’ management to undertake rigorous self-evaluation, match up the right people with the right mission, make grants contingent on performance, and stop funding programs that don’t work. One of the most important things a donor can do, Morino writes, is to encourage grantees to “cultivate for themselves an outcomes-focused mindset.”