Jesuit Father Max Oliva has built a ministry that focuses on ethical decision-making in the workplace in a locale not often associated with ethics: Las Vegas.
“People are fascinated with a priest that works with businesspeople on ethics,” Fr. Oliva told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Through his Ethics in the Marketplace ministry, Fr. Oliva offers talks, seminars and individual sessions to businesspeople who are trying to sort through dilemmas they encounter in the office, such as how to lay off people out of necessity or handle a contract dispute.
“My experience is there are not a lot of people you can talk to about this stuff,” Fr. Oliva said. “You don’t want to talk to your boss. You can’t talk to a pastor because he is overwhelmed with other things. You don’t want to take it home and make it a big problem.” That’s where Fr. Oliva, a Jesuit with a background in business, steps in to help.
When Fr. Oliva graduated from Santa Clara University in 1961 with a B.A. marketing and business, he had job offers at three family-owned businesses. Instead he chose to enter the Jesuits. He later received an MBA, but most of his work as a Jesuit was in parish or native ministry until ten years ago.
In 2002, he founded Spirituality at Work, which is now Ethics in the Marketplace, after reading a Fortune magazine article on religion in the workplace.
Fr. Oliva ended up in the Las Vegas area after answering a call to help out with a shortage of priests on a part-time basis in 2008 and is now there full time. “My provincial (Jesuit superior) says I’m our missionary in Nevada,” he says.
Since coming to Vegas, Fr. Oliva hasn’t had much contact with business on the Las Vegas Strip. “When I first came here, I reached out by sending letters to Strip executives and never heard back from anybody,” Fr. Oliva says.
“I hope my being here will draw people closer to God and help them be better people in the workplace. I hope that what I have to offer helps to deal with serious issues both personal and work-related,” says Fr. Oliva of his goals.
Read the full interview with Fr. Oliva at the Las Vegas Review-Journal website.