A Passion for Service
2/1/2016María de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperlanda
Chad McAuliff cannot help grinning as he talks about his work.
Whether approaching a young family just starting out, a single man without financial planning or a couple nearing retirement, the No. 1 field agent for the Knights of Columbus thrives on each encounter as a personal opportunity to help families make the right financial choices.
“My job is a huge blessing,” said 26-year-old McAuliff, a member of Harry L. Harper Council 6606 in Broken Arrow, Okla. “I have a true passion. I think that’s why I’m successful at what I do. I never dreamt that I could work for a Catholic organization — a good, ethical, moral company — and be able to help Catholics with their finances.”
In story after story, McAuliff describes the joy he feels whenever he’s able to help a brother Knight create a positive and doable financial plan. He recalled, for example, a recent visit with a new Knight and his wife, both close to retirement in their late 50s.
“We talked about the Knights and about Father McGivney’s vision of financially caring for families. And the wife admitted that neither of them knew that the Knights of Columbus had all these programs,” McAuliff explained.
“Then she looked at me and said, ‘I just lost my job and I’ve been praying for someone to come and help us with our finances. We had no idea what we were going to do.’”
McAuliff helped the couple put together a plan to help them get through financially until they receive Social Security, and he was embraced in gratitude for a job well done.
McAuliff’s experience is representative of a dedicated professional field force of some 1,400 Knights of Columbus field agents in the United States and Canada. Together with approximately 130 general agents, these men proudly follow the lead of their founder, Venerable Michael McGivney, in serving the financial needs of Catholic families.
A FULFILLING PROFESSION
An Oklahoma native, Chad McAuliff joined the Knights at 18, around the time he received a two-year scholarship from the Order, which helped defray the cost to attend the state’s Catholic college, St. Gregory’s University.
McAuliff met his future wife, Alyssa, during his freshman year at a bowling tournament in Joplin, Mo., and they found out they lived within five miles of one another in Broken Arrow, where they still live today.
“My parents and I gave him a ride home, and he left his jacket in the car,” recalled Alyssa, smiling.
“I used that as an opportunity to ask her out on a date,” Chad added with a laugh.
The couple, active members at St. Benedict’s Parish in Broken Arrow, married in 2012. They have two young children and are expecting a third in May.
In 2012, McAuliff became a Knights of Columbus field agent and was named “Rookie of the Year” for his work. In 2015, he was the No. 1 field agent Orderwide.
But for McAuliff, being a field agent is not only a viable career option; it’s also part of a vocation to serve and to help fellow members and their families — a vocation he takes very seriously.
“I have an inner peace because I have found what I’m called to do, and it’s my responsibility to take care of these families,” McAuliff said. “On the way to an appointment, I pray, ‘Please God, grant me the strength and wisdom to know how to take care of them.’”
In a state where Catholics make up 5-6 percent of the population, Chad and Alyssa feel blessed to be surrounded by Catholic families. “Many of our friends are Chad’s clients,” Alyssa said. “That’s how we’ve met more people who share our same faith commitment.”
In addition to Knights of Columbus activities, the young couple serves their parish as RCIA program volunteers and as Pre-Cana sponsors.
They appreciate the flexibility that working from a home office provides. “We have a good schedule that works,” McAuliff explained. “I’m consistent and efficient, and Alyssa keeps me organized and structured. I work all year and take time off during the whole year.”
More than this, McAuliff appreciates the strong Catholic foundation that gives his work deeper meaning.
“The faith values, the community, the service — that’s what makes ours so different from other commercial companies,” he said. “I feel passion and purpose for what I do, and I think families see that when I sit down with them.”
BY BROTHER KNIGHTS, FOR BROTHER KNIGHTS
The way his faith and professional life complement one another is one of the key reasons why General Agent Kevin Pierce, 35, says that his work “truly makes a difference in the lives of many Catholic families.”
Like his field agent Chad McAuliff, Pierce’s agency is also in first place in the company, an accolade Pierce credits to his men.
“If our agency is number one, it’s because my men chose to be number one collectively, not me,” said Pierce, a member of Edmond (Okla.) Council 6477. The job of a general agent, he explained, is to recruit, contract, train and manage.
“I’m here to support them, help train them, offer advice and be there for them,” said Pierce. “I really care about my people. I’m proud of my men.”
According to Pierce, McAuliff embodies what he looks for in a field agent, namely that “special something that I can’t teach!”
“I can teach the program, the process, how to explain things, how to service things, how to ask people to take the first step in purchasing,” Pierce said, “but I can’t teach heart — and I can’t teach work ethic.”
A Catholic convert and former college football player, Pierce credits his own profession with the Knights to a relative who was a field agent in Kearney, Neb. “Every time our families got together we would talk shop, talk insurance. It was how I was educated on the Knights,” Pierce said.
Looking back at his career, he smiled. “I see Father McGivney’s hand in all of this! My faith and prayer, that’s my foundation,” he said, adding that he is first and foremost devoted to his family and his parish. “We simply never know what impact our actions may have years from now.”
That potential impact, Pierce affirmed, should affect an agent’s everyday responsibilities and decision-making.
“I tell my agents, one day we’re going to be sitting in front of Father McGivney,” said Pierce, “and he’s going to ask, ‘How did you treat my members? Did you take care of the widows and the orphans?’
“We are out there living Father McGivney’s mindset and vision every day, which is so much more than just going to work for some random insurance company,” Pierce added. “As agents we get to make sure that widows and orphans are protected. That’s our job.”
MOTIVATED TO SERVE
Every agent has a story or two that particularly drives him. Sometimes it’s a moment when he made a difference in the middle of a crisis. But sometimes it’s about a missed opportunity — a heart-wrenching instance when a Knight put off buying insurance or making plans, with tragic results.
For Kevin Pierce, one such experience took place when he was a field agent. Pierce avoided approaching a brother Knight because the 30-something-year-old worked for a competing insurance company. What Pierce didn’t know was that this Knight’s employer had denied him coverage. Pierce acknowledges that he didn’t follow up with him after an initial discussion. The Knight died in his sleep two weeks later.
“The image of his wife walking into the funeral with their two young children is etched in my memory forever,” Pierce said quietly. “It is heartbreaking and I’ll never forget it. I share that story with my agents because it motivates me.”
This and similar stories impel McAuliff to meet with brother Knights in a timely manner.
“As a financial professional, I feel a responsibility to approach every member because things can happen,” McAuliff said. “We hope and pray that they don’t, but things do happen that completely alter our lives. There’s an urgency I feel to visit with every family.”
The most difficult aspect of his work, McAuliff said, is when someone says, “Thanks, but no thanks.” The challenge, he explained, is to impress upon them the need to plan long before a crisis occurs.
“If they understood more about what we do, I firmly believe they could be helped also,” McAuliff said. “What I do in that situation is simply continue to offer my help.”
In offering help to members and their families, it is not unusual for a field agent to assume responsibilities with his clients that go well beyond selling insurance.
“We work to create a relationship. We may not be related, but my clients are family to me,” explained McAuliff, noting a recent instance when a Knight died. At the widow’s home, McAuliff sat down with her and looked over her financial records.
“When I delivered a death claim check to her, she was in tears. I was in tears. We talked about the check and how to handle the funds and the funeral. She was really thankful that someone took the time to go through all the papers.”
Such experiences remind McAuliff of why he decided to become a field agent and of the difference the Knights of Columbus can make.
MARÍA DE LOURDES RUIZ SCAPERLANDA is a freelance writer and author living in Norman, Okla.