BUSINESS GUILD OFFERS SPIRITUAL, MATERIAL SOLIDARITY NEW ASSOCIATION HAS LINKS TO ST. THOMAS CATHOLIC STUDIES
By ERIKA ZABINSKI ‘12
A Vasko family photo, including six St. Thomas alumni, pictured left to right: John Wehrly ‘10 J.D., Kristen Vasko Wehrly ’12, Sister Marie Carmen Vasko ’12, Nick Vasko ‘11, Megan Keller Vasko ‘12 and Ben Vasko ’15.
Roger Vasko is a parent of four St. Thomas alumni, three of whom were Catholic studies majors. He knows a thing or two about business – at age 28, he and his brother bought his father’s trash hauling company. Over decades, they grew it substantially into multiple locations across central Minnesota before selling the business and retiring in 2005. After retiring, in conversations at his parish, Roger noticed a theme of young families struggling financially, especially when it came to affording Catholic education. He also knew there wasn’t a coordinated way to connect job seekers with local businesses that wanted to hire Catholics, or to help customers find Catholic businesses to patronize.
So in 2019, Roger and a team of collaborators – including his son Ben Vasko ’14 – launched a nonprofit organization, the St. Joseph Business Guild . The guild is open to Catholics in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It includes businesses, individual workers, nonprofits, students and people seeking jobs. The concept comes from the artisans’ guilds of medieval Europe, groups of local craftsmen who banded together for spiritual and material solidarity. Guilds safeguarded the dignity of work, upholding just wages, ethical working conditions, and fair prices for both sellers and buyers. Apprenticeships allowed trades
to be passed down through generations of families in a formative environment. In a time before company pensions or state safety nets, the guilds were a way for Catholics to practice the works of mercy for each other and for the poor. Guilds helped members who were unable to work due to sickness or disability and provided support for families of deceased members. Just as important was spiritual support. Guilds gathered for public expressions of faith, including prayers for their dead and celebrations on their patron saint’s feast day. They might patronize a chapel or contribute to the building of a new church, such as the guild-
Page 8 stthomas.edu/catholicstudies
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