A Catholic Workspace

A look at a tech company doing things a bit differently.

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Imagine you’re a VP in a manufacturing company. Your company has been growing and is looking for a better way to manage everything from finances and payroll to inventory and customer service. Your company decides that the consultancy firm Anchor Group is going to help transition to new software to manage all of this. Just another bland tech office, right?

“Sorry, we can’t meet at 4 p.m.,” you hear one of the developers say on the phone. Turns out, the whole office is working on a carpentry project.

That’s because the parent company of Anchor Group isn’t some billion-dollar software conglomerate: it’s a Catholic lay association known as the Brotherhood of St. Joseph, dedicated to helping Christian men develop themselves as workers, believers, and warriors through—not in spite of—their day job.

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Siblings Jacob and John Paul Terneus, alumni of Wyoming Catholic College (WCC), were kind enough to stop and chat about their work together in software development at Anchor, the way the Brotherhood affects their work, and how their liberal arts background has contributed to their careers in tech—even though neither of them initially planned to go into that field.

“I’m working primarily on software development—on code that makes websites do what they do,” said John Paul. Jacob is VP of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) at Anchor Group, which specializes in setting companies up with NetSuite software. As Jacob explains, “NetSuite is like a huge version of QuickBooks: this is the grown-up version. Warehouse, fulfillment, employees: you can manage almost anything you’d want as a business.”

The Terneus brothers grew up near Omaha, Nebraska, but both are now based near Madison, Wisconsin. Jacob married an alumna of Benedictine college and they have two daughters now. John Paul and his wife, a fellow WCC classmate, are currently expecting their first child. Neither brother expected to go into the tech industry when they first came to Wyoming Catholic. 

A conversation with a cousin gave John Paul the idea of going into programming as well as the suggestion of an internship: “So I did an internship, as well as supplemental courses during my time at WCC.” Thus, by the time John Paul graduated, he already had some familiarity with coding. 

Jacob, on the other hand, planned on being in academia. After he finished his undergrad degree, he completed a two-year masters in classics at the University of Kentucky, followed by PhD studies in philosophy at Marquette, completing everything but the dissertation.

“I taught at both universities,” Jacob explained, but “when in 2020 I finished my course work, we knew we were expecting our first child. Then my cousin Ben, who started the Anchor Group company, reached out. He offered me a position, and I thought: ‘it would be nice to have a single income that could support a family!’” Jacob (along with a handful of WCC alumni) still teaches immersion Latin on the side at the Veterum Sapientia Institutum.

Anchor Group began with Ben Schmitz and a friend working out of Ben’s home as NetSuite Consultants in 2018. When starting, they hoped the company could become a place in which to begin “a Brotherhood of lay Christian men working and praying together for the good of all.” While the beginnings of the company were precarious, soon the company began to grow and stabilize. Along with it, the Brotherhood materialized: fraternal formation, communal prayer, and Nerf gun fights became regular habits, and a “Rule of life” was written. Today, they have over 30 full-time employees, along with “a supporting cast of Interns and Contractors.”

When I asked Jacob and John Paul how Catholicism influenced the company, they pointed out that “one thing that the tech industry is bad at asking is: ‘should we do something, even if we can?’” Although to a certain extent they “work for our clients,” Jacob mentioned they have “rejected clients who were doing unethical things. We had a client ask us to get rid of all non-five-star reviews on their site; we said no.” They try to ask the question, “Is that a good idea?” on both moral and practical grounds. One thing that the tech industry is bad at asking is: ‘should we do something, even if we can?’Tweet This

Their company is unique, Jacob explained, “because it was started by Catholic men for Catholic men.” It is “a means to an end even more than usual,” and that end is a “good Catholic working community.” Although they do have a few non-Catholic employees, their work day is significantly influenced by their faith: arriving at about 8:00 a.m., employees pray morning prayer together, followed by twenty minutes of silent prayer in the company chapel. This is followed by unstructured time for friendly chatting until 9:00, when the regular work day begins and plays out “pretty much regular.” At noon, they “reenter the chapel to pray the Angelus together, recalling God’s gift of His incarnate Son to us and the world.”

Ending work at four instead of five, the Anchor “Brotherhood” devotes that last part of their day to “communal formation.” These projects vary, including “spiritual, intellectual, physical, artistic, and skills activities.” According to their website, fishing, Eucharistic Adoration, drama, art history, soccer, cooking, weight lifting, iconography, survival skills, and reading have all been featured. The Brotherhood’s Rule says that in “ordinary times let a complete day of work be seven hours, not including the time for prayer and formation. And let a complete week of work be five days. A monk may spend all his hours in work and prayer, but a married man must care for his family.”

Jacob commented that when it comes to hiring, “we try to get people who are a good fit for the culture and ‘extracurricular’ priorities like morning prayer, or working out together, or skill development like woodworking, done in a community fashion.” As a faith-based company, profit is not the most important factor. “How we hire and fire is influenced by care for their souls,” Jacob stated. “We feel a much stronger responsibility for the well-being of our employees, and we tend to do more for someone before letting them go.”

In our age of remote work, Anchor Group chooses to have all their employees work in person. “We see our co-workers in person, but hardly ever our clients,” Jacob said. The principles of the brotherhood stem from principles of Catholic social teaching. Where Wyoming Catholic College tries to form its students in “mind, body, and spirit” in the context of a four-year liberal arts curriculum, the Brotherhood of St. Joseph seeks to do the same in the work place.

Even though, as Jacob puts it, programming is “much more on the uti than frui side of things, that is okay.” The goal is to do meaningful work well, even if it is not the most important or highest work, so that they can support their families and devote themselves to other more important things in their free time. The fraternity’s Rule says that they should “set aside a portion of its work or income for use in creating beautiful works for the sake of men’s souls and the honor of God” and that they should “participate in philosophy and science and arts and crafting of every kind.” In general, they should “prefer producing a few more durable and beautiful goods over many cheaper goods.”

I find all of this deeply inspiring as an example of integrating modern work with a strong faith life; more than that, I find it inspiring for the possibility of forming a healthy workplace community and friendships that many men desire but find impossible to realize. One of the things that makes this easier is having a well-rounded background: even though his job is more technical than Jacob’s, John Paul still recommends a liberal arts formation “big time” for anyone considering programming as a career path.

Currently, the Brotherhood of St. Joseph has three Houses in the Midwest. “It is our hope that we will soon be able to expand into other parts of the country to start more communities,” their website notes

Whether you simply take inspiration from their model or wish to form your own chapter, whether you are a prospective college student or a professional with decades of experience, you can benefit from this unique approach to work-life balance. After all, the Terneus brothers’ comments make several things clear: it is possible to have more balanced work environments when Catholic men band together; the liberal arts colleges like WCC endow their alumni with a rich versatility; and businesses can thrive even when founded on Catholic principles!

[Image Credit: Shutterstock]


  • Julian Kwasniewski

    Julian Kwasniewski is a musician specializing in renaissance Lute and vocal music, an artist and graphic designer, as well as marketing consultant for several Catholic companies. His writings have appeared in National Catholic Register, Latin Mass Magazine, OnePeterFive, and New Liturgical Movement. You can find some of his artwork on Etsy.

tagged as: Catholic Living Work

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