Archdiocese named among top 100 workplaces

Lisa Johnston |

Michael Sawyer wheeled off Laclede Station Road onto Archbishop May Drive, then marveled at the beautiful edifice coming up on his right -- the Cardinal Rigali Center, formerly home of Kenrick Seminary and, as of June 29, his place of employment.

"This is probably the most beautiful building I've ever worked in, bar none; it's fantastic," said Sawyer, who worked in "some beautiful palaces" in a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan as part of a four-year hitch with the United States Army. "This is definitely the prettiest, by far."

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is more than just a pretty face, however. It's also a great place to work, which Sawyer and the archdiocese's 300 employees knew even before confirmation in the June 28 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Post-Dispatch named the archdiocese among 100 Top Workplaces in St. Louis, ranking it 20th among midsize companies -- 150-499 employees. Marygrove, an agency of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, also made the list, along with St. Louis University High School and SSM Rehabilitation Network.

An IT professional, Sawyer has the distinction of being the first new hire to start work after the archdiocese made the Top Workplaces list. Even before he started, though, his buddies were geeked up about his new gig.

"I have a lot of friends who are very Catholic, and they were saying, 'This is awesome,'" Sawyer said. "They were all excited."

Though new on the job, Sawyer echoed employees surveyed by Workplace-Dynamics, the survey firm from Exton, Pa., that partnered with the Post-Dispatch in producing the list.

Employees answered along the lines of Nancy Svoboda, in her second year with the archdiocese's human-resources department.

"I absolutely love it here," said Svoboda, who previously spent 20 years at the Post-Dispatch. "I love the type of work I do, and the people are very friendly, like we all have something in common. ... I feel like there's more respect for one another, and a level of trust."

Likewise, veteran employee Mary Ham appreciates the collegiality of the archdiocese, calling it "family oriented."

"I thoroughly enjoy it here, just getting to know all the people," said Ham, a 19-year employee and payroll staffer. "It's always pleasant working with them. You feel like you've known them forever."

She found both jobs through employment ads in this newspaper, leaving corporate America to find "something meaningful." Thus, Catholic identity is "very important" to her, with daily Mass, weekly confession and quarterly development days with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson.

Plus, there's that building -- the Cardinal Rigali Center.

"I look at this awesome building and surroundings, and I can't believe I'm really working here," Ham said.

Built in 1913 as a seminary, the stately building features the stunning St. Vincent de Paul Chapel, a fireplace in the lobby and terrazzo floors throughout, plus statuary and religious artifacts from around the world.

It also had something else. Even the tangible building has intangibles.

"There's an aura about it," Svoboda said. "When you walk into this building, you can be in a bad mood and it puts you in a good mood. ... It kind of relaxes you."

It also gives Svoboda the chance to say a little prayer of thanksgiving at the end of the workday.

"When I leave, I go down those steps with the huge statue of Jesus in it; I just like to talk to Him before I get in my car," Svoboda said. "I touch His feet, and I say, 'Thank you, God, for letting me come to work here every day.'"

Top Workplaces

In addition to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, 20th among midsize companies, three other Catholic enterprises made the cut for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's list of Top Workplaces in St. Louis.

Large companies (500 or more employees)

10. SSM Rehabilitation Network

Midsize companies (150-499 employees)

9. St. Louis University High School

13. Marygrove 

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