Challenges of Practicing Our Faith While Working in Secular World

Alexa Doncescz, left, chats with Robert Wert and his daughter Claudia at the Theology on Tap session “Faith on the Job: Maintaining Values in the Workplace” Sept. 18 at Viva Bistro and Lounge, Wyomissing. (Photos by John Simitz)

By TAMI QUIGLEY  Staff writer

Is it possible to grow in faith while working in a secular career?

The answer is yes, according to Robert Wert, featured speaker of “Faith on the Job: Maintaining Values in the Workplace,” which kicked off the fall season of Theology on Tap Sept. 18 at Viva Bistro and Lounge, Wyomissing.

Does his faith play a role in his professional life? Wert’s answer is a definite yes, saying it plays a role “every day.”

“I put service to others as my primary motivating factor.”

Wert is managing director of investments at Wert Investment Consulting Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Wyomissing and coordinator of the Berks Traditional Latin Mass Community.

The diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry (OYYAFM) sponsored the evening, which wrapped up with a question-and-answer session.

Alexa Doncescz, assistant director of OYYAFM, welcomed those gathered.

Theology on Tap is a young adult speaker series sponsored by OYYAFM for married and single young adults, scheduled for the third Monday of every month at various locations in the Diocese.

It is designed to allow young adults to come together in a comfortable and relaxed setting to share community, learn more about their faith and discuss faith topics relevant to their life experiences. It originated in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois.

Wert has been with Wells Fargo Advisors and its predecessor companies for more than 30 years. He is a Premier Advisor, Directors Council Level.

Wert founded the Wert Investment Consulting Group of Wells Fargo Advisors to provide a high level of service to a small number of clients. The group works with families, companies and not-for-profit organizations.

Wert’s activities include serving on the investment committee of the Diocese of Allentown; hosting “Berks Business” on Berks Community Television, Comcast channel 15; and hosting the Charitable Leaders Lecture Series.

Wert and his wife Mary have three children and reside in Lower Heidelberg Township. They are parishioners of St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring.

Mary and their daughter Claudia, who works with her father, attended the Theology on Tap session.

Wert’s interest in a career in finance stretches back to childhood, as he started reading the stock pages and was fascinated by dividends at age 7.

That interest spurred him to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Penn State Harrisburg and a master of business administration in finance from the University of Chicago, and complete the Securities Industry Institute sponsored by the Securities Industry Institute at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Wert joined Butcher and Singer in 1985, and after a number of company name changes remains with the company that is now Wells Fargo, “the third largest brokerage firm in the country,” he said.

Of charitable giving, Wert noted many companies in Lehigh and Berks counties are generous to the Diocese of Allentown.

“We align investments with goals,” Wert said, adding it’s important for a person’s financial planner to coordinate with the person’s accountants and attorneys.

Wert said he and his wife taught marriage preparation in the Diocese for eight years, and “a big part of that was handling money,” Wert said, noting it’s challenging for young couples to navigate finances.

There’s a happy medium between being a miser and a spendthrift, and couples just have to find it. Wert advised putting 10 percent in savings where it will grow, and giving 10 percent to the Church.

Of his involvement with the Berks County Traditional Latin Mass Community, Wert said the Traditional Latin Mass – also known as the extraordinary form of the Mass and Tridentine Mass – is “authentic, reverent and beautiful.”

“There are many young people involved,” Wert said, adding they have a hunger for the reverent liturgy. “You really feel part of a 2,000-year-old Church that is young.”

“When you see the priest in the older, classic, traditional vestments, he’s celebrating with you the reverence toward our Lord. We want our God to inspire and awe.”

Wert said he appreciates Father Edward Connolly, pastor emeritus of St. Joseph and St. Vincent, Girardville, for his role with the Traditional Latin Mass Community.

“The Latin Mass – that’s the charism that works for us,” Wert said, adding there are numerous communities in the Diocese and region.

Wert said their son, George, 16, wants to be a priest. The family reads the Catechism of the Catholic Church most nights, with Wert explaining, “Take 10 minutes a night and you’ll have a good understanding of the faith. We don’t read it cover to cover, we skip around, find something that interests us and build on it.”

The Werts attend Mass at least weekly, have daily prayers in the morning and evening as a family, and almost always have dinner together as a family.

“Bob is a true Catholic leader in our family,” Mary said.

Wert also advised joining small faith-sharing groups. For example, he’s a member of a Traditional Latin Mass men’s group. “It’s good to be with others who are on the same page and bounce ideas off each other.”

Of his professional life, Wert shared his philosophy of “Do well by doing good. Good reputation is the key to growth.”

“We work with many faith-based clients and community organizations, and I enjoy working with them and funding their mission,” Wert said.

There are challenges to being a practicing Catholic in an increasingly secular world. “Socially responsible investing means different things to different people,” Wert said, noting for example some people want to support the same things as the Church. Other clients sometimes are dealing with substance abuse.

“Money itself is neither good nor evil. Like any other tool, it’s what you do with it. It can fund your family or a drug habit,” Wert said.

Regarding investment opportunities, Wert said some technology is wonderful and some is “scary,” such as genetic engineering, and he avoids such opportunities.

There’s also the yield to client versus the yield to advisor and the pressure to perform. “Some investments have a higher yield to the advisor than the client,” he said.

“If you have to go to confession, it stops you from doing a lot of stupid stuff,” Wert said with a smile.

Theology on Tap events are free of charge. Food and beverage can be ordered from the menu at the event site. For more information, visit www.allentowndiocese.org/oyyam or email adoncsecz@allentowndiocese.org