Dr. Knight: Could you describe your early Catholic formation.
George: We lived on Army bases around the world, but my father took all 5 kids to Mass every Sunday. Mom wouldn’t go as she was effectively an agnostic Episcopalian. Catechism was every week as well. My first communion was at the post chapel in Ft. Huachuca, AZ. In the 3rd grade, I was an altar boy. During confirmation, I had a very mystical experience and felt a calling, which I ignored in favor of pubescent flesh and desire; I am a sinner.
Dr. Knight: Can you tell us how you kept your faith alive in College.
George: In the early years of college, I was a regular at the Newman Center and truly enjoyed the Friday night group meetings. But I was also in college and began a slow but steady descent into alcoholism. When I finally sobered up at age 29, I had by then, become dis-illusioned with the Church; my higher power was “logic” and I had lost my faith and would say that, “when you die, you’re dead, and then you decompose”.
In 2009, having just started a new job that took me past HNC on foot routinely, I stepped inside. I don’t know why, but I had a similar mystic experience, as from my confirmation, whereby I was home now, and at peace. All that had been, still was, and still is.
The beauty and majesty of the altar and suspended cross beguiled me. All of the sudden, the Noon Mass began, with choir and organ, and the Eucharist, which I desperately wanted but couldn’t because of my lack of grace. I needed to go to confession.
I began going to Mass every day. I was asked to participate in the Divine Office rituals; I was blown away by the beauty of the psalms. As each day came and went, I found myself going deeper into scripture, re-learning old lessons from catechism, and finding new ways to pray. Every new city requires a new visit Santa Monica, San Xavier del Bac, St. Margaret Mary, St. Peter’s basilica. The Mass is so beautiful in any language in any country. The beauty of the Internet allows all of us to grow and learn in faith.
Dr. Knight: You’ve become a very successful business man who understands the importance of threading your faith into your business acumen. Would you describe that for us in regard to being true to your faith?
George: I’ve always said I have only 3 things to sell in my professional career: intelligence, experience, and integrity. The latter is rooted in Catholicism. I am not well schooled, but certain things stuck…
“When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was naked, did you clothe me? When I was imprisoned, did you visit me? That which you did to the least of your brothers, you did unto me.” Wow.
How can we ignore the homeless, the hungry, the addicted? Do we think we are better than them because we have nice suit and tie on? How can a leader lead without respect of the team….how can I ask someone to clean 16 toilets a day? Even worse, how can I be the one to lay off literally thousands of employees in a pandemic? With God’s help. I believe in one God, the Father Almighty
I’ve come to believe that because we cannot think like God, we should not try to understand nor should we despair. God has a plan, maybe Covid becomes the catalyst for the world coming together, we have too; a virus ignores man-made borders.
Dr. Knight: The social teachings of the Church inform us of the documents that we adhere to in regard to the treatment of workers. How is the treatment of workers in your job in keeping with fairness and your faith?
George: If we treat workers and all people with respect, pay a living wage, provide for medical care/benefits, and keep the workplace free of discrimination or hostility, then we all prosper. Work must feel comforting to the workforce. When the hotel employees are happy, so too are our guests. Hotels wouldn’t accept Joseph and Mary, will we?
Dr. Knight: Although this issue in Profiles in Catholicism is highlighting religious vocations,, we also wanted to feature other vocations as well. Your vocation is important to many of our readers. Can you tell us about your success in following this vocation?
George: I needed beer money in college and took a job as a dishwasher at a Hyatt. I never dreamed this would become a lifetime vocation, with a few detours of course, 40 years and counting. This has been the most challenging year of my life professionally, and yet, my faith has guided. We did not run from Covid, we ran toward it, securing City contracts for 1100 rooms to help the medical and first responder communities. 8 months later, it is astounding that we are still bumbling through the night without a national policy. So I pray every day for God to assist us to keep the lights on, so that we can recall all the essential workers that have been laid off.
Dr. Knight: Your monetary generosity to the Church is important for all of us as we attempt to assist the Church during this pandemic. Could you inspire our readership to do so also?
George: My father always said with regard to savings, “Pay Yourself First”. I do that. Having gotten over the shock of actually making charitable donations, i.e. releasing the coins, I now find myself looking for ways to help. $20 here, $20 there, oh what the heck add a zero, add two zeros. It always comes back to me times 10. Try it, text “Holy Name” to 77977. (I actually think we should tell people to silence there cell phones but keep the text screen open…then during the offertory, which we cannot do anymore, the priest should make everyone show their cell phone and start texting the donations
Dr. Knight: You have a basic positive attitude about those you come in contact with. What inspires your positivity?
George: I’m chuckling. I have very strong eyes and heavy brows and it’s as if my eyes both scare and attract others. So the first thing is to remember, sometimes people are nervous, especially around authority. I want no part of that, I want to smile with eyes and show my teeth. I train everyone at our hotels to remember that….eyes & teeth, or in Spanish, “ojos y dientes”. Smiles are free and change the world.
Dr. Knight: What are 3 words that you would encourage people in business to adhere to?
George: Remember your faith, maintain you integrity, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Love) Bonus word = forgive.
Dr. Knight: What are the issues of the Catholic faith that are important to you?
George: The pews are empty, pre-Covid. Why? We must answer the question honestly…because we are excluding whole classes of people in violation of Christ’s teachings. Pope Francis said it best, “who am I to judge?”
Dr. Knight: What are some of the issues that we are grappling with in regard to the teachings of the Church?
George: Women as priests, marriage of the ordained, inclusion of LGBTQ communities, abuses by the church leadership and cover-up.
Dr. Knight: What are some of the hopes for the future Church?
George: That priests may marry again, that women may be ordained priests, that all people are allowed to marry with church blessings, that the message of Christ is LOVE, for God is love.
Thank you for your inspiring interview as we all try to follow the vocation that God has called us to.