Andreas Widmer was the keynote at the February 2016 Lunch and Learn event sponsored by the University of Mary and Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce.

BISMARCK, ND — A lot can be learned from working for someone a couple years. Pearls of wisdom here and there, sprinkled with some dos and don’ts and a nugget or two of true genius. But when your boss is Pope Saint John Paul II, mentorship takes on a whole new meaning — a level that is not only life-changing but also life-affirming to the point where the experience needs to be shared with the world.

As he did with so many people from various walks of life, John Paul II touched the life of his bodyguard, Andreas Widmer — a Pontifical Swiss Guard of the Holy See stationed at the Vatican in Rome from 1986 through 1988.

Andreas Widmer's last audience with Saint Pope John Paul II

Andreas Widmer’s last audience with Saint Pope John Paul II

“My world-view is very much shaped by John Paul II,” said Widmer. “It’s a ‘mental model’ if you wish. It looks the same from the outside — I mean, what I do at work, at school, at home, but the meaning it has for me and the reasons for me to do it are very different from the mainstream secular world, I would think. He was thoroughly joyful — to the point that when I saw him, even from far away, his joy had a way to make me joyful as well. I wanted to have his joy. He was real – whenever he met anyone, he was truly present and interested in the person he was with, no matter if this was one of the homeless beggars on St. Peter’s square, a pilgrim during an audience, a leader of a religious group or the president of the United States. He was sincerely present. I wanted to have his presence.”

Andreas Widmer

Andreas Widmer

Widmer shares leadership lessons he learned serving and protecting the pope, and refined during his career as a successful business executive at the popular Lunch and Learn series sponsored by the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce and the University of Mary. This free and open to the public event is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23, 11 a.m., in Arno Gustin Hall on campus, with registration at www.umary.edu/lunchandlearn.

Widmer standing guard at the Vatican in Rome

Widmer standing guard at the Vatican in Rome

“Only in the Swiss Guard did I learn what it means to have a vocation — and the vocation to business in particular,” stated Widmer, whose presentation on Tuesday is called “Business as a Vocation.” “This of course was not something I was aware of like I am now. It was more like a mix of trust and attraction to what God had in store for me. My business career only gradually unfolded and became clearer in time.”

Much of Widmer’s life became clearer over time. Before arriving at the Vatican at age 20, Widmer says he had a shaky self-image. He lacked interest in school and it showed in his grades. He became afraid of the future so he did what came naturally and covered his insecurity and threats with tough behavior and indifference.

Widmer sworn In as he receives oath. The three fingers raised symbolizes the Holy Trinity.

Widmer sworn In as he receives oath. The three fingers raised symbolizes the Holy Trinity.

“I pretended to be a tough guy who didn’t care,” Widmer added. “A friend told me about becoming a bodyguard. I was immediately hooked: what’s cooler than that? The Swiss Guard was my ticket to fulfill that dream. The fact that this was done in a religious setting did not bother me – it didn’t mean much to me. The main thing was that I thought that getting in was going to certify my toughness and alleviate my fears of the future. That was my cover, until I met John Paul II.”

FinalChapter for WebHis popular book The Pope and The CEO: John Paul II’s Leadership Lessons to a Young Swiss Guard has garnered five-star reviews from readers and many iconic authors and scholars.

“Andreas Widmer is an honest man, a good man, and an insightful man,” stated George Weigel, Pope John Paul’s biographer and distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center. “His reflections on what he learned from perhaps the greatest Christian of our time offer all of us a powerful example of leadership at work.”

Widmer-Full-Size-Photos2 for Web“Those real-life encounters with the Pope formed Andreas Widmer’s life and views on faith, family, and work from a young Swiss Guard to a corporate executive and CEO,” said author Immaculee Ilibagiza. “Real leadership requires reconciling our spiritual lives with our work, and The Pope and The CEO are two Christian men that show us how to put that into practice every day.”

Widmer, along with being an author, is professor and director of Entrepreneurship Programs at Catholic University of America’s School of Business and Economics.

Widmer’s experience spans the fields of high-tech, international business strategy consulting and economic development. He was an executive in residence at Highland Capital Partners, a venture capital firm. He served as CEO of OTF Group (formerly part of the Monitor Group) and helped lead Eprise Corporation, Dragon Systems and FTP Software. He has worked extensively in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, and has brought more than 100 leading-edge technology products to market.

He was previously the co-founder of SEVEN Fund, a philanthropic organization promoting enterprise solutions to poverty, where Andreas and his business partner Michael Fairbanks initiated the Pioneers of Prosperity Awards, a first-of-its-kind industry program that finds and promotes the best entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Andreas Widmer is on the Board of Directors of The Carpenter’s Fund, a senior collateral lender to small and medium size businesses and projects in emerging markets.