Nessan J. Ronan

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Nessan Ronan, Professor of Accounting at the National University of Lesotho

 Shares in a very touching way his experience of a life threatening illness.
He also talks about the possible effect a serious illness can have on a person’s faith in God and the practice of religion in general.
We are all aware that Southern Africa is confronted with major problems associated with the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Most of the attention is focused on the effect it has on the socio-economic well being of the community.
This is understandable as we can see the problems developing with increased household poverty and orphans
who are a burden to the families and the community.
But there is another dimension to the problem which is rarely written about.

This is the possible effect a serious illness can have on a person’s faith in God and the practice of religion generally.
Serious illness challenges us and it can either break us or we can grow stronger and become better persons because of it.
A lot depends on the attitude we adopt to our illness and the quality of our religious faith.


his article is written from the author’s experience of a serious illness -- cancer -- and what its effect has been on my Christian faith.
I would suspect that one serious illness is similar to another in its emotional impact.
It can be said that serious illness threatens your total existence and may result in you dying before your time.
It thus forces you to take stock of your life, your accomplishments, your successes and failures.
It is thus an occasion for serious reflection on the meaning of life itself and a reappraisal of what is important in a person’s life.
In 2003 I was diagnosed with cancer. At the time I was an academic at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia.
I went home for my annual holidays to Ireland in August and when I went for a routine medical check-up cancer was diagnosed.
Now, I think it is a safe bet to say that everyone fears cancer just as they fear AIDS.
My diagnosis was no different. It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was not prepared for it.
It was an unwelcome intruder into a life, which up to that time was successful, orderly and predictable.
I had always enjoyed my work as an academic and loved to teach.
It was such a shock to be told that I had cancer, that I collapsed in the hospital clinic.
For a few weeks after being diagnosed and before medical treatment was to begin I endured a fairly turmoil life.
All the usual questions came flooding into my mind. Why did this happen to me? Where is God when you need him?
Am I going to survive this illness? What is going to happen to all my wonderful plans?
As the cancer had affected the vocal chords, there was an additional worry if I would be able to lecture again.
I believe that there is a grieving process that people go through when they are given a diagnosis of a serious illness.
My own main thought was that perhaps I will die and will not complete all those objectives I had set for myself.
It did not seem to matter that the prognosis was good and that the medical people assured me that I would survive.


I decided that either I could allow the negative thoughts of the illness to dominate me or
I could determine to adopt a positive attitude. I choose the latter. An important part of my strategy was prayer.
In addition to daily prayer I read a considerable amount of Christian literature.
This included the lives of some of the saints. One of my favourites was the journey of a soul by St Theresa of Lisieux.
One of the great consolations of St Theresa was that she was resigned to her destiny and showed an
extraordinary faith in Jesus.

St Bernadette of Lourdes and the three seers of Fatima also provided much needed motivation.
After about two weeks following the diagnosis I had to go into hospital for a bioposy which
would reveal with certainty the type and extent of the cancer.
My doctor had told me that his initial examination had left him in no doubt that I had a cancerous growth in my throat.
The purpose of the biopsy was to be able to determine its full extent in order to be able to propose the correct course of treatment.
When I came out of hospital after the operation I decided to visit Fatima. Fatima
is a small town about two hours drive from Lisbon in Portugal.
It was there in 1917 that Our Lady appeared to three Catholic children.
Since that time it is a very popular place of pilgrimage.

I was accompanied by my wife Kathleen and eldest son Patrick.
We stayed there two days and during that time we attended several masses near the tree where Our Lady appeared.
We all felt a great sense of peace there and were in no doubt that it is a special place of God’s presence.
Kathleen was praying for a miracle.
This would be that when I went back home I would hear that the diagnosis was a mistake and I was clear of cancer.
Well it did not happen like that. I still had to go for the cancer treatment but a miracle did happen for me.
I got a great sense of confidence that I would be fine, that the treatment would work and that I would return to work.
I had to wait about six weeks for the treatment to begin.
So while waiting I returned to Zambia to finish my work for the students examinations.
I believe that I surprised my Jesuit and SMA (Society for Missionaries of Africa) friends.
They were probably expecting that I would be very depressed.
Instead I felt confident that everything would be fine. I credit this new found confidence to the fact that I
energised myself spiritually and came to believe that I would be able to accept whatever the outcome was to be.


I also began to consider what was important in my life. There was a shifting from the material to the spiritual.
I have taken a new road, one that I know has more significance and meaning for me.
Cancer has taught me a number of important lessons. For one, many of the things we worry about are really insignificant.
Secondly, a sound spiritual life is of great support when you are confronted with the imminent possibility of death.
Also, we can draw inspiration from the lives of the saints. Many of them faced up to
suffering and early death with great confidence in their saviour. Their actions can inspire us as well.
At the same time when you have your health you possess a great gift.
Now that I have recovered from my illness and am back at work teaching again,
I thank God everyday for the gift of health and to be able to teach again.
At one stage during the radiotherapy treatment I lost my voice. I was unable to speak for about a month.
There were times when I wondered if my voice would come back. And if it did not come back,
I wondered how I would manage.

But it did and it made all the difference.
No longer do I take good health and being able to talk and do the common tasks for granted.
Needless to say when we are well we tend to forget about these gifts.
But I suggest we do not wait until we have a serious illness to count our blessings.
It should be part of our daily prayers. I think I can say that a serious illness has the potential to
either bring you closer to God
or make you angry and resolve never to pray again.
There is a good story in the second book of Kings.

This is the story of Naaman who having been a great General in the army, contracted leprosy.
He immersed himself in the Jordan as instructed by Elisha.
When he came out of the waters he was cured of leprosy and at that he no longer doubted God’s mercy.
We in our own way are given opportunities to discover God. A life threatening illness is a challenge to us.
How we face up to it will determine whether we grow spirituality or die to God. Everyday many people are confronted
with great pain and suffering. Most of the time all we can do is to pray that they will be given the gift of faith to
believe in God and courage to face their destiny, in the knowledge that the suffering itself can bring them into God’s presence.
To all those with a life threatening medical diagnosis, I can say with confidence that to take the spiritual road in
confronting your problems will make all the difference in your life.

Nessan Ronan National University of Lesotho Lesotho

JCTR Bulletin Number 56: Article V


Nessan Ronan, lecturer and Bank of Zambia Chair in Accountancy at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe, gives his perspectives on where to place emphasis in priestly ministry between concern for the laity and concern for canon law, theology as well as liturgy.  He concludes by advocating team ministry


Every organization from time to time needs to review its operations.  The church is no exception to the need to carry out a thorough appraisal in order to assess the levels of efficiency and effectiveness.  The church has been a pioneer in espousing an over-arching mission statement, which is designed to motivate its members towards common goals and objectives.

This article is an attempt to put the work of the church under the microscope.  This is done within a framework which acknowledges the enormous contribution the church has made to better the lives of people.  Perhaps there is no more inspiring situation than to observe the deep and sincere dedication of missionaries and other religious to their noble calling.  In a world where some worship at the altar of materialism and where the pursuit of self-interest is the dominant culture in many countries, the authentic Christian Ministry gives witness to a deeper set of human values.


The Church has similarities with other organizations in terms of structure, strategy, objectives, visions, values and missions.  Organizational members, while having similarities, also exhibit a wide range of individual differences.  It is clear that in the recent past many commentators have forgotten this fundamental truth.  The consequences have been that we have seen a “stereotyping culture” emerge as a reaction to the abuses which have been revealed.  I will illustrate the diversity among church members by use of what is termed the “Ministry Grid”.  I then go on to suggest strategies that might be adopted for the five dimensions.


The ministry grid is a two-dimensional model with five principal components.  It is outlined in Figure One and will be described here. . The first dimension contained in the Y-axis is concern for liturgy and the X-axis is concern for laity.  These two dimensions may be in conflict but in some cases they are in harmony. Concern for liturgy describes a situation where the minister in his or her activities gives precedence to the dictates of canon law, theology and liturgy over the concern for the laity.  In these circumstances the minister can come across as “unfeeling” and lacking in “love” while indicating a failure to grasp the imperatives of being a “human being”.  Concern for laity indicates that the minister adopts the opposite attitude to that shown by the minister who has a high concern for liturgy.

Both positions are considered to be sub-optimal.  A balanced approach to ministry, it is contended, will pay attention to both dimensions.  A minister can be high or low on one or both dimensions of the ministry grid.  I now move to a discussion of the five components.


Abdication ministry describes a situation where a minister has a low concern for liturgy and a low concern for the laity.  It is surmised that this type of ministry is in the minority.  It may come about because the incumbent is totally demotivated with his or her role.  A person may be suffering from either a physical or mental illness.  Also, the person may have entered the ministry for the wrong motive.  The effect on the laity can be extremely damaging. It can drive some of the faithful away from the church. It also communicates a negative message of God’s love for his people. It can in the language of psychology develop cognitive dissonance among the faithful.


Hermit ministry is associated with obsessive preoccupation for the theology of the ministry.  All questions are solved within a theological framework.  Canon Law rules the day. In colloquial language, this is the manifestation of Father No.  Where excessive adherence is paid to theology and rules at the expense of humanity, the consequences are that the minister is drawn away from the laity.  Eventually, the minister becomes isolated from his people and the more isolated and unconnected he feels, the more he will fall back on Canon Law.  The emphasis on theology is sometimes perceived by the laity as the exercise of power.  Ultimately the minister becomes a power worker.


 Figure One: The Ministry Grid

             (Based on the Managerial Grid by Blake & Mouton)


The burnout ministry describes a person who has a high level of dedication to the laity but sacrifices himself and his own spiritual development.  He can be called Father Yes as he has a great problem in regulating his own work and cannot say no to anyone.  He shows a great sense of caring and to a large extent would be perceived by the laity as the “Ideal Pastor”.

But the problem with this model is that the minister will not be able to continue in this way in the long-term.  He will eventually get exhausted and he may then become demotivated.  Also the burnout minister is so dedicated that he can easily become disappointed when those around him appear not to be working as hard as he is.  He can in fact be too ambitious for his flock.  He needs to slow down and pace himself.  Better still he needs to focus on being a team minister.


It is estimated that about 40% of religious fall into this category.  Therefore, it is the predominant operating style.  It can be described as the average conscientious person who does a good job.  He pays attention to both the laity and the liturgy but not in any extreme way.  A person operating in a satisficing mode can perform the same ministry in the same parish for a number of years.  Probably, this is the most comfortable style of ministry for Africa.


Team ministry is the ideal style in that it exhibits a high concern for the laity and a high concern for the liturgy.  But this style requires a radical shift in emphasis from “ministering to” to “ministering with” their flock.  It is an empowering strategy where the minister has the confidence to delegate the non-core areas of the ministry to other people.  The minister operates as the leader of a team.  He acknowledges that while he is a skilled theologian he also has deficiencies in other skill areas.  This is the ministry style, which is advocated in this paper. It will be explored in more detail in the following section.


Team ministry begins with a Job Analysis exercise, whereby the job of the priest is analysed in the following manner.


The core activities of the priestly ministry can be defined as the tasks for which the priest was ordained.  Core activities can be further divided into non-delegatable and delegatable.  All other activities fall within the area of non-core activities.  Table one contains an attempt by the author to make this classification.  It is based on an “outsider’s view” of the priestly ministry.  Therefore it can contain some misclassifications based on perceptual errors.

Administering the sacraments is seen as the core area of the priestly ministry.  The first three activities cannot be delegated but activities four to eight could be delegated to Deacons.  The use of  Deacons  has  the  potential  to increase the effectiveness of priests.  Activities nine to fifteen can also be delegated but in these cases, the laity can be involved.  We must remind ourselves that delegation does not mean transferring responsibility from the priest to others.  The priest retains ultimate responsibility for the activities. 


Table One:  Job Analysis of the Priestly Ministry



Non-Delegatable Delegatable
1. Celebrating the Mass


2. Hearing confessions *
3. Administering last rites  *
4. Sacrament of Baptism *
5. Sacrament of marriage *
6. Funeral service *
7. Visiting the sick *
8. Marriage & youth counseling *
9. Attending parish council meetings *
10. Monetary collections *
11. Paying bills  *
12 Fund-raising activities *
13. Maintenance *
14. Church building *
15. Developing projects *

Delegation involves transferring responsibilities to others while retaining ultimate responsibility.  The priest transforms his role from a “solo performer” to the leader of a team.  Team ministry has the capacity to liberate both the priest from his onerous role and release and utilize the talents of others who have the desire to render service.  It also may ensure that the Church becomes identified with all its stakeholders.

In this way, when a crisis hits the Church as undoubtedly it will, it will be perceived as a problem to be solved by all the members and not only the clergy.  I quote with approval the words of Ron Hidaka S.J., in his provincial address in Lusaka in 1999 where he describes the changes he sees as necessary as the Church is to prosper and draws attention to the possible obstacles which may hinder this process.

Unfortunately some Jesuits still have the "Big Bwana" mentality where they dictate and control.  They want to keep all power in their own hands.  So the first consequence is that there is a need for a change of heart in the Jesuits so that they look on their work with laity as partners, not as controllers.

Father Hidaka offers the concept of the “collaborative ministry” or what in this paper is termed “Team Ministry” as the way forward for the Church.


The Catholic Church is in crisis.  It needs a way forward.  One avenue of opportunity is to embrace the concept of team ministry.  It promises benefits all round.  Firstly, it will break down the iron barriers which exist between the clergy and the laity.  Secondly, it will bring the “clergy in from the cold”.  I do not know how it happened but the psychological distance between the clergy and the laity is not good.

Socially we the laity have isolated and marooned our clergy in what amounts to a desert island.  Team ministry has the potential to rescue them and bring them home to where they belong.  With team ministry there can be no “we” and “they” only “us”.  But all is not gloom.  I see a great beginning emerging.  After all if you cast your minds back to say fifty years ago the organizational climate in the Catholic Church was very different to what it is today.  Fifty years ago you would not have an accountant writing about matters affecting the church and more importantly I am sure you would not have clergy willing to listen. 


In this article I discussed the serious issue of change for the Christian ministry and in particular the Catholic Church.  I offered an alternative model of operation based on team ministry or what may be termed collaborative ministry.  In a further article I intend to explore how the present system can be transformed into a team ministry and how the present members of the church can be liberated from their dysfunctional ways.

Nessan J. Ronan
Bank of Zambia Chair in Accountancy
The Copperbelt University

JCTR Bulletin Number 57: Article 2


In the last issue of the JCTR Bulletin (No. 56, 3rd Quarter 2003), we featured an article The Five Faces of Christian Ministry by Professor Nessan Ronan, Bank of Zambia Chair in Accountancy at the Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia.  Professor Ronan continues with his powerful reflections, this time on spirituality and work (this is a presentation he made to staff of Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Kitwe on the occasion of their annual retreat).  He addresses -- touching on various issues -- employee motivation and responsibilities from the spirituality perspective


In the past two decades there has been a tremendous upsurge in interest in spirituality.  This interest has manifested itself in how spirituality can positively impact on people in the workplace.  Since the beginning of the twentieth century employers have been searching for the insights into how employees can be motivated.

Firstly, it was FW Taylor and his scientific management who saw money as the main motivator of man.  His advice to management was to pay workers increasing amounts of money and that would ensure that they would be happy and would produce more.  But it was soon discovered that “humans do not live on bread alone” and that money is not after all a long-term motivator.  In the 1930s, Elton Mayo discovered that good social relations on the job were the key to employee motivation.

But subsequent studies did not confirm these findings and thus the search continued for an understanding of those factors, which could be said to sustain the motivation of workers over the long term.  In 1954 Abraham Maslow, a clinical psychologist, developed his now  famous “hierarchy of needs”.  This motivational model postulates that the human person is both animal and spiritual.  Thus food shelter clothing and other basic necessities are important but we also need the spiritual necessities of a sense of belonging and love as well as the opportunity to evolve and develop into the best that we can be.  Maslow described this process as “what humans can be, they must be”.  He described this process as self-actualisation.

Later Frederick Herzberg in his studies of human motivation in the workplace stated that material possessions were simply hygiene factors that allowed people to work, but they did not motivate and inspire. The non-material factors such as opportunities for development, a good boss and recognition for a job well done, he termed the motivators.

The hygiene factors were labelled the Adam characteristics of humans and the motivators the Abraham characteristics.  The implication is that Adam was concerned with satisfying his material needs, while Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son for the glory of God which was an exercise in spirituality.


The concept of spirituality is not easy to define and many will see it as the practice of religion.  But I see spirituality as the search for meaning in our lives.  It involves asking ourselves what life expects from us.  It means accepting the difficulties and sufferings which we inevitably must experience.  It means using whatever religion we have to draw meaning from our life experiences.

Victor Frankl provides an excellent insight into the nature of the human spirit in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.  He draws on his experience in the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Dachau.  During his time of incarceration, his parents, brother and wife died in concentration camps.  He endured tremendous suffering and yet he came out of the concentration camp an optimist.

He summed up his philosophy by quoting Nietzsche “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how”.  Frankl states that even though we may have lost everything we still remain with our freedom.  And our freedom is to choose how we deal with adversity.  We can choose to accept suffering and find a meaning in it or we can give up and say life is not worth living.  In the end, our spirituality will guide us in what we choose to do.

We spend a good portion of our total adult lives in the workplace (including the home) and thus we ought to have our work informed by our spirituality.  But observational evidence suggests that many of us lead dichotomous lives.  We seem to leave our spirituality outside the factory gate or office door.

Many management practices do not exhibit a spiritual approach to human beings.  Because it is in acting out our relationships with our fellow human beings that we give witness to the quality of our spirituality.  If we take our religion seriously we should be able to internalise its precepts and act on them in our inter-personal relationships.  We now look at a conceptual model of spirituality developed by the author.


The figure below depicts my view of the essential role relationships play in workplace spirituality.



Love relationships are at the centre of a spiritual life.  Jesus told us that the Ten Commandments can be summarised as “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself for the love of God”.  Psychologists tell us that we cannot love another unless we can love ourselves.  But we know that many people have a hard time accepting and loving themselves.

They are their own hardest critics.  If we practice the virtue of love we are unlikely to do anything to harm others.  In the workplace, we often witness the absence of love in our dealings with our colleagues.  Some people are highly critical of others and have no patience if they make errors or appear not to be as fast or efficient as required.  Kindness to our colleagues has an enormous effect both on the giver and the receiver.  Often it is tied in with forgiveness.  The story is told about a senior executive in a large American corporation who had made a serious mistake and cost the company US$50,000.  He was called up to the Chief Executive’s office.  On the way up in the lift he decided to tell the CEO that he was resigning rather than be fired.

So on meeting the CEO he immediately offered his resignation. The CEO refused to take it.  The CEO said that as they had now invested US$50,000 in the man’s training they were not going to throw it away by having him resign.  This is a wonderful story of wisdom and kindness shown to another human being.


It is amazing the number of relationships a person can have in the workplace.  Firstly we find that working with colleagues builds up a bond, which has a mutually supporting effect.  We know that many retirees miss this workplace friendship, which can be life sustaining and spiritual.  One of the virtues promoted by this bonding is that of cooperation.  Elton Mayo in his Hawthorne Studies pointed out this affect among the workers in the bank wiring room.

It manifests itself in assisting another person with a difficult piece of work, covering for a person who is not feeling well and in some cases spending time in informal training. A person with cancer who chooses to continue working relates how her colleagues assisted her greatly by allowing her to take rests during the day when she felt weak.  She was also assisted by their optimistic and encouraging statements about how her health was improving.

As previously alluded to, employer-employee relationships have received the most attention from researchers.  What we now know is that people respond to kindness and fairness in the workplace.  Employees appreciate when they know that the employer is not discriminating against them on the basis of race, gender, colour and other factors.

Indeed it is now considered good industrial practice not to practice any form of workplace discrimination.  The Christian religion is full of admonishments on the evils of discrimination.  Jesus is known to have preached the value of little children, the poor, the ignorant and the suffering.  He took great pity on those who would today be considered the disadvantaged.  Employers are called upon to be sensitive to the needs of employees in terms of the working conditions.  In many parts of the world employees are exploited through very bad working conditions and poor pay.  Often this is done simply out of employer greed and to give shareholders a higher dividend.

The employee also has obligations in the workplace. These include being honest with the employer as regards doing a full day’s work at the right quality, respecting the employer’s property and not making false claims.  There is no monetary compensation that can be rendered for a guilty conscience.

Employees, which of course include management, have obligations to the community.  Firstly, as part of the community, organizations should render proper service to their clients and customers.  This means selling goods, which are safe and beneficial and will not injure the consumers.  It also means treating customers with honesty and not cheating them through fraud or untruthful statements.

In addition, factories and other plants should be operated so that they do not pollute the atmosphere and injure the health of the community.  Companies should not abuse the economic and tax incentives provided by a government.  If they adopt these practices they are guilty of harming their fellow human beings who will have to suffer the consequential deprivations.

The story is told about a large American car manufacturer that discovered a serious defect in a new car they had just produced.  The defect was such that it was known that some owners would have a serious accident and some would die.  They did two calculations in order to make a decision on what they would do.  The first calculation was to estimate the cost of recalling all the  cars  and  putting   the  defect right.  The second calculation involved estimating how much it would cost based on the probabilities of a certain number of people having accidents and so many dying and so many being injured.  They then factored in how much they would have to pay out based on these probabilities.

Of course we all know that much less is paid out in compensation if a person dies rather than they being injured.  Well, the cost of car recall was greater than compensation for death and injury, so the company decided not to recall the cars.  This decision exhibits a lack of spirituality in the workplace.  It demonstrates a lack of love and kindness for other human beings.


In Africa, there is a wise saying, “A chief is only a chief with the permission of his people”.  We can say “A person is only a person when he or she is among people”.  It is also said that what people do in their spare time is their real religion.  Play is important for every human being.  I like to think that if Jesus were physically with us today he would be a golfer.

Our recreation, hobbies, voluntary activities and kind works have a very spiritual aspect about them.  They allow the human being to give glory to God in a very happy and enjoyable way.  I would like to think that spiritual people are happy people.  And to be happy is good for both body and soul.  Our play can teach us a number of good virtues.  One of the important ones is that of humility.  Humility means being grateful for the gifts we have been given by God and using them wisely.  It also means that we are able to accept adversity and in spite of the setbacks we continue with our mission in life.

Although we meet with disappointments and frustrations, we do not allow these irritations to deflect us from what we have been put on earth to do.  Thus our play can train us to identify meaning for our life and in particular for our work life.  We develop patience, so that the results we desire, although slow in coming, we believe will materialise in the fullness of time.

In our work we may be planting seeds for others to harvest.  We should be happy with this outcome.  I have met some people who are impatient for results and especially for results from their colleagues.  They would do well to ponder these words of Henry David Thoreau in Walden:

         “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because He hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music he hears, however Measured or far away”

We should be content to plant our seed in our own way at our own speed and be happy that we have used our talents for the glory of God and the benefit of humankind.  The Benedictines Rule is very clear on leaving time for play in one’s daily life.  In fact, St Benedict believed that play had the same value as work in the eyes of God.  Of course, blessed is the person who can make play out of their work.


One of the great virtues worth practicing is that of gratitude. Being grateful for what you have been given is a powerful antidote to envy and jealousy.  It is also a great way to start the day.  Of course some people ask what they have to be grateful for.  So I ask them to think of some gifts they might have been given.  Then I assist them with the following:

Lets see if we can list some gifts from God that have been given to us.

1.       Health

2.       Family

3.       Friends

4.       Peaceful country

5.       Beautiful environment, trees, shrubs, flowers, lakes, mountains and all kinds of wildlife

6.       Job

7.       Shopping facilities

8.       Church organizations

They are then surprised that I should consider these things gifts.  But it is only when they are missing that we realize they are gifts.  This is a mistake we all make.  I have described it as the  “tyranny of familiarity”.  It can best be described using a little story.  If you wished to find out the nature of water who would you ask?

Would you ask the fish who swim in the water (assuming they can communicate with you) or would you ask the fisherman who fishes on the water.  Well, the answer is that you would ask the fisherman because the fish are so much immersed in the water, they do not really notice it, whereas the fisherman has always to be aware of it.  We are like the fish, we have been given so many gifts we cannot appreciate them.  So to be grateful for your gifts is a wonderful way to develop your spirituality.


We have discussed some aspects of how our spirituality can inform and guide us in our daily lives and in particular while we are at work.  I will leave you with a few core spiritual virtues, which might prove useful to us in our daily work.

·         Being honest with our colleagues and our employer

·         Respecting other people’s property

·         Treating people with fairness

·         Doing a proper day’s work

·         Respecting other people’s reputation

·         Not divulging confidential information

·         Being glad at another person’s good fortune

Good spiritual values in the workplace have the capacity to motivate people and make them more satisfied.  If observed they will ensure that employees are treated fairly by employers and those employees will render good service.  Also customers and the community will receive the correct benefits from business and other organizations. 


Nessan J. Ronan
Bank of Zambia Chair in Accountancy
The Copperbelt

[This article made reference to: F W Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management.  New York, 1911; Elton Mayo’s studies reported in EJ Roethlisberger & WJ Dickson Management and the Worker.  Cambridge, 1939; A.H Maslow  Motivation and Personality.  New York, 1954; Frederick Herzberg, B Mausner & B.B Snyderman, The Motivation to Work.  New York, 1959; Viktor E Frankl Man’s Search for Meaning.  London, 1959; Henry David Thoreau Walden, Koln, Konemann, 1854]



Nessan J. Ronan, Professor of Accounting at the National University of Lesotho, continues his reflections through the JCTR Bulletin. He now looks at the natural consequences of a lack of Christian virtues in the workplace.  He argues that there should not be a separation of practicing Christian virtues between the home and the work place. Link to this article


Frequently you hear adults say that their school days were the best days of their lives.  This may very well be true but rarely do you hear people say that their workdays were the best days of their lives.  And when you consider that adults can spend up to forty years or more in the workplace, it is a shame that so few of us learn to enjoy the time.

It is fair to say that because the greater portion of a person’s life is spent at work, how he or she behaves in the workplace can have a major influence on the total life.  Now, before I go any further I want to remind you the reader that we are all workers.  It does not matter whether it is in the home as a housewife or househusband, in the office as an executive or in the fields as a farmer, we are all workers.  Even students in schools and colleges could be classified as workers.

I have observed that some Christians have a tendency to leave their religion at home when they go to work.  It is as if they are Sunday or Saturday Christians only.  This is foolishness and it can lead to all kinds of problems in the workplace.  In this article I am going to describe what can happen to workers who failed to exercise some Christian virtues in their lives and as a result suffered severe consequences in the workplace.


We have all heard the saying “honesty is the best policy”.  And I am sure we all agree with it.  But you will find, as I will soon demonstrate that the virtue of honesty gets forgotten and ignored when other virtues are not practiced.  The virtue I am referring to is truthfulness.  Both truthfulness and honesty are twin virtues.  To be truthful you must start with yourself.  Truthful can be defined simply as practicing what is true.  To begin with people must be truthful with themselves.  He or she must acknowledge to himself or herself firstly if they have a vice. 

For example, it is said that alcoholics cannot begin to recover until they first acknowledge that they have a problem.  If a married man is unfaithful to his wife, he will rarely do anything about this vice until he confronts himself with the behaviour and acknowledges that it is morally wrong.  I will now demonstrate that the failure to practice the virtues of honesty and truthfulness was the cause of two workers being fired from their jobs.  The cases are real and I am writing with first hand knowledge of them.  The first event occurred when I worked as an accountant and the second one when I was the acting principal of a college.  In both cases I discovered the wrongdoing.


I knew Charles at secondary school and we graduated together in 1964.  The next time I met him, he was one of the salesmen of a timber firm.  I was employed as the accountant.  During his secondary school days  he started beer drinking.  When he became employed the beer drinking increased.  At twenty-five years of age he was still single and living with his parents.  He had a good personality and was liked by both management and customers.  He was considered a good salesman and in time he had the potential to become a marketing director.  The first thing we noticed about Charles was that when he came to work in the morning there was a strong smell of alcohol from him.

After some time he decided that rather than coming into the office in the morning he would go straight from his home to the customer.  Management agreed to this arrangement and was impressed with his obvious diligence.  But it soon became clear after an initial check of his house that he was in the habit of staying in bed until 10:00 hours.  He should have been visiting customers from 9:00 hours.  But he got away with a warning.  You can see here the beginnings of dishonesty in his behaviour. 

We know from the field of psychology that if you get into bad habits, it is difficult to change.  So we could predict at this point that if Charles does not change his bad behaviour, he will get into more serious difficulties.  The firm allowed salesmen to take their company cars home with them in the evenings.  This was to facilitate them in their work.  One night when Charles was out drinking, he had the company car.  He got into the car while he was drunk and began to drive home.  The police soon stopped him and he eventually wound up in court.  He was fined and suspended from driving a motor vehicle for a year.   He came to the managing director and informed him what had happened.  Of course he apologized profusely.  The managing director did not want to lose Charles as he still considered him a good salesman.

But of course if he were unable to drive a car he would be unable to do his job.  So Charles made a suggestion that he would hire a driver to drive the company car when he was visiting the customers.  He would also pay the driver from his salary and commission.  The managing director was happy with this arrangement.  All went well for a short time and then the accountant discovered that he was submitting false claims for petrol and other car expenses.

When all the evidence was assembled, Charles was found to have stolen a considerable sum from the firm through his false claims.  When the information was given to the managing director, he fired him on the spot.  He did not even want to see Charles he was so disgusted with his behaviour.  What irritated the managing director in particular was that he had given him a chance with the drunken driving offence and now Charles had betrayed the trust invested in him.


Let us see if we can trace what went wrong in Charles’ life to wind up fired and disgraced in his community.  A life of potential suddenly wasted due to the failure to adhere to the virtuous life.  I believe his problems started in the secondary school when he started beer drinking.  By the time he got fired he was in fact an alcoholic but if you mentioned that to him at the time he would vehemently deny it.  So he was unable to acknowledge the truth in himself to begin with.  Secondly, his drinking led him straight to acting unlawfully by drunk driving.  It is possible that he could have knocked down and killed someone while driving drunk. Again because he was unable to be honest with himself, he did not see the need to reform.  His drunk driving led to him incurring extra costs in hiring a driver.  This then led to temptation.  Let me recoup my losses by stealing from the firm, he probably told himself.

He would have comforted himself with the thought that “those accountants are only a bunch of pencil pushers” and they will never discover it.  In any event that fellow who was in school with me will cover it up for me.  After all that’s what friends are for. So he also underestimated his colleagues, which is a rash thing to do.  So he was swept into the arena of dishonesty and fraud.

Now I am sure that God forgave Charles in the fullness of time but his firm did not.  And this is the case with most firms.  They will not forgive an employee who is dishonest and fraudulent.  The organizational world is built on trust.  If a person cannot be trusted he is not a worthwhile person for an organization.


The second case is that of a senior officer in a tertiary college in Malawi.  Shortly after I had taken over as the acting principal of the college I received information to the effect that Banda was stealing from the college.  When we investigated it we found that indeed the officer was stealing.  He was involved in all types of fraudulent activity.  We called in the government auditors and they quantified the amount of the loss, which was equivalent to about ten years salary of the officer.  He was of course fired from the college and prosecuted by the legal authorities.

Now when you enquire into his background you find the following.  He was married to a very nice woman and they had a daughter.  But Banda had a major failing in that he was unable to be faithful to his wife.  It appears that he had a number of girlfriends and he even visited one of them in South Africa on a regular basis.  Of course he needed extra money to sustain this lifestyle and it was then that he resorted to stealing from his employer.  I understand that after seventeen years he is still unable to obtain a job.

It is clear that if Banda had maintained faithfulness in his marriage, it is unlikely that he would have turned to stealing.  He was a good worker and he was highly motivated but this is not enough.


There is one important conclusion to be drawn from this brief article.  If you want to lead a happy and contented Christian life, then be truthful and honest with yourself.  When you do this, you will be truthful and honest with everyone.  Charles continues to symbolize for me the “real death of a salesman”.  Banda symbolizes by his behavior one of the major threats to family life in Africa and also a major threat in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  What is also particularly interesting is that although Charles and Banda worked in two completely different environments, one in Ireland the other in Malawi, their lack of core Christian virtues was their downfall.

It is also worth remarking that the organizational world dealt with them in more or less the same way.  Today, some people who consider themselves modern and smart like to dismiss religion as an optional extra.  But these two cases indicate that adhering to your religious principles will serve you well in this life as well as the next.

Nessan J. Ronan
National University

Managing academic change at the University of Botswana / Nessan J. Ronan
Auteurs: Nessan J. Ronan
Jaar: 1996
Bron: Zimbabwe Journal of Educational Research, 1996, vol. 8, no. 2, p. 100-118 : fig., tab
Trefwoorden ASC: Botswana; higher education; accounting
Samenvatting: The Faculty of Social Science of the University of Botswana has since 1980 offered a Bachelor of Commerce degree with specialization in Accounting and Management. In March 1993 there was a systematic review of the programme. A scan of both the internal and external environment revealed considerable dysfunctionality. Feedback from employers indicated that graduates were ill prepared for the work environment. The Botswana Institute of Accountants expressed concern that accounting specialists were not entering the profession in sufficient numbers. Feedback from the internal information system suggested that the majority of students were dependent learners and lacked initiative. A small committee developed a radical new proposal, which involved replacing the Bachelor of Commerce programme with two new programmes, a Bachelor of Accountancy and a Bachelor of Business Administration, and changing the structure of the programmes from academic year to semester. There was a surprising amount of resistance from within the Faculty itself to the proposed changes. The author uses the concept of (operational, tactical, strategic, competitive) managerialism and Kurt Lewin's technique of force field analysis to analyse the change process, concluding with a commentary on the principal lessons learned and the formulation of a number of guidelines for implementing change. Bibliogr., sum.

Zambia seminar on change management.

The subject of how to manage change in the current dynamic business environment
has become topical the world over.
CIMA in Zambia provided a forum for senior officers in the private sector to
discuss this subject in Lusaka on 12 November.
The leading speakers were Carl Baverstock from PA Consulting Australia and
Professor Nessan Ronan FCMA,
who holds the Bank of Zambia Chair in Accountancy at the Copperbelt University.

Author Prof. Nessan. J Ronan
Institution Copperbelt University
Country Zambia

Building the university of the future (U)
1. Open learning and distance education as a strategic tool for development

a) Developing countries

Internet Based Education - a Participant Perspective

Internet based education is emerging as one of the great educational tools for the new millenium. The prospect for empowering citizens in developed and lesser developed countries through this type of education is appealing. It also has the potential to greatly enhance the quality of education available in lesser developed countries.This paper reports on one participant's experience taking an internet based course,while residing in Zambia. The course provider is a consortium consisting of Stirling university and Glasgow Caledonian university. The course is a masters degree in LIFELONG LEARNING..Motivational and pedagogical issues are explored and can be summarised as follows:(1) Information discovery (2) Participating in the conferencing activities (3) Tutor/Learner interfacing (4) Managing the technology impediment.The paper highlights the enormous benefits in INTERNET BASED EDUCATION especially for isolated learners in lesser developed countries.It goes on to offer suggestions on how INTERNET BASED EDUCATION can be improved to increase the quality of learning.It is suggested that lesser developed countries can avail of the enormous potential of this new educational technology through partnership agreements with universities in the developed world.Finally, INTERNET BASED EDUCATION is seen as having an important role in bridging the economic north/south divide.

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