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Having spent 30 years in the computer business in sales and marketing one concept I became familiar with was the idea of doing what is called an “Elevator Pitch“.

It is a simple idea. If you found yourself in an elevator with the CEO of your prospect customer and you had about a minute alone with him/her what would you say to sell the value proposition of your company and the solution you were offering.

During my entire career  I never actually found myself in an elevator with a senior executive.

A few years ago I was at a meeting at the Archdiocese of Toronto. I had been ordained a deacon and started my ministry work with ex-convicts.  I had requested a planning session with Deacon Bert Cambre, the Director of the Diaconate and with Michael Fullan and Nancy Lunney at Catholic Charities. They had offered to help me develop a plan to start a small not-for-profit group which we were going to call the Friends of Dismas.

By the end of the conversation they had agreed to set up a meeting with Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, who was then the Archbishop of Toronto, and they would request start up funding from the annual Cardinal’s dinner for our new ministry.

I left the meeting and pushed the 5th floor elevator button and when the doors opened what did I see- “A Cardinal in the elevator!”

There was Cardinal Ambrozic standing there all by himself. I couldn’t believe it- here was an actual chance to make an elevator pitch. There was only 5 floors worth of time but I just had to take advantage of this providential opportunity. I introduced myself and in the 30 seconds or so we had he listened politely. I mentioned that Deacon Bert and Michael would be visiting him soon to discuss ways we could help  Friends of Dismas get off the ground.

The Cardinal was polite and gracious. Being the leader of a Catholic diocese must be one tough job.  Just about everyone you talk to wants something and here I was ruining this poor fellows 30 seconds of peace in the elevator ride to his car after a long day. I wondered if I had done the right thing. Perhaps the best course of action would have been to simply nod and be quiet.

A short time later, I got a call from Michael and/or Bert and they told me they had been to meet with the Cardinal. Upon their arrival in his office, His Eminence told them that he had been expecting them and after a short meeting he agreed to provide us with our very first grant and we used it to set up the Friends of Dismas.

Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic died on August 26th. The 30 seconds I spent with him in that elevator was the only time I actually talked to him. He was a man who worked at the highest levels of the church. He rode with Pope John Paul II in the Popemobile- it just doesn’t get any higher than that.

I will always remember him for the kindness he showed to me in that elevator. Those who did know him well, share that he was a private man who was thrust into a very public role. He was a faith filled servant of Christ all of his life and now he is home.

Thank-you Aloysius for helping making the Friends of Dismas a reality and for your time in that elevator. Say hello to the the Good Thief- St. Dismas– for all us and let him know we are doing our best to build a community of hope.


2 Responses to “A Cardinal in the Elevator”

  1. Cathy says:

    Mike – A very touching story.

  2. deaconmike says:


    Thanks for the note. The Cardinal was key to us getting off the ground and he made many others things possible that I am sure most folks never knew about.