Can you serve the poor better by doing mission work in an impoverished region, or making a lot of money and donating much of it to many charitable causes?

There’s no ‘right’ answer, and this little feature in the Wall Street Journal shows how the Moynihan brothers each took a different path to serve the same goal.

Younger brother Patrick is a Catholic missionary in Haiti ; big bro Brian is running Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank by assets, which has limped back toward profitability after a near-death experience during the financial crisis…

The two brothers, who are six years apart, may have taken different career paths, but they were forged in the same crucible…

It’s amazing how many families have the story of siblings winding up completely opposite and seemingly with different values though they were raised with the same upbringing. And interesting to see how their individual calling expresses differents interpretation of the same values.

Brian tried to dissuade his brother from missionary work: “My view to him was that if he went off and made a lot of money, he could give a lot of money and support ten projects instead of one.” (Brian Moynihan donated $150,000 to the Haitian project last year and used to be chairman of Louverture)…

For his part, he said he merely follows the advice of a former law professor: “You’re only going to affect so many people – the people that work closely with you and around you. Don’t define success as somehow you’re going to change the world.”

Reminds me of Mother Teresa’s famous response when someone reminded her of the overwhelming odds against making a dent in the numbers of the world’s sick and poor and needy. She is said to have replied that God didn’t ask her to be successful. He only asked her to be faithful.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....