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Living Your Faith 9 to 5 

By Lilla Ross | Photography by Paul Figura

Like a struggling family who refuses to give up during tough economic times, Jacksonville’s top executives and community leaders are also driven by faith and resilience - in good times and bad. We asked John Delaney, Kelly Madden and Sheriff John Rutherford to share how faith comes into play in their lives and how it sustains them from Sunday to Sunday

John Delaney: Daily Bread
For John Delaney, it started with the gift of a Bible in second grade. It was a reward for perfect attendance in Sunday School - more his mother’s doing than his.

“I’d heard about the 23rd Psalm, so I looked it up. ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ And that’s what did it. I decided to read the whole Bible. I would read five pages every night until I had worked all the way through.”

  John A. Delaney became the University of North Florida’s fifth president in 2003. He oversees a campus of more than 16,500 students, 600 faculty and more than 1,000 staff. He and his wife Gena have four children.

And thus began a lifelong habit that has sustained Delaney through his varied career as chief assistant state attorney - the number two prosecutor in Northeast Florida, general counsel for the City of Jacksonville, two terms as mayor of Jacksonville and now president of the University of North Florida.

It has been a life buffeted at times by tough, unpopular decisions, controversy and harsh publicity.

“I’ve always found my faith a source of peace,” he said. “There are so many confusing things going on in the world, so many tough decisions we make everyday. Faith puts it in scale that not much here really matters.”

Delaney grew up attending Protestant churches with his mother and two brothers. At the University of Florida, Delaney lived at the Delta Upsilon fraternity house and began attending the Newman Club at the St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center next door. His wife, Gena, is Catholic.

“I would take our children to CCD [Confraternity of Christian Doctrine] classes, and I thought I’m making them do this and I haven’t done it. So in the mid-1980s I went through the RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults] process.” He became Catholic.

Delaney and his family attend St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Jacksonville Beach.

He tries to spend time everyday reading the Bible and a daily devotional. He keeps a pamphlet of devotionals in his DayTimer and tries to read a few Bible verses.

Delaney uses a Catholic study Bible and a parallel Bible that has four versions: the King James, the Revised Standard, the New American and the Living Bible side-by-side. He also owns several commentaries.

“Some days it works better than others,” he said. “I’m not a monk about it. It is easy to let your day run your life as opposed to you running your life.

“When I can do it, it really helps. I’ve read the entire Bible, and I always find something new.”

Kelly Madden: Calm in the Storm
As a Jacksonville banker, Kelly Madden has been caught in the economic turmoil of the last year. Her company, Wachovia, was taken over by Wells Fargo.

  As the First Coast market president for Wachovia, Kelly Madden oversees all lines of business including commercial, government, retail and wealth banking divisions. Elected to the board of directors of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce last fall, she began serving as chair-elect in January and chair in 2010. Kelly is only the third woman to chair the chamber in its history.

“It was a very difficult year. My company is gone. I worked for Wachovia for 21 years. It would be very easy to get down about all the things that have happened, especially when you look at the economic prospects,” Madden said.

“But my faith is one of those subtle things that can carry you through a day. When you are about to lose it, a sense of calm comes over you. You know you need to do the right thing when you’re counseling an employee or dealing with an angry customer or turning the other cheek when a competitor says something unkind about me in the media.

“If I lost my job tomorrow, I know it’s going to be OK,” she said. “God opens doors for me that I didn’t know existed.”

Madden and her family are longtime members at San José Catholic Church, where she and her husband were married, and where her son and daughter were baptized, made their First Communion and attend school.

“We are typical of many families. Most nights when we aren’t out, we have a prayer at dinner time and talk about what happened that day and what we are thankful for,” Madden said.

Even though she is a high-profile executive, Madden said she considers her most important roles are wife and mother.

“It’s really important to me to be a role model for my children,” she said. “I was raised a Catholic and I want them to know how important it is. When the pastor moved early Mass from 8:30 to 8 a.m., my husband made it but I just couldn’t do it. Those 30 minutes really made a difference.

“And, I said, ‘OK, kids what’s it going to be 10:30 or 12:30 Mass?’ And, I got, ‘Oh, mom, do we have to go?’ And I said, ‘We can’t skip out on Mass because God doesn’t skip out on us.’ Going to Mass really centers us as a family.”

And helps her stay centered as a banking executive.

“I just have to remember that a higher authority is going to give me opportunities to be successful and do what I need to do,” Madden said. “If you go to church and have faith, you can’t feel sorry for yourself if you are truly listening to the message.”

John Rutherford: A Question of Authority
As a rookie Jacksonville police officer, John Rutherford knew about practice and procedure. He knew how to fire a weapon and process evidence. His degree in criminology had prepared him for that.

  Sheriff John H. Rutherford is a 34-year veteran with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. In 2006, he was awarded the Law and Spirituality Award by the Catholic Lawyer’s Guild for the way he has served the community, lives his faith and utilizes his talents to serve God and others.

What he wasn’t ready for was the smell of blood, the suddenness of death, and the screams of grief. That part wasn’t in the police manual.

To deal with the life and death issues, Rutherford found himself thinking back to Sunday School at Wesconnett United Methodist Church in Jacksonville.

And like a good police officer he started asking questions. “I began to question my faith. Why do I believe in God? I wanted proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I went back to the Bible. Over the next year or so I read the Bible cover to cover - twice in the front seat of a police car.”

Rutherford had grown up at Wesconnett, attending Sunday services with his family. But as a teenager he said he fell away and quit attending because he had other things to do.

So he went about his life. He went to college. He got married and had children. He became a cop. All the while, Rutherford said, the Holy Spirit was working on him.

And once in a while, “the Holy Spirit grabbed me.”

One case in particular stays with him. He was called to a shooting at an apartment. He walked in to find nine young, hysterical children, their mother screaming and their father slowly dying of a gunshot wound to the head.

“He was the first individual to die in my hands,” Rutherford said. “I was working on him, trying to stop the bleeding and I watched him die.”

That one kept him awake at nights. That one and another case, a drowning. “It was a boy, about 2 years old, the age of my own son.”

A man can only take so much grabbing by the Holy Spirit. And on May 28, 1978, Rutherford surrendered. He was 26 when he was baptized after walking the aisle at Wesconnett and professing his faith in Jesus Christ.

“That’s when my job became my calling,” Rutherford said. “It became my ministry and my career took off. I believe he was preparing me for the office of sheriff.

“With the challenges you face in the office, particularly like this where violence is rampant,” I don’t think you can do this job properly unless it is a calling. Romans 13:2 says there is no authority but that ordained by God. I feel I’m a representative of God in this office as a servant, serving God and the people.”

A few years after his conversion, Rutherford left the United Methodist Church when he realized he didn’t agree with many of their positions on social issues. He attended a nondenominational church for several years.

All the while, his Catholic wife, Patricia, and two children were going to Mass. “On Sundays, I’d go to my church and they’d go to theirs,” Rutherford said. “I didn’t like that.”

Since leaving the Methodist Church, Rutherford had been troubled by the question of authority. Who decides what the truth is? Then he read a book by Pope John Paul II and learned about the history of the Catholic Church.

“I realized I had found the authority I was looking for, and that it would bring my family together.”

Rutherford went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and joined St. Paul Catholic Church at Jacksonville Beach, where his grown children and their families also attend.

“Sunday is a big day,” he said. I get to see my grandkids and we go to lunch after Mass. It’s a big family day that really wasn’t when they were growing up. My conversion really helped bring my family together and made it stronger. It was good before, and it’s better now.”