Entrepreneur puts faith in action

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In his 31 years, Sean O’Hare has paid the bills by venturing into dozens of different fields. He loves the challenge of doing it all on his own and the perks of being his own boss. The same sense of leadership and courage that has benefited his businesses also has led him to take up new projects that spread the Gospel.

O’Hare was born and raised in Fairfax, attending St. Leo the Great School. He was the youngest of four children; the eldest, Father Keith M. O’Hare, is serving in the diocesan Bánica mission in the Dominican Republic.

Sean learned how to turn his beliefs into concrete actions in part from his parents, who modeled their strong pro-life values by housing women in crisis pregnancies and by serving as foster parents to newborns awaiting adoption.

It was during high school at Seton School in Manassas that the cradle Catholic began to own his faith. “That's where I fell in love with (it) — the philosophy, the theology, the sacraments,” he said. “To be surrounded by all these teachers and parents trying to live their faith — that example had a huge impact on me.”

For college, O’Hare received a scholarship to play Division I soccer at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N. J. While there, he took an active role in the Catholic campus ministry and began his first company — a contracting business for painting, carpentry and light construction called SPO Enterprises.

“I had never painted a day in my life,” he said. “(But) I saved my money and bought a paint trailer for my 1993 Ford Probe, which was not made for towing. I hired employees and (put) my life savings at that time (into the company.)”

For his efforts, O’Hare won the East Collegiate Entrepreneur of the Year Award. By the time he graduated, the company was making $300,000 a year. It cemented his desire to make entrepreneurship his permanent job.

Since then, O’Hare has been involved in everything from construction to restaurants to energy efficient lighting. After college, he started working in real estate, but the 2008 recession forced him to shift industries. “It was a very humbling and difficult experience (because) I had never known any failure to that point,” he said. “It makes you realize God’s in control and that’s what matters the most.”

Around that time, O’Hare became involved with the Students for Life of America, and even spoke at the March for Life. For the past seven years, he has served as a board member. “I truly believe the future leaders of the pro-life movement will come through college students,” he said. “I don't think there’s any better investment of time.”

In 2012, O’Hare moved to New York City “to get involved in finance and to get involved in the evangelization of the culture here,” he said. O’Hare joined the young adult ministry of the Archdiocese of New York, and decided to organize a Friday night concert series called Times Square Jazz.

Because of the location, a number of world-class jazz musicians have performed or attended, according to O’Hare. The music attracts people — around 75 to100 each week — but also invites conversation. “I know that culture and art is the way we engage the heart,” he said. “We try to create a welcoming environment where the seeds of discipleship can begin.”

He found a way to advance the culture of life when he ran into Tim Tebow at a charity luncheon. They struck up a conversation and the athlete told O’Hare about his foundation’s special needs dance, “Night to Shine.” Though there were planned proms at locations across the country, none were in New York. “What do you think about Times Square?” said O’Hare, who attends a Catholic church in the famous plaza.

The red carpet was too short, the February night was freezing and the deejay was late, but the snafus hardly were noticed by the joyful participants and generous volunteers. “I felt it was really powerful … it was a fresh approach to communicating a pro-life narrative,” he said. “It's hard to get people to pray outside of an abortion clinic, (but we had 200 volunteers to celebrate) these people with special needs.”

 

Professionally, O’Hare continues to juggle many projects, but he is proud of helping the Vatican Library begin the process of digitizing its collection — a massive undertaking. “The Vatican Library was the largest collection of human knowledge on the planet for most of its existence,” he said. “We need to digitize so we can share it with the world.”

He also hopes to continue his speaking career, which began at the opening of the March for Life all those years ago. Now, he writes his speeches with help from his Seton English teacher, Peter Westhoff. In the past, O’Hare has spoken about entrepreneurship, leadership, faith or the pro-life message, primarily at men’s conferences.

The speaking engagements are usually a “very hopeful” environment, he said, and he often is amazed at the transformation that takes place over the course of one or two-day conferences. For his part, he encourages the men to be leaders in their families and faith communities. “We shouldn’t leave the spiritual stuff to the ladies; it is masculine to be a servant of God,” he said.

In his spare time, O’Hare is learning Spanish and playing soccer on two teams. The hobbies are illustrative of how O’Hare lives his life — both trying new things and staying true to what he loves.

Maraist can be reached at zmaraist@catholicherald.com or on Twitter@zoeymaraist.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016

@zoeymaraist