Are there any Catholic groups for young professionals?
Young Catholic Professionals (YoungCatholicProfessionals.org), based in the Diocese of Dallas and founded in 2010, is a rapidly growing group.
Led by executive director and founder Jennifer Baugh, it has a clear mission and focus: helping young adults share Christ at work and elsewhere.
Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas has said of YCP: "By incorporating Church teaching into all of YCP’s various programs, members are catechized and motivated to share the Gospel at home and in the workplace. The members of Young Catholic Professionals are the next generation of Catholics. … The slogan of the ministry, ‘Working in Witness for Christ,’ is the standard we must all champion."
Jennifer Baugh recently discussed her group and its future.
What was the inspiration for Young Catholic Professionals? How did the organization get started?
At the age of 24, I had just graduated from a demanding MBA program and was set to embark on a career path as a financial consultant in Dallas. Because of the firm’s training program with a set new-hire start date, I had eight months off between grad school and my new job. God knew I would need time off to open my heart to Christ and ask for a more intimate relationship with him.
I had grown up in the Catholic Church, but had never fostered a personal relationship with Christ. As a high achiever, I was often too distracted by papers or projects to nourish my faith. After a period of prayer and regular Mass attendance, I felt overwhelmed by an outpouring of God’s love and mercy. I knew for the first time that I wanted to be an authentic Catholic.
I was meeting a lot of other young people, and I could sense the struggle we all had for something deeper in our lives. Though our culture does not encourage discussion on faith or virtue, I began talking to my peers about faith. I was surprised that so many people I was meeting seemed to be seeking the Truth as well.
I was eager to not lose this newfound faith once I began working. I sought out young-adult ministries in my community, looking for friends to help me stay accountable. Many of the young-adult communities seemed to lack vibrancy. I believed there could be something more: a ministry that shared Catholic faith in a way that was professional, dynamic and challenging.
A couple of months before beginning my new job, I started the Young Catholic Professionals ministry. Young Catholic Professionals is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that encourages young adults working in various professions to "Work in Witness for Christ."
Why does the world need YCP? What need within the Church do you think the organization serves?
YCP responds to the challenge of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: "No one … can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from … the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society."
The young Catholic professionals are the future business people who can bear witness to the Gospel in an increasingly secular age, the future board members for our Catholic schools, the future mothers and fathers of our religious and the future philanthropists for our Church.
YCP’s mission is to encourage young adults in their 20s and 30s to have a deeper relationship with the Lord and to be courageous witnesses in imitation of Christ. Through the example of so many Catholic executives who are eager to pass on the faith, we are reminded of our own responsibility as young professionals to spread the Gospel.
Through the ministry of YCP, we are challenged: to promote Catholic identity and the desire to grow in understanding of our faith; to foster real community, so that we may be strengthened and encouraged by one another’s faith; and to inspire a "call to action" so that we apply our Catholic faith to all aspects of our lives — at work, at home and in all our interactions.
We can witness to our faith through our work and at our work. If we perform work well for the glory of God, we find joy in participating in his creation. We can also use our workplace as a way to grow in holiness by witnessing to those who are longing for the Lord.
How have the young Catholic professionals in the area responded to the ministry? Any surprises?
In a short time, YCP has encouraged hundreds of young adults to embrace their Catholic identity, built a dynamic network of Catholic professionals, produced several Catholic marriage proposals, fostered numerous job leads and provided tangible avenues for young people to take an active role in our diocese.
The response from the young professionals in the area has been tremendous. Our monthly events consistently have a turnout of more than 150 young adults. Our members are growing in confidence and commitment, and they are stepping out into the workplace with the courage that comes from knowing they are supported by their peers and mentors.
One surprise has been the national response to our local effort. Young adults reach out to us from across the country asking for us to launch a chapter in their city. We are eager to grow, and we want to do so in a prudent manner, so that we maintain integrity of mission and faithfulness to Church teaching.
So you want to grow nationally and even internationally?
YCP is working towards international expansion and is now accepting applications for chapters in cities across the United States. "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few" (Luke 10:2). We have worked hard over the last several months to create chapter benefits, including custom templates and photo guides for all chapter events, ongoing training and technical support for chapter leaders, centralized website and information sharing and a robust "Start-Up Package" to help young adults begin YCP’s programs in their city.
YCP has relationships with Catholic executives and young professionals across the country. I would like to impress upon my peers that this type of movement can make a real difference in our society.
The future is ours, and we need to embrace it. In concrete ways, the Young Catholic Professionals ministry will proclaim the Catholic message to a world that longs to hear it.
Do you have hope for your generation?
As young adults, we have the great responsibility to know our faith in order to be able to defend it, recognizing when the Church is attacked.
We are the future of the Catholic Church. The world seeks to diminish and destroy both beauty and truth — we have to be the carriers of the standard that proclaims Christ as King and that his mercy endures forever!
Pope Francis calls us to "go ahead" and to "make noise," inviting all people to seek beauty and truth, which can only be found in Jesus Christ.
Randy Hain writes from Atlanta.
He is an author and co-founder of
The Integrated Catholic Life