Evangelizing From the C-Suite: ‘Mission to Launch’ Initiative Helps Young Professionals Transition From Ministry, Military, and More, to the Professional World
Effort aids young adults in their work-related endeavors and goals through MBA-level courses and mentorship.
The image of a “missionary’ is changing. Historically, this figure would often be thought of as a member of a religious order who travels to a foreign land to preach the Gospel. Now, with the amazing growth of programs and ministries like FOCUS and NET Ministries, as well as diocesan and parish-sponsored programs, much of the ministerial work is carried out by young, lay Catholics, often recently graduated from a Catholic college or university.
This is an encouraging trend, and there is certainly a need for this work to be done. But as young Catholics finish their time in ministry, or start to wonder if they could be called to something else, where do they start? This is especially true for those who have received their undergraduate degrees in ministry or the liberal arts.
Mission to Launch founder and CEO Elena Nunez Murdock knows firsthand the struggle of leaving ministry for corporate America. After receiving her degree in theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, she went on to work as the director of youth, young-adult ministries and confirmation for the Archdiocese of Miami. Upon deciding to leave this role to enter the secular workplace, she encountered great resistance.
“When I was going through a transition, I had a lot of those foundational skills, but it was still very difficult,” Murdock told the Register. She spoke of how, from her time in ministry, she had friends who told her that she was “never going to fit in with the professional, non-Catholic world because no one is going to understand your ministry experience.” She also met discouragement from her business-school mentors.
“Then I had mentors on the professional side ... who I had known for a few years from Stanford who were like, ‘You have just wasted your early 20s, because it is what you do in your early 20s which [sets you up] for the rest of your life,” she said.
Murdock describes finding this time as very “isolating,” yet she continued pursuing her professional dreams. Confident that she was following God’s plan for her life, she founded Ascend Communications, a PR and strategic marketing firm, and, now, Mission to Launch.
Her new business venture grew out of her experience in the time of transition from ministry to the secular, professional world and her desire to provide others in a similar situation with the tools they need to successfully approach and enter a new profession.
“I’ve had this idea for a couple of years,” she explained. “There had to be, not just a way to teach people, but to give them community.” She also knew that “mentorship was key” to connecting those going through this transition with others who had built successful careers and who “understood that Catholics thrive in the workplace.” To this end, Mission to Launch provides a variety of MBA-level courses (including MBA-level courses in Spanish in 2021) taught by industry experts and professors from distinguished business programs (such as the Stanford Business School) on important business topics and soft skills to empower the members to make the next step in their careers. These courses include “Translating Your Christian-Catholic Values Into Effective Negotiation,” “Résumé Building” and “Identifying Transferable Skills From Liberal Arts/Theology Degree/Seminary/Military Into Corporate America,” among others.
As the last-mentioned course indicates, Murdock soon found that Mission to Launch could be of service to a much broader base of customers than just those looking to transition out of ministerial roles. This is demonstrated through the experience of one of Mission to Launch’s own now-employee Elizabeth Santa-Maria.
“I found Mission to Launch through Instagram,” she said with a laugh. “Someone I was following posted about the company, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’” A new mother, Santa-Maria describes herself as “still transitioning into motherhood but also wanting to have a career. ... I saw Mission to Launch, and I was reading [about] it, and I was like, ‘Wow, well, I’m in a transition period, too. I’m not necessarily a missionary, but I totally relate to this message.’”
Similarly, Maria del Carmen Perez Irigoyen found Mission to Launch during a time of transition. “Due to the COVID pandemic, I, unfortunately, lost my previous job in Mexico, and I started to think more about discerning which path or mission God was calling me to be,” she explained. Through Mission to Launch she has found “this sense of community with people from all over the world who share my faith and are in the same season of life as me.” In addition to the community aspect, she is also able to benefit from the course content and how the program “[provides] useful skills for me to develop and to work on that maybe I’ve never thought of before or didn’t know how to apply.” She shared that Mission to Launch “has opened my mindset in so many ways, by daring to dream and achieve my professional goals while having God in the center of my life.”
The fundamental value of Mission to Launch lies in the extensive and excellent network of instructors and mentors (advising in English and Spanish), hailing from the leadership offices of Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Co. and Lockheed Martin, among other companies.
It was this opportunity for connection that originally attracted Nathan Crankfield, former Army officer and founder of Seeking Excellence, to the program.
“I decided to engage in Mission to Launch because I believe they had value to offer me in my professional and personal life,” he said. “I saw the accomplishments of the people who are affiliated with the company and knew they would have wisdom to share that would help take my life to the next level.”
In addition to courses taught by industry leaders and veteran business-school professors, Mission to Launch is also working to provide an exclusive internship job board and mentorship programs to subscribers. Knowing firsthand the impact that mentorship can have on professional life, the team has designed a new style of mentorship program, called “Alt Mentors,” which allows more members of the Mission to Launch program to access the wisdom and guidance of top-tier mentors. This program allows members to submit questions to executive and C-Suite (corporate senior executives whose titles usually begin with “C,” such as CEO) mentors, who in turn answer selected questions in a video format. “This at-scale, asynchronous mentor program uses today’s technological platforms to offer vital proximity and apprenticeship training with people who can be important role models and guides,” explained Jeannie Kahwajy, M.S., MBA, Ph.D., from Stanford University, CEO of Effective Interactions. “If young people had more exposure to seasoned, Catholic professionals, their imaginations of what is possible to achieve can be rescued.”
This method allows mentors, for whom time restraints would usually preclude them from being a traditional mentor, to still offer their thoughts and guidance to those who are eager to learn from their experience.
One such “Alt Mentor” is venture capitalist and founding partner of Arise Ventures, John Costanzo.
“The ability for the first time ever to mentor at [this] scale is incredible,” he told the Register. “Nothing else exists like it. Due to my obligations, mentoring isn’t something that’s possible on a monthly basis.”
He shared his approval of the program Mission to Launch is able to provide: “Mission to Launch gives students the network and skill sets to succeed in the real world, something you won’t find in a traditional classroom setting. The end goal of all this is to create polished Christian executives and entrepreneurs that can build organizations like the Five Talent Steward in the Bible.” He concluded: “If I can use my experience and guidance to help increase a person’s chance of success and avoid failure, it brings me great joy to do so.”
Mission to Launch is keeping membership registration open until Nov. 10. Learn more at Mission2Launch.com.
Kathryn Wallice writes from Hartford, Connecticut.
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