As St. John Paul II noted, “the time has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization,” and those energies must seep into every facet of life, from home, to school, to the community. It especially needs to penetrate the world of work, in which most adults spend much of their time.
Today, I interview a young woman on the vanguard of this mission. Jennifer Baugh is the Founder and Executive Director of Young Catholic Professionals, a Texas-based movement to unite faith and work among young Catholics.
JARED ZIMMERER: How important is it for young professionals in the modern work place to be well equipped in order to authentically witness to the Catholic faith?
“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.“ – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the quote that inspired the YCP ministry
Some of the most important decisions of our lives are made in our 20s and 30s – including our vocation, our voting preferences, and also our career path. Unfortunately, as a generation, we are often making these critical life decisions without the support and guidance of our Catholic faith.
I can confirm from my experience with YCP that many young adults who call themselves Catholic do not in fact know what they believe and do not have the confidence to live their faith publicly. Take this example of a young neurosurgeon who was once totally detached from his faith and who now, because of YCP, has experienced an amazing transformation:
“In the past, I’ve stood idly by while I let my colleagues ridicule Catholic families for their healthcare decisions and bemoan their luck if they have to deal with them. I’m on a different track now. Everyone in the office knows I’m Catholic and that I come late some mornings because I’m at Mass. Most importantly, I’ve been using my faith very prominently in my end-‐of-‐life conferences. Although in school we’re taught that we should not broach the topic of faith so that we don’t confuse our roles for families as healthcare professionals, I have found such a deeper connection with these families when I tell them about my personal belief in God and the promise of the eternal life.” – Dr. Julian Yang
This is why our work with YCP is so vital. The world is looking for heroes. Instead of waiting for them, we should seek to be those role models that others want to emulate. Sadly, many people in our world do not know Christ, or if they do, it is on a very superficial level. Our call as Young Catholic Professionals is to offer our work to God and to serve and support those who God has placed in our lives.
As Catholics, we know why we are here, which is a great gift that distinguishes us from people who do not find identity through their faith. We’re here to build God’s Kingdom and by this means save our souls. We should never be ashamed of publicly professing that we are Catholic. If there is ever an opportunity to talk about our Catholic faith at work, we should take advantage of it. We could talk about a great homily we heard at Mass, a faith-‐based event that we attended, or a feast day for one of our favorite saints. We need to show others we are proud of our Faith because you never know how many fallen-‐away Catholics you might encourage in your conversation. People are craving conversation and dialogue about things that really matter, even if it seems like they want to keep things on the surface. Give your coworkers the opportunity to talk by being open and unafraid to engage in conversation.
Catholics should be Catholic not just on Sundays, or not just around other Catholics, but rather in every avenue of their lives. We should not separate our charitable work such as assisting the poor or making donations from our every day existence. We can, in a charitable and faithful manner, share the message of Christ the every day exchanges at our office or with our colleagues.
We are called to share the message of both hope and truth with our fellow man, because our relationship with God is both vertical and horizontal. Hence, we are part of the living cross, which is a cross of victory!
“Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching…be self-‐possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2-‐5)
JARED: St. John Paul II was a big proponent of the sanctity of work. How can a young professional grow in holiness while working in the secular world?
JENNIFER: Whatever responsibility we have in our professional day, we are called to utilize our talents for the service of others and to bring to our workplace an attitude of service. We should also strive to do all things well, not just to receive promotions or compliments from our colleagues, but rather for the glory of God.
We can practice patience towards those who frustrate us when they don’t meet their responsibilities. It doesn’t mean we excuse incompetence, but we look to encourage rather than to judge and dismiss. When we practice restraint by avoiding office gossip, we offer witness to others who fall into complaint and envy.
How often do we resent a coworker who has offended us or mistreated us? We should seek to be “of one heart and soul” with our colleagues even if we think we have nothing in common with them. What we do have in common with our coworkers is that we are loved by the same God and redeemed by the same Christ. Being patient and open with our coworkers is a wonderful way to testify to God’s mercy and love.
Life does require sacrifice, but we have free will to use sacrifice in our life for a greater purpose. As Catholics, we have both the gift and the responsibility to live a life that aspires to virtue. By living a life that is honorable, we remember Christ’s enormous sacrifice and self-‐offering and we seek to model our lives on his courageous love.
“After my first YCP speaker event, I could tell that this group was not only about socializing. It was about developing me as a Catholic woman and as a witness to Christ at work and in all aspects of my life.” – Debbie Gunst, Special Education Teacher, Board Certified Behavior Analyst
JARED: It seems that many young professionals today have a sense of being alone in the fight to live the Faith. What words of encouragement and guidance would you give to help them on their journey?
JENNIFER: Strangely enough, our workplace can be lonely even if we are surrounded by people all day long. Sometimes our work environment is set up to be a realm of competition rather than a place of teamwork and family. If our workplace feels isolated, let’s do what we can to bring the light of Christ to our jobs and to give our coworkers that sense of community. Blessed Mother Teresa has said, “if we’ve lost our peace, it’s because we’ve forgotten we belong to one another.” Mother Teresa is implying that it’s our responsibility to make our colleagues feel like they belong and are appreciated. Let’s make an effort to make our professional witness more Christ-‐like.
“YCP has given me a community here in Dallas… for the first time in a very long while, I want to talk about my relationship with Christ.” – Dr. Julian Yang, Director of Teleneurology, UT Southwestern
“It is impossible to believe on our own. Faith is not simply an individual decision, which takes place in the depths of the believer’s heart… By its very nature, faith is open to the “We” of the Church; it always takes place within her communion…This …reflects the openness of God’s own love…Here we see why those who believe are never alone, and why faith tends to spread, as it invites others to share in its joy.” – Pope Francis
JARED: Are there any books or other resources you might recommend to all the young Catholic professionals?
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15)
Some books I recommend:
- Vocation of the Business Leader
- Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
- Let God’s Light Shine Forth
- Searching for and Maintaining Peace
- Interior Freedom
- Saints’ Guide to Happiness: Practical Lessons in the Life of the Spirit
Some Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI messages that have spoken to my heart:
- Prayer Vigil for World Youth Day 2012
- Message for World Youth Day 2012
- Greeting to UK Youth 2010
- “Porta Fidei” 2011
I really enjoy St. Francis de Sales, and I often visit his site for his quotes of the day:
JARED: What about YCP seems to be the most effective aspect? Where can people go to find out more information about starting their own chapter?
“You must be as lighted lanterns and shine like brilliant chandeliers among men. By your good example and your words, animate others to know and love God.” – St. Mary Joseph Rossello
YCP was founded in 2010 to help young professionals connect with one another and maintain their Catholic faith while pursuing demanding careers. Our mission is to encourage young adult professionals to Work in Witness for Christ. YCP brings young adults together for speaker events, panel discussions, and networking in order to foster Catholic identity, to encourage community, and to inspire a call to action.
Over the years, we have created several different types of programs and events designed to draw in young Catholics at every stage of the faith journey. The goal is to have them enter our ministry where they feel comfortable and then inspire them to grow deeper in their faith and then act as ambassadors for Christ in all areas of their lives.
The most effective aspect of YCP seems to be the encouragement our members feel when they learn that their own faith will grow when they invite others to join them on this journey. This is the inspiration behind our ministry. YCP is intended to be a community where we can strengthen one another so that we may always have the courage to witness to Our Lord. We should try to be aware in even the most ordinary circumstances that God may have a mission for us.
Let us ask for the grace to see our work with the eyes of faith and to react to our colleagues with patience and kindness. Our witness will be authentic and reflect the love of God when we let the joy and hope of our faith resonate to everyone we meet.
“What I value most about YCP are the examples of leadership the organization has exposed me to…highly successful businessmen whose faith and family come first. More than merely a sense of belonging, YCP has given me a goal–and the encouragement and support to reach it.” – Barry McCain, SMU Law Student and participant in the Executive Mentor Program
YCP has active chapters in Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, pending chapters in Houston and Denver, and relationships with Catholic executives and young professionals across the country. We accept applications for new chapters on an ongoing basis, working closely with applicants to ensure that potential chapters have the connections, leadership, and resources to be successful.
New chapters need support from young professionals, including Marketing, Operations, Technology, and Finance committee volunteers (2-‐5 hrs/week) as well as three volunteer leaders (5 hrs/week) who can work closely with national staff.
Christ tells us that “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Lk 10:2). Perhaps you are the laborer God desires to Work in Witness for Christ and bring YCP’s mission and programs to your city.
To volunteer, nominate a volunteer, or learn more, please email [email protected]
“I was immediately drawn to the YCP mission, and it has been a delight for me..to bring the ministry to San Antonio. There is truly no substitute for surrounding yourself with faithful friends, a network of young Catholic professionals.” – Christina Schoonover, President of YCP San Antonio
“The YCP ministry answers a real thirst in this generation for a community that calls them to a higher standard in faith and business.” – Flip Howard, President, Meridian Business Centers