Are you a Millennial who wants to get involved with one of the most exciting endeavors of the New Evangelization? If so all you have to do is join the Young Catholic Professionals (YCP)!
If you want to get excited about the next generation of Church laity, or even if you just want a shot of optimism about how the corporate world will operate in the future, YCP is definitely for you. Founded in 2010 in Dallas, TX, YCP has rapidly spread across the country, filling a void felt by thousands of millennials in the workplace.
The young adults and future leaders who have already joined YCP are searching for more than just their way in the corporate world. They are also battling the profound needs for a sense of community, identity and meaning in their lives. And according to Jennifer Baugh, the group’s visionary foundress, YCP is just getting started. After earning her MBA, Baugh was motivated to try to provide answers for those common needs. And in just six short years she has managed to develop quite a network. It’s already reshaping the landscape for many Catholic Millennials,
Onboard with YCP
I had the great pleasure of working with Baugh and several other members of YCP this year, while preparing for and speaking at two different YCP functions. I also was able to attend their national Gala, held this year in Houston. Rubbing elbows with YCP members from across the country, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement in the Westin Galleria that evening.
Today there are already fourteen chapters up and running (find a chapter here). Preparations are also underway to launch YCP New Orleans and YCP Detroit. But it also was announced at the Gala that dozens of other cities are eagerly waiting their turn! One gets the sense that YCP is truly just starting to lift-off.
Approximately eight more cities are on the docket for next year. This would bring YCP to 23 chapters-strong by the end of 2017. And young people from over 65 cities have already reached out expressing interest in YCP. Some are from as far away as Canada, Spain, and Poland, where this year’s World Youth Day took place.
An Anointed Apostolate
YCP does indeed seem to be an anointed apostolate, a turbo-charged mixture of youth and the Holy Spirit. Thousands of young, working Catholics apparently agree. And Baugh is a constant reminder for them of how readily available God is to assist those who simply say “yes” to His call.
During one of our conversations, she shared what that “Yes” was like, back in 2009.
“Because of the time I spent nourished by prayer, silence and by the liturgy, I truly felt that I had found the particular vocation God had for me” she said. “These words from Pope Benedict XVI perfectly describe what it was like.”
“What are you seeking? What is God whispering to you? The hope which never disappoints is Jesus Christ. The saints show us the selfless love of his way. As disciples of Christ, their extraordinary journeys unfolded within the community of hope, which is the Church. It is from within the Church that you too will find the courage and support to walk the way of the Lord. Embrace it with joy. You are Christ’s disciples today. Shine his light upon this great city and beyond. Show the world the reason for the hope that resonates within you. Tell others about the truth that sets you free.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
She summed up the experience saying, “I wanted to tell people about the truth which set me free!”
What St. Paul Said
But saying “yes” required setting herself free from her current path. It meant a lot of work, and it also took a lot of guts. She had to say “no” to a lucrative job in consulting. St. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians perfectly described what she was going through. “…for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).
“It’s hard to describe what that time was like for me. I was weak and strong all at once! I was unsure and sure at the same time. It was a time full of soul-searching and prayer. Ultimately, God’s grace and mercy were bigger than any of my fears. His love and the incredible need for the ministry were enough to help me take the leap. To this day, I feel indescribably blessed that He chose me to be the catalyst for this beautiful adventure” she said.
Talents and Passions Aligned
“I really felt, for the first time in my life, that my unique talents and passions had perfectly aligned for this purpose. It was really tough to quit my job because I had no source of income lined up. Thankfully, one of my managers turned out to be a Christian, and he worked on my behalf in order to allow me to keep my signing bonus even though I hadn’t been at the consulting firm for a full-year. This was huge, because I was able to give my time to YCP without worrying if I would flounder financially.
“My parents supported YCP with some seed money, and I put some of my savings into the initial events and setup of the non-profit corporation. I waitressed at a local restaurant for the 1st 6 months of YCP’s life to give my day some structure and make some side cash. It was 6 months into waitressing that I met our first investor enabling me to quit as a waitress and devote all my hours to YCP.”
Countering a Trend
When I asked Jennifer about the name of the organization she was quick to give her brother the credit.
“I wanted the ministry to counter the trend of secular young professionals’ organizations that attracted so many people. There are tons of groups like Young Finance Professionals, Young Professionals in Energy, etc. My brother, Alex, said to me, ‘Jenn, don’t overcomplicate it. Call it Young Catholic Professionals!’
“Looking back, it’s the perfect name because each of the three words tells us something about who we are. The professional aspect is important because it reminds us to work for a higher standard of virtue. Every single person in every single profession is called to perform their work well for the glory of God. You don’t have to be a traditional professional to be challenged to greater professionalism in your daily life for Christ.
“Many of the Holy Spirit’s inspirations, as noted in my original business plan, drafted before YCP began, have come to fruition by God’s grace. There are also differences, but the important thing is that the organization today remains faithful to the original mission that God inspired. My prayer is that YCP can always maintain its unique balance of being a ministry that is inviting, welcoming, and open while also being challenging, daring, and courageous.
“We call young professionals to a higher standard of virtue, and we do it in a way that meets young people where they are at in the faith journey. As an apostolate, we will never be satisfied to be average because the Church depends on us to change the world and set hearts on fire for the Kingdom.”
Looking to the Holy Spirit for Guidance
If you’ re ready to participate in YCP’s three pillars, fostering Catholic identity, encouraging community, and inspiring action, check out the group’s web site: www.youngcatholicprofessionals.org. Or you can write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for the future that YCP is fearlessly pursuing, Baugh is focused on tasks at hand. But she’s also remaining open to the Holy Spirit’s continued guidance.
“We hope to do whatever God asks of us for as long as He asks. I hope that we can help to change the tide of secularism and relativism and that we can build an army of young Catholics across the nation and world who have the tools and conviction to witness to their Faith – even when it will cost them a great deal. I hope in 50 years, God will once again be invited into the public square. I pray that in 50 years, young Catholics will have started their own companies and employed workers using their Catholic values as their guiding post. I pray that our YCP members will have holy Catholic marriages and have raised many priests and religious! I pray that our members will have evangelized effectively bringing more people into the fold.
“Of course, we have plans and ideas regarding how YCP will actually accomplish these things. We need significant funding and a lot of support to keep fighting like we are. This is going to require a team effort, but I am convinced that our generation will be the one to change the tide for Christ.”