Young Catholic Professionals
Dallas group advances faith and careers for college grads
Employment prospects for recent college graduates are dismal these days, leaving many young people with few chances to repay their heavy school debts. Yet in the “connected” generation, there is always hope of making social and professional contacts.
In this respect, a new group based in Dallas, Texas, called Young Catholic Professionals, has been filling an important need, bringing together young people of faith for networking and advice from some top business executives. Yet according to the group’s founder and executive director, Jennifer Baugh, the inspiration behind YCP was to connect her generation to the Catholic faith at a time of life when so many lose touch with their families and home parishes.
The combination of professional and faith enhancement has been a winner for Young Catholic Professionals. More than 200 people have turned out for the speaker’s series in Dallas, and they get many inquiries from around the country on the group’s website, which includes a three-minute video on the YCP mission. The group plans to move to other cities and welcomes inquiries from those who would like to bring the YCP model to their area.
Realizing that many dads would like their young adult children to connect with this faith-filled group, Fathers for Good spoke to Jennifer Baugh. She is 27 years old, holds a bachelor’s in marketing from Trinity University and a master’s in business from Texas A&M. She worked at Merrill Lynch before leaving to found and direct Young Catholic Professionals.
Fathers for Good: How did you get the idea for Young Catholic Professionals?
Jennifer Baugh: It was both a light bulb moment and a gradual development. My “reversion” experience or “moment of grace” happened at a distinct point in time for me. However, after this moment of “re-awakening,” the idea for Young Catholic Professionals came in a more gradual manner. I began to fall in love with the faith and decided I wanted to be an “authentic” Catholic. I read all about the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, Scripture, and began to attend daily Mass. I just graduated from business school and was about to start a rigorous career as a financial consultant. I didn't want to lose my new-found faith in what I was sure would be a secular environment. Being an entrepreneurial type, I saw the potential in my community to bring together Catholics in a way that was relevant and compelling. The common denominator we share is work – we all work, so we can all relate to the challenges of being a young professional. I had a feeling that communicating the faith though the lens of a working professional would bring a large turnout to our events and actually open up dialogue about work, family, and most of all our Catholic faith and our calling to spread the Gospel in all areas of our lives.
FFG: When, where, how, with whom did you form YCP?
Jennifer Baugh: Our first focus group was in May of 2010 and our first speaker event was on August of that same year.
FFG: Describe the purpose of YCP.
Jennifer Baugh: Our purpose is three-fold: 1. We hope to promote Catholic identity to encourage others to follow Church teaching. 2. We hope to foster real community, so that we may be strengthened and encouraged by one another’s faith. 3. We hope to inspire a “call to action” so that we apply our Catholic vocation to all aspects of our lives – at work, at home, and in all our interactions. We must have the confidence to take a stance – having the courage to imitate Christ and be obedient to Holy Mother Church.
FFG: How many members do you have? How many events do you plan?
Jennifer Baugh: We host over 200 young professionals at our free executive speaker series on the second Tuesday of every month. Our paid membership program (which started in January of this year) now has over 120 members, and we host a variety of events for these members designed to further develop these individuals both spiritually and professionally.
FFG: How can you help recent college grads face the weak job market?
Jennifer Baugh: As our Catholic network grows, we hope to foster a real sense of loyalty and family so that we truly support one another in the job search. Our speakers and mentors are highly regarded professionals and often counsel our young adults on career management techniques. We also provide job leads and mentorship to the young professionals and hope to enhance these programs as we receive additional funding and support.
FFG: Many young people fall away from the faith after college due to relocation, new jobs, family demands, etc. How do you address that issue?
Jennifer Baugh: By making our events inviting and vibrant, we attract a group of young professionals that might not normally be inclined to participate. We hope to offer something in our programs for everyone, realizing that we are all in different stages in our faith journey. The name of our organization helps us stay true to our identity – we must never lose sight of our Catholic faith, and we must also never lose that commitment to professionalism, which helps us maintain high quality programming and support from the community at-large.
FFG: What is your message to young Catholics today? Is there hope for this generation?
Jennifer Baugh: We have taken our mandate from the clear and compelling words of Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to U.S. bishops last January: “No one who looks at these issues realistically 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.”