Chances are good that if you’re young, Catholic and a professional, you may have already heard some rumors about YCP (Young Catholic Professionals).  This young adults’ group is taking off in several areas in the United States.  It seems that young adult Catholics are hungry for something more and it’s finally here!

As a young adult, it can be a struggle to find your place in the Catholic Church.  Even vibrant parishes that offer programs for children and teens are often lacking groups for young adults.  Sometimes it can even feel as if there is a missing generation.  Of course we can learn from our elders, but it is often disheartening to attend a Bible study or service project and find yourself the youngest one there by thirty years!

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This is why Catholic-Link is so excited to share a little more about YCP. The mission of YCP is “Working in Witness for Christ” and they offer events such as retreats, service projects, and networking events.  I recently had the opportunity to ask a few questions about all that YCP entails to Martin Sellers.  He is the Director of Outreach for YCP in Chicago. After you read what he has to say, I know you will be motivated to find out if your city has a chapter and get involved!

Share about yourself and your own personal experience.

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I became involved with Young Catholic Professionals about a year and a half ago.  I was new to Chicago, working on a master’s degree from DePaul University in Public Service.  I heard about YCP from my brother in-law who was attending YCP events in Dallas.  The mission was attractive to me because of its unique emphasis on drawing upon our Catholic moral tradition in daily work and decision-making; this was especially interesting for me studying public policy as a means of best addressing social concerns.  

Myself and a small exploratory team formed shortly after and began the process of launching a chapter over the next year.  We spent a great deal of time working with the Archdiocese, Young Adult Ministry Chicago, the Office of Parish Life and Formation and well as many young adult ministry and community groups.  These conversations helped our group understand the unique character of Chicago as well as some of its challenges.  In November of 2015, we finalized our planning team and began forming our senior executive board.  We officially launched our chapter in February of this year.

How did YCP get started? Who is the founder?

Jennifer Baugh is the founder of YCP’s first Chapter in Dallas Texas in 2010.  Because of the popularity of the Dallas Chapter, in 2013, the Dallas based organization adopted a national 501-c3 status in an effort to aid other interested cities across the country who saw the YCP model as an exciting tool for their Catholic Young adults. Since that time, YCP has expanded with 8 chapters nationwide- Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Omaha, Orange County and most recently Chicago.  Plans are currently in place to launch several more chapters this year.      

What is YCP hoping to accomplish? Who is the demographic?

YCP’s audience is anyone who considers themselves a young working professional who is interested in developing his or her spiritual AND professional life, and who understands that our Catholic identity is integral to both.  We typically define our demographic as ages 18- 39 single, married and all stages of the professional spectrum, blue or white collar.  We have young adults at all stages of the faith journey, from those with formal seminary/ theological training to Catholics that haven’t been to Mass in years.  We also invite non-Catholics alike, yet we make our Catholic identity central to all that we do.

Our goals are three-fold. First, we want to help provide young professionals practical tools by which they can fully live their Catholic faith in their professionals lives. This means building sound business ethics based on a Catholic worldview, and developing confidence in living their faith in what is often hostile a work setting.  Secondly, just as Pope Francis says, we are called to go out and reach those on the margins of our society.  YCP is a great way to bring Catholics back to the faith by drawing them in and engaging them with this common cause of building sound business principles.  YCP programming is designed help foster relationships between Catholics who are grounded in their faith and others who are still searching.  In this way, YCP is a wonderful evangelical tool.         

How is it different from a singles group and/or dating group?

YCP is unique from other young adult ministry, dating and professional groups in that we strive to do one thing and do it very well.  Our main mission is to help young professionals understand how to be better Catholics in their daily work.  This is done through professional networking, executive speaker events, panel discussions, retreats, and other informative programming.  The community and social aspect are an important ingredient of what we do, but not the main focus of our events.  It is also our aim to foster an already thriving Chicago Catholic Young Adult community.  We plan to host our events in many locations, partnering with parishes, young adult ministries, university, alumni and professional groups.  In this way we can expand our mission while fostering other Catholic efforts and finding our niche in an already vibrant community.      

How can people get involved?

There are several great ways to get involved.  The easiest way to get involved would be to attend events and invite others to come as well.  The best way to stay current on our upcoming schedule is either through Facebook or our Website.  Another great way to get involved is to join our growing Parish/Community Ambassador Program.  This effort is helping us spread the word about YCP Chicago across the region by engaging individual communities.  Another way is to volunteer at one of our events. Finally, we are looking for seasoned professionals who would be interested in supporting our local chapter financially, through in kind donations to support our events or serving as mentors for our YCP members.     

Why do you think it is growing so quickly?

YCP is growing rapidly because young Catholics have a desire for excellence.  We have a deep hunger for virtue which can be exemplified in both our faith and our daily work.  The world is not meeting this need.  The mission is attractive because it provides a tool by which we can gain a greater understanding of the how work can be sanctified as well as a form of prayer.  This is a topic that is often difficult for clergy to address and for typical young adult ministries to explore.  Such wisdom comes best from those seasoned professionals who have lived and succeeded in confronting and living through these challenges.     

How successful have your events been?

Our chapter launch party was an amazing success.  We had over 550 attend the event held at the Chicago club on February 2.  Jennifer Baugh, the YCP National Executive Director gave the keynote address and our chapter president Katie Joy Jastrebski introduced our Chicago chapter’s planning team.  We had some amazing feedback and the buzz about our new chapter has spread dramatically since then. We hosted our first executive speaker event on March 1 at St. Clement’s Church in Lincoln Park.  We had just over 250 young adults attend the event to hear Bob Parkinson, former CEO of Baxter International speak about the integration of his faith and work life.  We had a chance to speak with many who attended. Folks enjoyed themselves, learned a lot and are hungry for more of this ministry.

If you are looking for additional information on YCP and how to become involved, here are a few places to start:

Archdiocese interview with YCP Director of Outreach Martin Sellers   

Relevant Radio interview with YCP Young Adult Board Member Mac Gills

Relevant Radio interview with YCP Senior Executive Board Member Mark Balasa