October 7, 2020
|Jennifer Baugh, Young Catholic Professional's founder and executive director, welcomes and addressess the 250+ attendees from across the nation to YCP's national conference hosted at the University of Dallas in 2017. (NTC/Adrean Indolos)|
FORT WORTH — In the spring of 2010, Jennifer Baugh was in a time of transition. She had just earned her MBA from Texas A&M and had moved to Dallas in anticipation of a consulting job.
As she waited for her new job to begin, she entered a season with a lot of silence. Searching for God, she often prayed, “Help me, teach me how to pray; I want to know You,” she recalled during a videochat with the North Texas Catholic.
After she got home from a late morning walk on the Katy Trail, she took time to pray on her knees in her bedroom. She experienced “a moment of grace, peace, joy, and serenity… a feeling of lightness.” Suddenly, Baugh felt much more personally connected with God.
“When we grow in love with someone… we have to share it,” she said. Baugh began sharing her faith in bars, restaurants, and even her apartment gym. “I noticed a trend among my generation: there was a tremendous amount of restlessness.” She wanted to do something about this. So she began the organization known as Young Catholic Professionals (YCP).
YCP fosters community among young professional Catholics, empowering them to live out their faith at work and in their parishes. Their mission: “Working in Witness for Christ.” In 2014, the Fort Worth chapter launched. YCP has now been flourishing for 10 years, and they aren’t slowing down — not even in the tumult of 2020.
Meet Young Catholic Professionals
YCP provides the infrastructure for a sustainable ministry while empowering young adults to become stronger Catholics in their workplaces and parishes. The organization engages young adults through local social events, speaker series, service events, and conferences. Members receive access to additional benefits, including professional mentorship, peer small groups, and exclusive events.
There are YCP chapters in 23 cities across the United States. Each chapter uses the same framework to ensure consistency within the ministry, even when charismatic leaders move on. “We’re kind of like, if you can imagine it, a franchise,” Baugh said. “We have the same programs in all of our chapters; we have all of this training and all of this support… really everything the chapter needs to be successful.”
But YCP is not like just any franchise. Mark Kennedy, associate director of marketing for the Fort Worth chapter, reflected on the difference between marketing in the secular world and marketing for YCP. “I’ve had the pleasure of working for some pretty well-known companies. While these companies have great values, they are driven by their profits. The difference is that YCP is driven by its mission.”
Enter Fort Worth
The Fort Worth chapter, the second in the nation, launched in May 2014. Founding member Aaron Muñoz and Mary Elizabeth Van Meter (then Levy) approached Baugh about starting a new chapter in Fort Worth.
|Young professionals listen to Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson speak during the Young Catholic Professionals Fort Worth executive speaker series, Wednesday, Aug. 09, 2017 at the St. Patrick's pastoral center in downtown Fort Worth. (NTC/Ben Torres)|
The current Fort Worth YCP president, Christopher Wood, appreciates the structure of YCP. “The support from the national organization is huge,” said Wood over videochat.
And the admiration goes both ways. “Chris [Wood]… is phenomenal,” said Baugh.
Wood is passionate about the YCP mission and sees direct results. “People develop community in a very profound way and a very practical way,” he said.
According to Wood, YCP emphasizes “integrity” — bringing Christ into the workplace and bringing leadership skills learned at work into the Church. YCP helps answer the question: “How do I live out my Catholic life in whatever field or industry I’m in?”
He added, “Being on the leadership team… has prepared me to serve the Church in other ways.”
Young adults’ involvement in the Catholic faith at the local level is what Baugh intended when she created YCP. The organization is supposed to be part of the “fabric of the local Church,” Baugh explained. “We want to encourage our members to go back and engage in their parish, engage in the diocese.”
“We want to be an umbrella group,” said Alex Lopez, vice president and director of marketing for Fort Worth YCP. “We bring everybody together and then split you out into your own parishes.”
YCP in 2020 and beyond
YCP has had an active response to the coronavirus pandemic. Baugh and her team opened several temporary paid positions to provide opportunities for those who had lost their jobs.
Regarding event hosting, the national office provided guidelines and boundaries while allowing local chapters to decide how to proceed. “Our [Fort Worth] chapter adapted quickly and began hosting web-based events and kept people involved with our community,” said Kennedy, the associate marketing director.
YCP is still moving forward — working toward starting new chapters and formalizing faith formation. Recently, they began offering “forums,” or structured small groups, to members.
Wood asks the diocese to pray “that people can come together in authentic community while being safe and taking the appropriate precautions, and that we continue to reach as many young Catholic professionals in the Diocese of Fort Worth as possible and continue to support the mission of Working in Witness for Christ.”
Young adults interested in YCP can find more information at ycpfortworth.org.
FORT WORTH — In the spring of 2010, Jennifer Baugh was in a time of transition.