SAN DIEGO — “This needs to happen.”
That’s what Clare Oven remembers thinking after hearing Jennifer Baugh, founder and executive director of Young Catholic Professionals, speak about establishing a new chapter in San Diego.
At that initial informational meeting, Oven was so enthusiastic about the nonprofit organization and its mission that she decided to apply for a position on the new chapter’s leadership team.
“It’s more than just a group for fellowship,” explained Oven, 28, who serves as the San Diego chapter’s vice president and director of operations. “It’s a ministry for young adults that’s specifically focused on trying to help them live their faith in the workplace.”
And it accomplishes that goal in several ways.
YCP San Diego sponsors a monthly Executive Speaker Series. On the second Tuesday of each month, young adults gather at a diocesan parish to hear a local Catholic professional speak about his or her life and career. Attendees also partake in free refreshments and drinks as they network with like-minded peers.
Representing diverse career paths, speakers have included Dick Lyles, CEO of Origen Entertainment; retired NFL kicker John Carney; Deputy District Attorney Michelle IaLeggio; Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Breen; and Terri Funk Graham, former chief marketing officer for Jack in the Box.
Oven, who works at John Paul the Great Catholic University, said the speakers serve as models for living out the faith in one’s professional life and they often challenge attendees, leaving them with “something to think about for the next month.”
For instance, she said, Lyles encouraged his audience to accept the call to be leaders in restoring our culture, while IaLeggio reflected on the importance of having empathy for others.
A typical installment of the Executive Speaker Series will attract about 100 attendees, Oven said. “One of the things that I like … is that we are drawing people from across the diocese and usually have a good mix of people from different parishes.”
In addition to the speaker series, she said, the local chapter also hosts a quarterly networking happy hour and will sponsor a half-day Saturday retreat twice a year and an annual celebration of the feast day of YCP’s patron, St. Joseph the Worker, on May 1.
All of these events are free and will remain so, she said, but a paid membership option is expected to be made available next summer and will provide access to an expanded calendar of events.
Oven believes that an organization like YCP has a positive role to play in today’s world.
Catholic schools, from elementary school through the college level, can keep Catholics connected to their faith, she said. For public school students, she added, parish religious education programs, confirmation classes and campus Newman Centers can have a similar effect.
But after college, she said, it’s all too easy for young adult Catholics to stray from the Church until marriage and baptism classes draw them back.
“There’s a group of young adults in the Church who are looking for … the next step up from a confirmation program or from a college program,” Oven said.
While YCP seeks “to fill that gap,” she was quick to note that the organization is not the only player in the young adult Catholic scene. She sees YCP, not as a competitor, but as a collaborator with the many already-existing diocesan and parish ministries, “which are great at supporting young adults.”
“We’re kind of taking it from a slightly different direction,” Oven said. “The more people you have working on this problem, I think, the better.”
YCP’s San Diego leadership team, which was appointed by the national organization in early 2016, also includes Jeremy Orton, president; Patricia De Saracho, vice president and director of outreach; Maria Murra, director of marketing; Jamie Mark, assistant director of marketing; Sean Matthews, director of technology; Anthony Petz, director of finance; Marie LiMandri, director of parish relations; and Phillip Ghosn, director of pastoral relations.
The leadership team is supported by a board of directors. Neither receives financial compensation for their work.
“When it comes down to it, we’re not doing this for ourselves,” Oven said. “As soon as it goes from being a ministry to being a job, that’s when we’ve lost sight of what YCP is about.”
“At the end of the day, it’s not about … whether we can get 250 people to an event,” she said. “It’s whether we’re … serving the purpose that God has for us.”
For more information, visit www.ycpsandiego.org.