Jennifer Baugh, from Dallas, Texas, is the Founder and President of Young Catholic Professionals. She is passionate about encouraging a culture of Catholic community in all aspects of our lives, especially in the workplace.
At the age of 24, I had just graduated from a rigorous MBA program and was set to embark on an intense career path as a financial consultant in Dallas. My new employer had given me quite a bit of time off between grad school and my employment start date. In fact, I had eight months off before starting my new job. Looking back, I can see God’s hand in it all.
I had grown up in the Catholic Church, but had never fostered a personal relationship with Christ. I had always been a high achiever, and I was often too distracted by papers or projects to question my faith, my relationship with Christ, or my purpose on earth. God knew I would need time off to ask those questions and to open my heart to Christ. For four months, I lived in Dallas with few obligations or distractions. And in April of 2010, I finally acknowledged my real need for Christ. Immediately after, I felt overwhelmed by an outpouring of Christ’s Divine Mercy. Because of that mercy, I knew for the first time that I wanted to become an authentic Catholic.
My enthusiasm for learning about our Catholic faith naturally led me to Pope Benedict. When I read his writings, I felt as though he were speaking directly to me. He spoke of our Faith reverently and clearly—in a way that I knew, without question, was the Truth. This simple German was answering the most profound questions of my heart.
Benedict wrote often that the Christian experience is not passive and cannot be experienced alone. At the time, I was meeting a lot of other young people, and I could sense the struggle we all had for something deeper in our lives. We were all so restless! Though our culture does not encourage discussion on faith or virtue, I began talking to my peers about Pope Benedict’s writings. I had read Pope Benedict say many times that we can always speak the Truth with Love. His words gave me confidence that I had never before possessed! Somehow, this humble pope empowered me to share the love of Christ. What surprised me even more was that my peers were interested…
Anticipating the next step in my career, I was very invested in not losing this new-found faith once I began working. I sought out young adult ministries in my community, looking for other Christians to help me stay accountable. Many of these young adults ministries seemed to lack vibrancy. Because of Pope Benedict’s writings, I knew there could be something more – a ministry that wasn’t afraid of sharing the Truth in a way that was loving and inspiring. As Pope Benedict says;
If you follow His Word, it will light up your path and lead you to high goals that will give joy and full meaning to your lives
25th World Youth Day Message, 28/3/2010
A couple of months before beginning my new job, I started a non-profit organization in response to the challenges offered by Pope Benedict. The name of the ministry is “Young Catholic Professionals.” We seek to encourage young adults working in various professions to Work in Witness for Christ. 150 to 200 young people come together on a monthly basis to listen to executive speakers who provide credible witnesses as we seek to pass on the legacy of faith to our coworkers and families in this secular age.
Today, YCP is working towards national expansion. We rely on Pope Benedict’s writing to inspire our ministry on a daily basis to greater authenticity, zeal, and dependence on Christ. As young professionals struggling against the tide of secularism, we hold tight to Pope Benedict’s words of encouragement:
My dear young friends, I want to invite you to ‘dare to love.’ Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourself as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love.
22nd World Youth Day Message, 27/1/2007
Without Pope Benedict, Young Catholic Professionals would not exist, and I would not have received the encouragement and education in the Faith that I so desperately needed. Pope Benedict will always be my shepherd – the man who led me to Christ and offered me the depth of our Catholic faith at a time when I was so thirsty.
I hope Pope Benedict may know that his humble service has made a profound impact on my life and the lives of many. I pray for him in thanksgiving every day, and I promise to persevere in faith holding close to my heart all that Pope Benedict has taught me.
May we remember always his challenge: “The road stretches before us! And yet, we must not lose trust; instead, with greater vigor we must once more continue our journey together. Christ walks before us and accompanies us. We count on his unfailing presence and humbly and tirelessly implore from him the precious gift of unity and peace.”