The past couple of months have provided a unique opportunity for all of us to look inside and reflect on strengths and opportunities - both personally and communally. We can make this analysis through the Catholic lens of subsidiarity and unity. On a personal level - am I equipped to help myself in times of crisis so that I can lend a helping hand to others? On a communal level - is my apostolate or organization structured according to the best practices of individual & local empowerment, so as to contribute more efficiently and expeditiously to the greater good?
Although the structure of Young Catholic Professionals (YCP) as a National entity with local Chapter subsidiaries has occasionally brought challenges, it is in times like these that I am grateful for our organizational configuration. To quickly describe our makeup: the YCP National Office acts as the guardian of the Mission and the unifying force for our Chapters across the country. This enables us to grow faster and present a consistent brand while empowering our local Chapters to reach as many young people in their cities as possible for Christ through their localized expertise and proficiency.
The reason this model has proved successful over time, and especially in these last couple of months, is that we’ve seen enhanced creativity and sharing. I’ll share some examples:
· Creativity: YCP Silicon Valley hosted virtual Stations of the Cross. YCP Chicago hosted a virtual Panel Discussion examining recent events through the lens of a Catholic virtue. YCP Dallas hosted a virtual Happy Hour with themed breakout rooms to build community.
· Sharing: Our Chapter Leaders have been very supportive of one another during this time. Inter-chapter communication has increased significantly with Chapters collaborating to co-host events to foster national unity. During a recent virtual event hosted by YCP Detroit, Leaders of other Chapters left messages in the online platform to let the Detroit team know they were rooting for them. Coming from the perspective of the National Office, it’s a real blessing to see these dedicated local volunteers share ideas, resources, and support.
YCP’s organizational structure may not be for everyone, but the concepts of subsidiarity and unity have universal application. Here are a few recommendations to incorporate these themes into your apostolates or other community initiatives:
At the onset of the virus, the YCP National Office empowered each YCP Chapter to make its own decision about hosting events and how best to support its Members. The National Office did, however, provide guidelines and boundaries so as to keep a sense of unity and solidarity as we all work towards a singular goal. Recommendation: create a framework for local decision-making that aligns with a broader shared vision.
Have you ever noticed that encouragement is contagious? Well, subsidiarity enhances this cascading effect. In an effort to encourage our volunteers on the “front-lines”, the YCP National Office has called Chapter Leaders, sent encouraging and faith-filled messages, and more. In turn, the Chapters have taken up their calling to encourage the young people in their cities. This is not revolutionary, but it is important. Companies that spend time building up their Employees see better service to their Customers. Recommendation: It’s the same for us who lead apostolates - empowerment must include our encouragement of the encouragers.
Companies and groups across the Nation have been in a flurry these past few weeks to provide “the perfect” message to their constituents. Some exude an unnatural or artificial feel because of a desire to say something quickly that seems compassionate but also covers and protects themselves. Instead of following this frenzy, we as Catholic leaders need to step back and think about what will actually, tangibly help the people we serve. When we learned that many of our YCP Members had been laid off due to the virus, we knew we had to respond in a practical way with short-term contract work opportunities to help people make ends meet. What’s been amazing through this process of hiring 17 contract workers is that we’ve been reminded of the true dignity of work - that people find a sense of hope and meaning in work beyond a paycheck. Recommendation: Instead of following the status quo at this time, step back and think about what the individuals in your organization really need and what unique skills or opportunities your organization can offer at this time of crisis.
In closing, some of you may be familiar with StrengthsFinder. One of the strengths is ‘Maximizer’: “People exceptionally talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb. (CliftonStrengths Website)” I would argue that all of us, whether we are inherent “Maximizers” or not, need, more than ever, to pull from deep inside and find ways to foster this personal and group excellence in the spirit of subsidiarity and unity. Now, when we are “weak” (2 Corinthians 12:10), is the time when we are best poised to transform our families, our communities, workplaces, and our world into something superb for the glory of God.
Jennifer Baugh is the Founder and National Executive Director of Young Catholic Professionals (YCP), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that encourages young professionals to embrace their faith and Work in Witness for Christ. She received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Trinity University and her MBA from Texas A&M, graduating summa cum laude. Jennifer worked for Merrill Lynch in the Global Wealth Management practice and for FTI Consulting in the Corporate Restructuring practice before starting the YCP apostolate in 2010.
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