With all of the bad news facing us these days, I am happy to share something encouraging with you. I recently had an opportunity to address a group of college-age Catholics working summer internships in the Atlanta area. These young adults are part of a special program run by Catholic business leaders in which internships are offered in roles relevant to their college majors. They also receive hands on mentoring with assigned Catholic leaders who advise them on their careers and help them in the practice of their faith. In addition, several tailored programs are offered throughout the summer with guest speakers from the Catholic business community. What I experienced during my evening with these young people gives me great hope for the future.
Mentoring programs and summer internships are not new concepts. What makes this type of initiative stand out in my mind is the active and enthusiastic involvement of senior Catholic business leaders in the development of Catholic young adults. Also, the interns’ professionalism, eagerness to learn, devotion to their faith and subsequent follow up with me left a strong positive impression that is significantly different than the view many of us tend to have of the millennial generation.
Here is a quick summary of why I believe this particular program is successful:
- The college interns in the program are all volunteers and serious about their professional and spiritual development.
- Catholic business leaders involved in the program are passionate about helping and investing in this next generation of Catholics. They appear to be fully committed with their time, talent and influence to ensure the program is a rewarding experience for all involved.
- The program is simple and sustainable with clear goals. Key Catholic business leaders make a commitment to hire Catholic interns for a summer at a reasonable hourly rate, teach them their business and help them grow in their faith. College interns are identified through referrals and interviews and the number of interns is directly connected to the number of summer internships available. Follow up and communication in this group are excellent.
Another successful mentoring program I am familiar with is the larger and more elaborate Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Class. I have had the privilege of serving on the Advisory Board for this group since its inception in late 2010. Under the sponsorship of Catholic Charities Atlanta, the program selects 50 young adult Catholics in the business community to participate in a leadership development program which involves one-on-one mentoring from senior Catholic business leaders in the area and six programs with guest speakers addressing a variety of topics including servant leadership, stewardship, the vital mission of Catholic Charities and other important areas of professional development. The mentees learn the importance of giving back to the community and how to integrate their Catholic faith with work. The program has far exceeded our expectations and is about to begin its second year. For more information, please visit the Catholic Charities Atlanta website.
In the absence of a formal program to develop young Catholic adults in your area like the ones I have described, why not begin one of your own? As with any initiative, it is important to seek out the blessing of your parish priest(s) for parish based programs and your local bishop for diocesan focused programs. How do you get started?
A Practical Eight Step Road Map
- Form an Advisory Board of committed Catholics who have passion for the program and will be involved directly in all aspects of its operation and committed to its success. This group should develop and communicate a clear mission and vision to all participants as well as define what “success” looks like for everyone.
- Identify committed Catholic business leaders willing to devote their time, talent and influence to developing the next generation of young adult Catholics. It is ok to start small with only a few participants. The key is to have committed mentors and mentees who are invested in a successful outcome.
- Commit to a sustainable and meaningful program. The program as outlined on the Catholic Charities Atlanta website is excellent, but you may want to modify it to address your specific needs.
- Seek out donations and sponsors for the program (and any related events) to cover expenses. You can have a very basic program with low overhead or something much more elaborate.
- Develop a great communications strategy. Keep people informed about events and updates through all available social media including Twitter, email and dedicated Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Make sure success stories are shared quickly and frequently with everyone.
- Train the mentors on how to effectively coach and develop their mentees. Avoid at all costs allowing mentor sessions without purpose or structure! Utilize trained coaches or HR professionals in the local Catholic community who will be willing to lend their expertise in this area.
- Challenge all participants to take their roles seriously and to ask for help when needed. Ensure that collaboration and teamwork is encouraged and recognized.
- Celebrate at the end of the program with a graduation. Invite all participants, their significant others and the Bishop(s) to show support and encouragement.
The point of sharing this information and my experiences is to encourage all of us to reach out and help young adult Catholics in our community. Spend time with them. Pray for them. Share our experiences and network. Help them on their faith journeys. Wouldn’t we have benefited from someone doing this for us in our 20’s? For young adult Catholics, I encourage you to reach out to older and more experienced Catholics in your parish or business community and learn from them. Be proactive in asking for their assistance which in most cases they will be happy to offer.
Our young people are the future as we all know. Will we have the courage and commitment to reach outside of our busy lives to help them be successful in life, work and with their Catholic faith? They need us and we can also learn much from them. It is time to bridge the generational divide to ensure that we are equipping them to be outstanding leaders at home, at work and in the Catholic community.
I sincerely pray that we are up to the challenge.
Randy Hain, Senior Editor for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was recently released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and your local Catholic bookstore.
The Catholic Briefcase was recently voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith will be released by Liguori Publications in November 2012 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.
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