Jacob Bryant and Frencia Bautista tend the welcome table at an Aug. 9 meeting of Young Catholic Professionals.
Jacob Bryant and Frencia Bautista tend the welcome table at an Aug. 9 meeting of Young Catholic Professionals.
Terry Powell, a 33-year-old member of St. Patrick Parish in Portland, has been a member of Young Catholic Professionals for about 18 months. A high tech marketing expert, she’s a fan of YCP networking happy hours.

“It’s a central place for young adult Catholics to find community,” said Powell, who returned to Catholicism after practicing in a Protestant denomination. “It was great because I could immediately make Catholic friends.”

At a lecture organized by YCP, Powell learned about St. Joseph as a model of workers. She is intrigued by St. Joseph’s title “Terror of Demons.”

Powell has found YCP-sponsored lectures by older Catholic business mentors helpful. As a result of one talk, she worked up the courage to bow her head at her office when anyone says “Jesus,” even if it’s in the context of swearing. When people ask why she bowed, she has a chance to explain Catholic reverence.

Powell’s experience is exactly what Young Catholic Professionals is for, said Sarah Kuenzi, who just finished a term as president of the Portland-area chapter.

“Our focus is helping young adults in their 20s and 30s live their faith as professionals in the workplace by offering them community, spirituality and professional support,” explained Kuenzi, a 32-year-old who manages digital media at Mater Dei Radio. “We focus on how a person can really work and witness.”

Kuenzi recalled that especially when she was working outside of the Catholic world, YCP was invaluable in sustaining her faith. Having Catholic peers makes a person more apt to witness to others, she said.

“The ‘professionals’ in our title might sound intimidating, but anyone working is welcome, including grad students,” said Kuenzi. “We just want to connect people to the church.”

Every YCP event includes a social aspect such as a wine and cheese social. Such moments provide a setting for networking — on both business and belief. “People find their community here,” said Kuenzi, who has been part of the Portland group since it began almost five years ago. “People come to an event and start to make friends. This has been an entry point for people into the wider young adult Catholic community. We try to be a connecting point for them.”

As for spiritual life, every YCP event includes prayer. And twice per year, the group holds daylong retreats, often at Mount Angel Abbey.

By way of professional development, YCP hosts speakers from the business world who give tips on how to live bravely as a Catholic in the world of secular business. Speakers have been CEOs and owners in fields like health care and wineries. For those who pay an annual fee and become official YCP members, there’s an online mentorship program in which business leaders from across the nation give guidance. Members get other extras, including free admission to paid events and free food or drink at those sessions. They also can tap into national young adult Catholic resources.

Lily Weber, 26, is a longtime YCP member and leader. A Scappoose native, she now works as a nanny.

Weber remembers her first YCP event. “I met people from a dozen different parishes,” she said. “It was really helpful for me to meet good Catholics. I have met some of my best friends through YCP.”

“Over the past few years, life could seem overwhelming,” said Weber. “YCP gives a glimpse of hope. It’s seeing how God is working every day in the more ordinary things. God works little miracles. He is with us through cleaning dishes and our commitments and work.”

YCP attendees are mostly committed Catholics like Weber, but the group also draws drifted Catholics who want to return and non-Catholics interested in the faith.

YCP has events at bars and wineries, and that is where inquirers and first-timers seem to feel most welcome. Newcomers can ask candid questions, feel no judgment, and then get answers faithful to church teaching. Other events happen in different areas and different parishes. Gatherings usually draw 40 to 50 people. For retreats, as many as 80 attend.

At a recent executive speaker session at Christ the King Parish in Milwaukie, Ashley Micciche of True North Retirement Advisors discussed her move from wanting to be a millionaire to yearning to serve God’s purposes. “Pride eats up the possibility of love or common sense,” Micciche told the group. “The goal of riches seemed empty.” Micciche also gave listeners advice on saving for retirement.

“A lot of speakers tell us they invite God into situations that are tense or difficult,” Kuenzi said. “Others say they were afraid to say something or be judged and then they took a step to stand up for a belief or hang a cross in cubicle, something small to bring faith in, and then God responded in a way like having a coworker say, ‘You have had a huge influence on me and I want to explore Catholicism.’”

YCP is on the lookout for young adults who want to give back and serve on the organization’s leadership team. Jesse Jose, new president of YCP, is a health care administrator who moved to the Portland area in 2020 to help begin Holy Family Clinic in West Linn. “I love to work behind the scenes,” said Jose, a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Southeast Portland.

Young Catholic Professionals will hold a networking happy hour at Ladyhill Winery Sept. 13 and a retreat at Mount Angel Abbey Dec. 10.