Young adults in the Catholic Young Professionals of Augusta (YP) group atttend adoration together Nov. 8. Photographs by Jessica L. Marsala.

Unitive quality of sacraments attracts young professionals

Originally Appeared in : 9825-12/6/18

The young adults who meet once a month to spend time with Jesus before the Blessed Sacrament at St. Mary on the Hill Church don’t have many things in common. 


Some are married, others single. Some are postgraduate students of medicine and physical therapy at Augusta University while still others work in various careers including teaching, the military, medicine, engineering or business administration. 


But for an hour each month, these young men and women, ranging in approximate age from 21 to 35, shelve their professional and academic identities and transition their minds from the 9-to-5 to the timeless and eternal. 


They try to remember that first and foremost they are sons and daughters of Christ.


Rachel Willoughby, co-leader of this group, says their entire goal is to be Catholic, “intentionally orienting your life around being Catholic.” 


“I mean, relationships are great. It’s nice to meet like-minded people. It’s nice to have people here that I actually enjoy being around,” Willoughby, an algebra, geometry and Latin teacher at nearby Aquinas High School, said. “But even if I didn’t enjoy being around them, just coming together for the sheer sake of being in a place, being someplace where my entire goal is to see Christ in the other person and for them to see Christ in me, changes my entire week. I can go on and approach everybody else in my life where that’s not my primary goal. But I’m reminded that should be my primary goal in every other relationship that I have.”


Established in August 2017, the Catholic Young Professionals Group of Augusta—YP for short—evolved out of a desire to support busy, young Catholic professionals working in isolation from each other through the unitive quality of the sacraments. 


Current leader Marie Hartney, 30, says that it’s easy for young Catholics in the workplace to forget that there are others like themselves who live out their faith. 


She adds that YP does not intend to supplant or replace other local Catholic ministries like Augusta YAM: Spirit and Truth, which caters to both college-aged individuals and young adults by offering rotating speakers and studies, adoration and opportunities for fellowship.


Rather, it’s a completely separate group primarily focused on providing the sacraments—currently adoration, but in the past and hopefully again in the future, opportunities for Mass and confession—to a 21-and-over age bracket, a demographic characterized—especially in the military and college town of Augusta—by short-term residencies, full schedules and constantly changing commitments. 


YP, she says, has a more “come and go as you please” feel: There are no formal “events,” RSVPs are not necessary and no one has to worry about fitting a large group of people into his or her living room. 


“But I think that what is really the focus of the group is that the sacraments are what are going to bring people into their faith, to come to know the Lord better,” Hartney, a physical therapist at Peak Rehabilitation in Evans, said. A native of Augusta, Hartney later noted her upbringing in the interdenominational Alleluia Community and attendance at Ave Maria University in Florida helped foster her desire for creating Catholic community among her peers. “So we keep the sacraments as the base of it and the social naturally happens.” 


James Hildebrand, 22, attended his first YP night Nov. 8 after seeing the group advertised on the parish website of Most Holy Trinity. He also joined the group for dinner afterward at Farmhaus Burgers.


A recent college graduate, Hildebrand said that after attending Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio and living in faith-minded “households” as an undergraduate, he longed for a similar opportunity when he joined the military and was stationed at Fort Gordon. 


“It’s a smaller Catholic school and one of the big things there is that community you have—a lot of people who challenge you and allow you to continue to grow because other people push you,” Hildebrand said.


Currently YP has 30 to 45 members, approximately 15 of whom participate regularly. Though the group does have a GroupMe messaging account as well as a closed Facebook group where members post event updates, photos of past events and news about relevant local events, Hartney said they don’t devote much effort to advertising because word of mouth is their most effective means of recruitment. 


To find out more about the group, which meets the second and fourth Thursdays of every month at St. Mary on the Hill Church, contact: or join their Facebook group: Catholic Young Professionals of Augusta.

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