Rhett Young: Joy in vocational development


Photo by Celine Santschi

“Helping people find their vocation” is the joy and privilege of Rhett Young, Franciscan University’s Director of Missionary Outreach.

Young, class of 1994 at Franciscan University, credits his development as a leader of missionary and ministry activities to his time at the university, particularly his holy hour at the Portiuncula
Chapel, the T.O.R. friars and his position as coordinator of Lions of Judah household.

“That position of leadership also helped to foster a desire and a love to serve…I learned how to lead a group of men to Christ, being attentive to their needs, being a spiritual guide,” said Young. “Now I’m doing that for multitudes of people on mission.”

During his time at the university, Young decided to be a missionary in the United States, in particular with youth and young adults. He lived out this vocation in many pursuits before coming back to the university, by leading mission work in the parishes doing confirmation and youth ministry, serving as a principal for a school for 10 years and most recently maintaining the position of faith and family minister at a mega parish in California.

Five years ago, Young and his wife felt that the Lord was calling them to leave California, and as Young looked into the job description of his current position at the university, he said “everything in the job description fit everything I had done since my time as a student here…God used all of that experience while at Franciscan and matured that growth through different works over the last 30 years and then brought me back here. It went full circle.”

His call to accept the job was confirmed on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, said Young, whom Young acknowledged in thanks for his intercession.

Young said that his position brings him satisfaction because his department deals with “the joy of service.”

“I get students that want to give of themselves,” said Young. “They’ve already gone through some of the muck of life, and they want an opportunity to serve Christ. I get them at a very special time in their life where they’re ready to serve Christ.”

Young said most young adults have never had the opportunity to give as much in their life until they go on mission.

“The students all have a metanoia experience,” Young said. “It’s unique for each person that experiences this.”

“When you’re young, you’re still grappling with selfishness,” said Young. “Because you know that about yourself, you’re looking for opportunities to be selfless.”

To Young, Missions of Peace, SENT Ministries and Works of Mercy are the perfect outlet, since the students can experience “joy that money can’t buy by giving of themselves.”

Young works with the students to blend the students’ life and academics into a mission, even considering some of the missions of peace internships for specific purposes. “Once you get fired up,” said Young, “you want to do something about it. This generation wants to go out and act. I’m the applied learner.”

These types of ministry opportunities can “help confirm (the students’) personal vocation,” said Young. “When you give of yourself, you’re giving God an opportunity to show his love for you and then you find that joy in sacrifice.”

After giving of themselves for a whole week, or a weekend, said Young, the students are changed by the missions or the ministries in which they partake.

“This is the first time that they gave until it hurt, and they gave it with love,” said Young. “They didn’t give God their time begrudgingly.”

“Students here are trying to figure out their vocation,” Young said, and “(God) shows us little samplings throughout our lives that confirm our vocational call and this is one of those times that giving of oneself shows you what one is specifically called to do vocationally.”

Young said his position enables him to work closely with the students. He enjoys seeing how Christ is working in others, and being a part of that work.

“It’s easy to get lost in paperwork and administrative tasks,” said Young, “but when you’re with the students and you get to coach and mentor them, that’s such a beautiful thing to be able to journey with someone.”

Young is the third in line of Franciscan’s Directors of Missionary Outreach, following Father Stan Holland, T.O.R., who started missions 15 years ago, and Father Larry Olman, T.O.R. There are currently over 20 missions accessible to students.

Over 450 students participate annually in Missions of Peace, Sent Ministries or Works of Mercy. 300 of these students are those who participate in spring break missions, and approximately 150 students participate weekly in Works of Mercy.

“The reason why those mission trips have been going for so many years,” said Young, “is because we have alumni at all of these places that help us,” including those who have discerned a vocation to be priests or sisters and are now involved in communities.

“We get this beautiful gift and we need to give it,” said Young. “It is such a joy to work here.”

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