Being Catholic in the workplace doesn't have to be scary, Deacon Houghton says; new ministry to offer tips, best practices
DETROIT — The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime — approximately one-third of their working life. That means each person has approximately 3,750 days to Unleash the Gospel and be a missionary disciple while working 9 to 5.
To help lay Catholics do that, UTG at Work, a new nonprofit launched by Deacon Mike Houghton and Mary Martin, will serve as a center to help “women and men understand their identity as missionary disciples, equip them to discover their unique mission from God, and support them as they joyfully deliver faith and witness to Christ and the Gospel in the workplace,” according to its mission statement.
Deacon Houghton, former director of missionary strategic planning for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and Martin, a former coach and team leader in the department, will lead the effort.
"We're all about helping people understand that you can live your faith at work,” Deacon Houghton told Detroit Catholic.
The ministry, which is independent of the Archdiocese of Detroit but has the support of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, will offer a series of workshops, videos, articles, a weekly podcast and discussion groups to help guide members to be witnesses to Christ and the Gospel in the workplace.
Like much of the pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Detroit in the past six years, the nonprofit stems from Archbishop Vigneron's pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, specifically Action Step 3.3, which called for ongoing formation opportunities for both clergy and lay faithful, including the development of an institute dedicated to "lay witness in the world."
The formation of the program has been steeped in prayer, Martin explained, and sprung from the fruits of Synod 16, which were encapsulated in the pastoral letter, particularly the "good habits" the archbishop said make for missionary disciples.
“We looked through the whole document, especially those good habits (in Marker 3.4), and asked ourselves, ‘Where are the other places that we're called to be witnesses?’” Martin said.
Guided by their patroness, Our Lady of Victory, Martin and Deacon Houghton say the apostolate's initial focus will be on helping Catholics in southeast Michigan, but if successful, they'd like to see the ministry expand to other areas of the country.
Professionals can sign up for a free membership, which includes access to videos, articles, podcasts and newsletters available on the UTG at Work website, or a premium membership at $99 per year, which includes quarterly faith formation opportunities and events.
Sometimes it is hard to be authentically oneself at work, especially when one's co-workers don't share one's faith, said Deacon Houghton, who spent 35 years working a secular career in engineering at General Motors.
"You don't have to check your faith at the door when you leave church on Sunday and pick it up again next Sunday when you come back. This is important to me because, in some ways, I did leave my faith at church during my time at GM. I didn't have an option," Deacon Houghton said. "As I got further along and became a deacon (in 2012), I realized it doesn't have to be that way. That's not what God told us to do. When he said, 'Go and make disciples,' he didn't have any clauses in there about 'not at work.'"
Part of UTG at Work's ministry will be offering workshops in which participants will be given a "missionary discipleship assessment" that will help them narrow in on the "good habit" they should work on to live their faith more authentically at work, Martin said.
For many people, there's a gap between who they are at home, at church and with friends and the person they project around co-workers. The assessment focuses on finding where the biggest gaps lie and how those gaps can be narrowed, Martin added.
Martin said participants can evaluate their strengths among the good habits and work on living them out in the workplace. The goal is for participants to walk out of the workshops with a plan for how they are going to evangelize and live their faith more openly at work, she said.
“What we’re trying to do is just get people to take a little step in a direction they're already moving,” Martin said. “We're just trying to help people take this one more step.”
In addition to the numerous resources available on the UTG at Work website, Deacon Houghton and Martin already have plans to work with several parishes, and the ministry's first leadership roundtable is scheduled for Oct. 18 with Dr. Kristin Collier, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and director of the University of Michigan Medical School Program on Health, Spirituality and Religion.
The event, which is free for members, will include Mass at St. Aloysius Parish in Detroit, followed by a luncheon, speaker and discussion at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.
In addition to events, UTG at Work will feature a weekly podcast, in which Deacon Houghton will give a homily on the Sunday Gospel gearing toward working professionals. The ministry's website also features articles and videos to help guide Catholics interested in evangelizing at work.
Martin hopes UTG at Work will form a community where people can hold one another accountable and encourage one another in their faith.
“If we all were living those good habits, we're going to influence the culture, in our families, in our communities and our neighborhoods and especially for us at work," Martin said.
UTG at Work
To learn more about UTG at Work, a new ministry geared toward helping working professionals more effectively live their faith in the workplace, visit www.utgatwork.org.
Faith in the workplace Unleash the Gospel