Inspired by St. Joseph the Worker, multi-parish ministry provides advice and opportunities

In the spring of 2001, Paul Dean’s job was eliminated. In the wake of the dot-com bubble and crash, it was the third and final time he suffered a layoff in less than a decade.

His wife prepared their children with the news. “Daddy lost his job today, so he is going to be sad when you see him,” she told them.

Their daughter, 7 years old at the time, quickly devised a plan that could fix everything.

Asking for a few minutes alone, she created an “applekation” for her job-seeking dad. There were only three questions.

  1. Do you want to love me and be taking care of me?
  2. Do you want to be my daddy, and we will always be together, even in heaven?
  3. Do you want to do all the fun things we like to do together?

In that moment, Dean said, everything shifted.

He answered, “yes,” to all three questions and turned it in to the “boss.”

She carefully looked at the answers and bounded over, wrapping her dad in a hug.

“Congratulations, Daddy! You have a new job,” she proclaimed.

Not only did Dean embrace his new path, but he found a shifting purpose and a greater understanding of what a career should be.

Career ministries flourish

The dot-com bubble and burst paired with the 9/11 attacks caused incredible volatility in the economy and the job market in the early 2000s.

Many churches throughout the country did their best to answer the call. Ministries popped up to help newly out-of-work people find hope, purpose and comradery.

At his church, St. Andrew the Apostle in Apex, Dean began leading the Career Network Ministry.

Originally a group created to help people through job transitions, CNM’s attendance would ebb and flow in line with the unemployment rate, Dean said.

The high need and attendance of the early 2000s abated and, Dean said, the ministry stopped meeting.

That lasted until the Great Recession. From 2008 to 2012, unemployment hovered near 10% and Dean found himself, once again, surrounded by peers who found themselves in transition.

Partners in purpose and publishing

Dana Gower spent years in the corporate world before deciding to take a chance on himself and work in personal finance.

In the midst of transition, he visited a Career Network Ministry meeting. What Gower saw was opportunity.

“I realized pretty quickly that [Paul Dean] had a really valuable offering to our parish community and, really, the community at large,” Gower said.

With a strong background knowledge in human resources and strategy building, Gower approached Dean with an idea.

Instead of CNM being primarily a “job-hunting” group, what if it focused on building a community?

Gower said, “The average person changes jobs every four years … we could create an environment where people can network and stay involved and continually help one another.”  

Together, they began to shift the focus of the meetings, encouraging people to stay active whether or not they were actively looking for a job. They also began inviting professionals to speak and share insight on how to navigate an ever-changing professional landscape.

In 2015, Dean and Gower co-authored, “Careering: How to Find and Maintain Meaningful Work in Today’s Economy.” It was a partnership for them, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh and Bishop Michael Burbidge, who was bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh at the time.

“The book is a combination of modern-day career management mixed with active job search practices that work,” said Gower.

Prayer, personal worksheets and keen insights from 20 contributors round out this unique book that is billed as a “practical and spiritual guide.”

Gower and Dean, both members of the Knights of Columbus and St. Andrew Parish, felt a strong purpose to help others find their paths. Their ministry continued to grow and expanded to St. Michael and Mother Theresa Mission in Cary

From obstacle to opportunity

Alton Delane moved to North Carolina from New Jersey just over a year before COVID-19 put the world on hold.

He wanted to get involved at his home parish and learned about CNM. He attended some meetings and felt instantly engaged.

“Their focus on the dignity of work and that work is part of God’s plan for creation, it just changed my whole perspective,” Delane said. “It helped me to reorient what work needs to be for me. It’s ok to work hard, there’s dignity in it. And extending beyond myself … if work brings dignity, then helping others find a job or improve their position at work or gain better employment, I can help in God’s mission. That was a massive eye opener for me. That intangible nature of dignity.”

While already invested in the group when COVID-19 hit, Delane said he felt called to step up and contribute using his skills in marketing, brand building and events.

He created a LinkedIn group page and migrated their community from a Google group to LinkedIn. The shift not only allowed for a broader way to connect members to one another, it instantly helped members improve their personal platform.

On the site, the group routinely hosts renowned speakers and updates members on job listings that have been verified by a member of a group as a worthwhile opportunity.

Now, anyone, anywhere can find the group on LinkedIn and become actively engaged with both job seekers and employers in a faith-focused and supportive community.

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