Championing Underprivileged Youth – in Life Skills and Meaning
In Luke 16:10, the Lord Jesus counsels his disciples that someone who is faithful in small things will be faithful in important matters.
That is how Andre Julian, a member of Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter, views his role as an ambassador for Jesus Christ.
“It’s the little things that we do, these little acts of faith, that give us as Catholics even more faith as we do them,” said Julian, 48, a Merrill Lynch management executive who has offered his investment insights as a commentator on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business Network.
Julian offers advice to high school and young college students each summer as a mentor with LEAP (Leadership, Excellence, Accelerating Potential), which seeks to provide participants with valuable life skills such as networking, surrounding oneself with positive people, and preparing for job interviews.
The program offers Julian the opportunity to share with young people how the Church sustained him and his family through difficult times, and how the Catholic faith informs his approach to work and his outlook on life.
Julian emphasized that being a LEAP mentor allows him to offer his Christian witness in an authentic and natural way, not in a proselytizing manner.
Life raft of the Church
“Our job as ambassadors is to present the good news. God will take care of the rest,” said Julian, who was only three years old when his parents divorced. His mother, who was Catholic, found strength and healing in the Church.
“From an early age, I associated the Church with something that healed my mom and made her feel better,” Julian said. “When I was very young, she told me that Jesus is the most important thing in your life. He will get you through the difficult times.”
As a teenager and young adult, Julian said he wavered in his faith at times, but he never stopped praying or reading the Bible. In college, he met his wife, Christine, who was also Catholic, and they chose to live the faith as a family. They have a daughter, Chloe.
Living Catholicism on purpose
Deciding to live as an intentional Catholic, a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ, places demands on one’s life that Julian compared to a police officer who puts on a uniform and is reminded that he or she represents something bigger than oneself.
“When you label yourself as a Catholic, then you have to live it,” Julian said. “It forces me to be consistent in my beliefs and it forces me to make decisions.”
As a Legatus member for 2 ½ years, Julian sees the organization’s mission as interwoven with the Great Commission.
“We are called to be ambassadors of Christ out in the world,” he said. “I see Legatus as a place where you can go and speak with likeminded people who can give you strength and who can fill you with discussion and knowledge, and make sure that your faith is kept strong.
“But out in the world, I think, is where we have the most impact,” Julian said. “There are these things we as Catholics do to gain strength, but then we need to go out into the world and we need to do something with what we’ve been given.”
A friend got Julian involved in the LEAP program, which brings young people from across the country and the world together for a week every summer and seeks to provide them with the life skills they will need to be successful adults. Most of the young people in the retreattype program come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Mentoring others stirs own faith
As a LEAP mentor, Julian makes himself available to groups of participants who interview him about his life. Julian said being a mentor has made a positive impact in his own life.
“It’s just a phenomenal program,” said Julian, who has done TED talks but added that the LEAP program gives him a chance to discuss the biblical themes that undergird his perspective on life. The program is secular in nature, but gives him a natural platform to share his faith.
“I can tell them my story. I can tell them my background, that I came from a broken home,” Julian said.
Sharing his story has also prompted Julian to learn more about his own Catholic faith, and to try to be a credible witness by authentically living the faith’s tenets every day, whether he is at home, work, socializing with friends, or guiding young people.
Said Julian, “It forces me to look at my actions and ask myself what am I doing to be a better man of God, to be a better family man and a better man of faith. When you’re in a position where people are looking at you for advice, and you have to responsibly give that advice, then you have a responsibility to yourself, to your faith, to God, to act out that advice.”
Talking is one thing, but Julian, a martial arts enthusiast, said principles must be put into action. Every day.
Said Julian, “It’s in our acts that we become known.”
BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.