In January of 1968, Young Life’s founder, Jim Rayburn, visited Rome where he met five Catholic seminarians studying for the priesthood. Rayburn called the meeting “the highlight of the European tour” and committed to staying in touch.

What started in Rome continues today — Young Life’s passion to reach across the dividing lines between Protestants and Catholics to celebrate together the heart of Christianity — a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. 

In 2012 a Catholic Young Life staff person in Madison, Wisc., felt the call from God that Young Life and the Catholic Church should be working together more intentionally to reach a world of kids. On this prompting, Michael Havercamp left his job as an associate regional director, packed up a U-HAUL, and moved back to his home state of Iowa where he began a divisional role as Catholic liaison for Young Life. “I had no money, no volunteers, no blueprint, just one big dream and a lot of prayer,” Michael said. Humbly, the Young Life Catholic Relations office was born with the vision that Jesus had for his followers: "that they may be one" (John 17:21) paired with the vision of Young Life: "reach every kid, everywhere."

In 2013, Michael’s role grew from a divisional role to a national role. He presented at Young Life's New Staff Training for the first time on “Young Life & the Catholic Church” in front of Young Life’s president, board of directors, and about 500 new staff members. “I imagined myself being crucified after that talk," Michael said. "Instead I was greeted by one staff member after another who said, ‘Thank you! I’ve been waiting for this. Will you come to my region and teach us more?’” The early years were spent traveling around the country, training local and regional staff. The early years also included the Young Life Catholic Adult Guest Camp initiative at Timber Wolf Lake in Michigan.

From 2014-2015, Young Life Catholic Relations focused on building bridges between Catholic dioceses and Young Life regions. After two years of persistence and prayer, Bishop Daniel Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, signed the first missional agreement with Young Life in April of 2015. That same year an academic relationship with the Augustine Institute in Denver became the first alliance with a Catholic institution of higher learning in Young Life’s history.

One missional agreement turned into another as bishops started talking. The Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky signed the second memorandum of understanding with Young Life in April 2016, and the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., followed with a similar agreement in December of 2017. Also in 2017, Young Life became a member of the National Catholic Leadership Network and sent a Young Life Expedition group to join three million young Catholic pilgrims from around the world at World Youth Day in Poland. Following this trip to Poland, Marty Caldwell, Sr. VP of Young Life International met with Pope Francis.

That meeting with Pope Francis in Rome led to contact with a bishop in New York City, a relationship that opened the doors for a first Young Life Catholic Forum, which was held in January 2019. You can read more at our Young Life Catholic Forum page.

To date, Young Life Catholic Relations has hosted 205 Catholic delegates at Young Life camps and trained more than 1,600 new Young Life staff members. 



Young Life Catholic Relations | 2427 Arbor Dr Davenport, IA 52803-2158

Phone: 563-549-0556

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