WASHINGTON, D.C. — Life transitions are difficult to navigate. For those who work in vocational ministry yet feel called to work in a secular field, that transition can be especially tough.

Elena Nuñez Murdock felt called to leave youth ministry but saw no outlet for learning how to get started and navigate secular workspaces to do it.

So she launched Mission to Launch to help Catholic professionals like herself who earned a degree in theology, biblical studies, humanities or liberal arts from a top Catholic university or other faith-based school but were never given the tools to thrive in anything but ministry or education.

“I initially designed this for people coming out of ministry, because that’s where my experience was,” said Murdock, who now lives and works in Los Angeles. Formerly, she was director of youth, young adult and confirmation ministries in the Archdiocese of Miami.

She said she went through a tough career change from youth ministry to business, feeling isolated in both the ministry realm and the secular realm.

Murdock also has seen many friends and peers who felt like they needed to leave ministry but remained in their comfort zone, not feeling they had the skills for another career.

“I was frustrated seeing my friends unhappy, and I wanted them to thrive,” said Murdock, who is a distinguished fellow at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. She also has an “alt-MBA,” as it’s called, from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. An alt-MBA, or alternative master’s in business administration, is an intensive program focusing on critical thinking, risk-taking, marketing and strategy and other skills. Murdock also studied organizational design at the Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business School.

Murdock’s Mission to Launch intertwines the values of faith people bring from a background in ministry with skills to broaden their careers.

“A lot of us as Catholics feel very alone, but this is an opportunity to break that isolation and be in community, and also learn skill sets to thrive,” she told Catholic News Service.

In particular, she emphasized the program’s “alt-mentorship” — a term she has trademarked to mean “alternative mentorship.”

“The world of mentorship is changing,” explains her website, www.mission2launch.com. “People are busier than ever and networking in an era of pandemic has forced nontraditional ways to meet and learn from others. Alt Mentors … are the men and women in business that you want to know and interface with, but probably would never have access to.”

This mentorship provides English- and Spanish-speaking mentees the ability to get immediate help via pre-recorded videos and testimonials from working professionals.

This way, Murdock explained, they receive wisdom from top CEOs and executives who may not have the time to meet regularly with a mentee, especially now amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really bringing mentorship in a whole new way,” said Murdock. “The type and quality of mentors that we bring is second to none.”

These mentors include business leaders, venture capitalists, lawyers, executives from Boeing and Lockheed Martin, entrepreneurs, freelance writers and book authors, a TV sports producer, a journalist, a winery owner, a construction company CEO, the CEO of Legaspi Co. and other real estate executives, and the international media coordinator for the World Meeting of Families in 2015 in Philadelphia and World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland.

Murdock said Mission to Launch gives an advantage to young Catholic professionals who are transitioning into the professional world amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“If your career has been affected by COVID, as a young Catholic professional, this is a place to go where there’s a community around people who are also transitioning to the public sector,” she said, adding that the program gives its members access to an intentional and tight-knit community of people embarking on similar journeys.

Murdock emphasized the importance of teaching people how to practically turn their dreams into reality.

“Our dreams are meant to be fulfilled,” she said. “You can dream a lot, but if you don’t have the foundational skill sets that we teach it’s going to be very hard to achieve that dream.”

She said her intention is not to encourage people to leave vocational ministry but to equip those who do with the skills they need to break into secular professions. But she also understands the importance of identifying God’s will in our life.

“We need to be able to identify what dreams God has placed on our hearts paired with the talents he has given us,” said Murdock, who sits on the boards of the Catholic Community Foundation of Los Angeles and the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders.

Mission to Launch encourages individuals to be authentically Catholic in the workplace in a way that will both serve God and serve what he is calling them to do, she explained.

“We are made in the image of God. We need to internalize that because of this, we are destined to do great things,” she added.