Living our faith is a decision we each make on a daily basis. For Rachel Perry, the decision to say “yes!” led her to her conversion to Catholicism, jobs that required selfless self-giving with the poorest and most destitute members of society, and today to her current role where she strives to work in witness for Christ through honoring God and the dignity of every person she encounters.
Rachel is on the YCP Austin board of directors, and is the Executive Assistant to the CEO of Envirocon Technologies, in addition to directing all administration, HR, and culture-related initiatives of the company. She hails from Corpus Christi, TX.
YCP Austin: Rachel, tell us about your journey coming to the Catholic faith.
Rachel: I grew up Protestant, so faith has always been a big part of my life and my family’s, but I started learning more about Catholicism when my brother married my sister-in-law, who is Catholic. My family members slowly started converting, it’s been amazing to see!
I started questioning my Protestant faith while I was a sophomore at UT, assisting with a middle school youth group. I found out that the leader of that group was involved in some pretty unethical things, so I decided to step away from the ministry and I started thinking about what the true path to Christ really was, apart from humans and our mistakes.
The next semester, I went to Italy to study abroad. While I was there, one of my friends from home was brutally murdered. I got to a very low point – I had a lot of questions for God, like why something like this could happen, and had a lot of anger and frustration. One of the great comforts I had during that time in Italy was the fact that I was in a very Catholic country. I was surrounded by a deep faith that permeated the culture and life around me.
When I got back to the states, I enrolled in Professor Budziszewski’s philosophy/religious studies/government course at UT, where I delved into Pope Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) and Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. I loved the course and delved into studying the documents. Faith and reason as well as the doctors of the Church really spoke to me, which we learned a lot about in that class. I enrolled in RCIA, and became a Catholic in May of 2008 around the time I graduated.
YCP Austin: Tell us about your professional journey, and what brought you to where you are today.
Rachel: I graduated from UT with a major in Government and Latin American Studies, focusing on Third World Development, so after college, I felt called to serve in roles where I could live my pro-life convictions, and advocate on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. I accepted a high-paying corporate job right away, but volunteering with the homeless during that time led me to quit that and pack everything up and move to Colorado to teach English to refugees from Africa and the Middle East. That question of corporate social responsibility really intrigued me and led me to make such a drastic change. While there, I met a great Catholic community, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, who I spent time volunteering with.
I then moved back to Texas where I spent the next 5 years working case management with the homeless in Austin, working in PR/Marketing for the Ronald McDonald House Charities in Corpus Christi, and as the Development Director for the Christian Outreach Foundation in East Austin. It was a lot of hard work, but I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to help people who truly needed it. Throughout that time, my prayer was, “Lord, please let me see people for who they are in light of who you’ve made them to be,” with the addicts, refugees, investors, executives, and all I encountered each day.
In 2015, the executive director and main donor of the Christian Outreach Foundation suddenly passed away, and I needed to find a new position. A friend recommended I explore becoming an EA (Executive Assistant) – it was something I had never really considered, but it’s turned out to be so fulfilling and I am able to live my faith in a corporate setting in so many unexpected ways. I am so grateful for where I am today, because I know that it’s what God’s calling me to do!
YCP Austin: How do you strive to live your faith and Work in Witness for Christ in the workplace?
Rachel: There’s a very connected way that I am able to practice my faith throughout my work and in the business. Some of the values that we have is always speaking truth in all we do, full transparency, and we strive to be excellent in our work ALL the time. I live by the Ray Dalio (from Bridgewater Associates) Principles: approach everything with transparency, truth, and honesty above all else; because that is the only way to change, evolve, and improve.
One of the ways that I live my faith is by being the Cultural Ambassador of my office; by honoring God with my whole being and encouraging a pro-life and pro-family culture at Envirocon Technologies. I do this through diet and exercise (I eat a gluten-free, all natural, organic diet and practice yoga with others at the office, because this is part of Prayerful Living and respecting the bodies that God gave us!), giving back to the community (RMHC donations, Share-A-Meal program, etc.), celebrating life milestones (like wedding anniversaries, new additions to the family, school graduations and work anniversaries) and encouraging healthy habits (yearly gym memberships, etc.)
YCP Austin: What advice can you give to YCP Austin members who are striving to Work in Witness for Christ?
Rachel: I’ve found that having structure in your life and prioritizing God helps you to leave everything at the cross, especially those things that you can’t control. Here are some of the things that I have found helpful (and continue to find helpful) throughout my faith journey:
- Starting the day off with prayer and scripture. I pray for each of my nieces and nephews by name!
- Being unapologetically Catholic. I’ve lived with and been around many atheists and agnostics, and have been very open about my Catholic faith. Leaving the door open to discussion, respectfully disagreeing with things that are contrary to my beliefs, and modelling my faith by my actions is the most powerful evangelization tool.
- Doing every little thing well. All the details add up! We can start small, like making our beds in the morning. All the little things are ways of sanctifying our work and offering it up to God.
- Prayerfully living. This means taking care of the bodies that God gave us. I try to concentrate on the whole person, not as a means to an end, but as respect to the inherent dignity of each person.
YCP Austin: Who are some of your role models?
Rachel: I have so many people to look to for examples, both professionally and among the saints! I look to my boss, Curtis, and Michelle Horine, the Executive Director at the Ronald McDonald House Charities, as great leaders and examples of professionalism; my sister-in-law Tammy, and my favorite saints, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (who was also a convert, and a visitor in Italy) and St. Mary Magdalene, who loved Christ deeply.
The only thing we bring with us to heaven are our relationships, so we should make them count. Live honestly, genuinely, and speak truth in love.