Local Youth & young adult

The ‘news guy’ relishes his role

Jack Figge takes photos at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023. The St. Louis native started as a freelance writer for The Leaven during the second semester of his freshman year at Benedictine College in Atchison. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Moira Cullings

ATCHISON — Inside Jack Figge’s dorm room at Benedictine College here, the Aug. 25, 2023, issue of The Leaven proudly hangs on the wall.

The special World Youth Day issue is the culmination of Figge’s reporting on the Lisbon, Portugal, event that brought together millions of young Catholics from around the world.

“I told my mom right before I left, ‘I think World Youth Day will be my favorite reporting experience,’” said Figge.

And he was right.

“Because I was able to be an embedded reporter,” he said, “I lived the experience of World Youth Day. I wasn’t just there as a journalist. I was also there as a pilgrim.”

In just his sophomore year at Benedictine, Figge never expected to travel across the world as a Catholic journalist.

“So many incredible doors [have opened] that I’ll forever be grateful for,” he said.

Embracing opportunities

The St. Louis native started as a freelance writer for The Leaven during the second semester of his freshman year.

Since then, he’s covered several archdiocesan events and gained additional experience with other Catholic news outlets.

“Whatever doors open, it’s all because of God,” said Figge. “He’s trying to use my gifts to tell other people’s stories.

“I always try to keep that in mind.”

Jack Figge and Leaven photographer Jay Soldner work from the media center at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, to file stories from the event back to staff in Kansas City, Kansas.

Originally interested in journalism, Figge switched his major to political science and theology to broaden his studies.

His first assignment for The Leaven was reporting on the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) SEEK conference in January 2023.

“I got the paper in my hand,” he said, “and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. That’s my work printed in a major publication that goes to actual people and not just at my school.’

“I was so grateful to do that first SEEK article. And all the opportunities that The Leaven has given me since have been incredible.”

With an open mind, Figge makes a point to say “yes” to each assignment that comes his way.

“Because you never know where they’re going to take you,” he said, “and you never know who you’re going to meet through them.”

Situations like World Youth Day have helped him grow as a journalist.

“It’s pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone and learn how to go that extra mile for the story,” he said.

It’s also taught him “how to embrace uncomfortable situations.”

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Figge, “so it forces you to trust that the interview will turn out well.

“It [might be] awkward, but that’s part of the fun.”

Figge said he’s in a unique position to report on Catholic news from his perspective as a young adult.

It’s something his friends admire.

“I’ve become known as the ‘news guy,’” said Figge. “If they have questions about what’s going on with church politics or stuff, they’ll come ask me.

“For the most part, they just think it’s super cool.”

Figge has dreams of working for a national Catholic media outlet after college and eventually becoming an editor, but he’s open to wherever God leads him.

For now, he’s excited to continue capturing stories for The Leaven and take on any other opportunities that come knocking.

“It opens so many doors,” he said, “and you meet so many incredible people and have these deep conversations that you normally wouldn’t get to have as a college student.

“I think journalism has allowed me to have a [fuller] college experience because it has exposed me to so much more and opened so many doors for me.”

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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