Friday, January 26, 2007

Tapping Gold

A great article from St Anthony Messenger's floating around on the church's most successful outreach to young people, and one of its most worthwhile initiatives on the broad scale: the "Theology on Tap" barroom chats.
Each of them shares a common objective: to celebrate faith, to find fellowship in others and to explore the riches of the Catholic tradition. No longer satisfied with going through the motions of Mass, many young Catholics across the country gather to celebrate and invigorate. Theology-on-Tap quenches two thirsts at once.

Rachel Sacksteder, 34, craved community when she moved back to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, after spending more than two years working at a Honduran orphanage. She found it in Theology-on-Tap.

“It was a great way to meet other people who would want to go deeper into their faith,” she said. “That was a big motivation for me. I wanted to find a community. I wanted people who could help me get to heaven, outside of my family.”

Sacksteder is not alone. Thousands of young Catholics have harbored a similar wish. Dioceses in approximately 44 states offer the Theology-on-Tap series for both married and single people. Sessions can be weekly or monthly, sometimes arranged into a series with breaks in between.

And it’s spreading globally: Six other countries – Canada, Italy (Rome), Taiwan, the Philippines, Ireland and Hong Kong – offer the series. The formula is simple and effective. Each session tackles a different topic and is usually spearheaded by one or two speakers. A question-and-answer session follows.

Topics vary. In Washington, D.C., one assembly covered “Anger Management: Peace Through Forgiveness.” In New York City they addressed intimacy with “Sex and the City: The Truth About Men, Women and What God Really Intended.” And in Colorado it was “Who’s Your Daddy? Meeting My Real Father.”

Father John Cusick, a resident at Old St. Patrick’s Parish near Chicago’s Loop and director of Young Adult Ministry for the archdiocese, co-founded the series with Father Jack Wall in the summer of 1981 in Arlington Heights, Ill.

Originally designed to be a six-week summer program for young-adult Catholics, Theology-on-Tap grew rather quickly. On the first night, 200 people showed up at St. James Parish in Arlington Heights. Six weeks later, there were more than 400.

The following year, four additional parishes were added to accommodate the growing number of faith-hungry, college-age Catholics. Father Cusick estimated that somewhere between 130 and 150 parishes in Chicago have participated in the program at some time. He believes it is needed more now than ever before.

“What gets me nervous is that every generation appears to be more secular than the same age group one generation ahead of them. And that’s sort of alarming,” he said. “Everybody keeps saying, ‘The young adults are the future of the church.’ No, they’re not. They are the present church.” ...

Father Cusick has sage words for young Catholics who find they are drifting from their faith. “Just stay on the reservation because when you get older, you’re going to need this stuff.”
I've always been impressed with what I've seen at ToTs, and gotta figure out quickly how to add productively to the tradition; my first turn at the mic comes on 9 March in Denver, and other gigs are being arranged.