Thriving young adult event makes parish vital

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Thriving young adult event makes parish vital

Young adults meet at a Theology on Tap Session at St. Clement Parish, 642 W. Deming Place on July 26. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Volunteer Laura Sexauer talks with a friend during Theology on Tap. Volunteers wore bright pink T-shirts so they are easily identifiable to newcomers. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Christina Bax, pastoral associate and director of evangelization for St. Clement Parish, speaks with Liam during the social part of the event. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Jamaica McCarthy stirs the salad dressing while serving himself. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Theology on Tap takes place at various parishes around the Archdiocese of Chicago each summer, but the program geared toward young adults is perhaps most successful at St. Clement Parish, 642 W. Deming Place.

Theology on Tap builds friendships, business relationships and sometimes marriages.

“I’ve met some of my best friends in the parish here,” said Christina Bax, the parish’s pastoral associate and director of evangelization. “It’s really neat to see the way it brings people together and forms bonds based around our faith.”

Theology on Tap started in Chicago in the early 1980s through the work of Fathers John Cusick and Jack Wall at Old St. Patrick’s Parish. The program is set up as a speaker series in relaxed settings with drinks and food and is aimed at young adult Catholics in their 20s and 30s. Its simple format has been replicated around the country.

St. Clement hosts the series on summer evenings and uses its outdoor space for social time before the speaker begins. The events average about 200 attendees each night.

“Theology on Tap definitely benefits our St. Clement Parish community. It brings in a new set of parishioners as well as parish leaders. We have young adults who might attend one year. The next summer they volunteer and the next thing they want to be involved in is the young adult board or maybe they sign up for a liturgical ministry,” Bax said.

During the events the parish has information tables advertising various ministries people can volunteer for.

Unique to the St. Clement program is the number of volunteers it has. Around 40 young adults help at each event and are easily recognizable by their matching Tshirts. While people volunteer for tasks such as set up, clean up, registration and hospitality, Bax said the parish spends “very intentional time” before the series talking to all its volunteers about welcome and hospitality.

“We want this event to not only be a chance for people to connect with one another and their faith but also to have a tangible experience of the body of Christ, of our church community as that body of Christ,” she said.

They want to make sure that everyone who comes to the event feels welcome and wants to return, said Karol Grzesiak, a member of the parish’s Theology on Tap board who has been volunteering for four years.

Since Chicago is a transient city and the Lincoln Park community sees many young people moving in and out, the Theology on Tap volunteers focus on the hospitality so that attendees can become engaged with the parish community quickly. The group of people who attend varies from practicing Catholics to some non-Catholics along with those who may have fallen away from the church but hear about the event and are intrigued.

“I hope our Theology on Taps give our people a chance to think about whatever the topic is and integrate it with their lives,” Grzesiak said.

Chad Hansen started coming to St. Clement’s Theology on Tap events about four years ago. He was told volunteering for the event was the best way to get involved and meet people in the parish and it was true.

“It’s probably one of the better volunteer opportunities at the parish,” Hansen said. “It’s a fun night.”


  • theology
  • theology on tap
  • youth ministry
  • st. clement
  • lincoln park

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