July 10 marked the launch of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s rejuvenated Theology on Tap program. Young Catholics throughout the Chicago area flocked to the Old Crow Smokehouse, 149 W. Kinzie St., in the city’s River North neighborhood to attend the program’s first event of the summer. “Hosting the event in the River North area after work was a smart idea because it makes it convenient for young professionals to attend. And by the large crowd in the room, it looks like that decision was a success,” said Olivia Silver, Holy Name Cathedral parishioner. Whether it was a result of the location, subject matter or speakers, a record 450 people congregated to hear about and discuss “What young adults have in common with Pope Francis.” Michael O’Loughlin, author of “The Tweetable Pope,” joined Father Thomas Rosica, English-language liaison to the Holy See Press Office, to dissect the leadership style and inclusivity of Pope Francis while enjoying complimentary food and drink. Theology on Tap is a 35-year-old Chicago archdiocesan tradition that has inspired more than 180 similar programs beyond the city, state and country. Though he had not attended a Theology on Tap event in Chicago before, Rosica said he recalled “reading about [the program] while in grad school and seeing pictures of Cardinal Bernardin sitting on a lawn, speaking with parishioners.” This year, the archdiocese implemented several changes to the program. Previously, it was the responsibility of individual parishes to organize their own Theology on Tap events. Going forward, however, TOT will be planned and operated by regional teams consisting of several parishes. The program costs will also be shared across the parishes. It is hoped that this change will allow more events to be held for larger groups of people who were otherwise unlikely to interact. In addition to broadening the reach of these events, different themes have been assigned to each of them in order to accommodate the varying levels of involvement of the Catholics attending. Colleen Wade of St. Teresa of Avila Parish said that “people are looking for many different things from these events” and that separating them according to experience “filters them down so that each person gets the most they can out of attending.” She believes that service is an integral part of living out her faith and that Theology on Tap is the way to ease skeptical Catholics into parish or community involvement. Wade said she was grateful for having decided to attend the July 10 kickoff because she felt her “eyes were opened to the magnitude of the Chicago Catholic community. I had no idea that there were so many events organized for young Catholics in Chicago.” Wade said she and her fiancé plan to attend future Theology on Tap events. The summer 2017 revamp of Theology on Tap is not only welcomed by parishioners, but also by members of the clergy. Father Timothy Monahan, formerly of Mary, Seat of Wisdom Parish in Park Ridge and now archdiocesan vocations director, said the new Theology on Tap model follows what Pope Francis regularly teaches. “Francis is constantly telling us to go out, reach the people and listen to their stories. Theology on Tap is us responding to that call by getting out of the parish and meeting the people where they’re going to be anyway,” Monahan said. “I see this as a bridge. Many people see announcements for events in the parish and shy away. But then they see this event and find it easier to go to because it’s outside of the church building. It allows them to gain the initial comfort they needed so they can seize the next parish event they come across.” Monahan said the new “learn, grow, serve” focus of Theology on Tap is “the logical next step in listening to parishioners and meeting them where they are.” The Theology on Tap relaunch event concluded with a question-and-answer session with the speakers. Addressing the concerns the young people expressed about the current political climate in the United States, Rosica, who is director of Canada’s Salt and Light Media, urged them to maintain faith in the political system and persist in stirring up the next generation of politicians. He encouraged the young people to listen to the words of Pope Francis. Listening is a prerequisite of being heard, and Francis aims to listen to the church as much as he aims to teach the church to listen, Rosica said. For more information on Theology on Tap visit totchicago.org.