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December 15, 2006     578 Words

Theology-on-Tap: Reaching Out to Young-Adult Catholics

CINCINNATI—According to a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, only 22 percent of college-age Catholics attends weekly Mass. That void in the pews—and in the Church as a whole—has been a problem that Father John Cusick has been fighting for more than 25 years. In 1981 he co-founded Theology-on-Tap—a national program that reaches young-adult Catholics in bars and on parish grounds. Theology-on-Tap succeeds in bringing religion to college-age and 20-something Catholics.

This grassroots initiative, its cofounder and three young-adult participants are the subjects of the January cover story in St. Anthony Messenger, entitled “Theology-on-Tap: Quenching a Spiritual Thirst,” by Assistant Editor Christopher Heffron. After December 20, the article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.

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, Illinois. Originally designed to be a six-week program, Theology-on-Tap grew quickly. On the first night, 200 people showed up at St. James Parish in Arlington Heights. Six weeks later, there were over 400.

The formula is simple. Each session tackles a different topic and a question-and-answer session follows. Meetings can be weekly or monthly, sometimes arranged into a series with breaks in between. And it’s growing: Dioceses in approximately 44 states offer the Theology-on-Tap series for both married and single people.

Father John Cusick believes it is needed more now than ever before. “What gets me nervous is that every generation appears to be more secular than the generation ahead of them. And that’s sort of alarming,” he says. “Everybody keeps saying, ‘The young adults are the future of the Church.’ No, they’re not. They are the present Church.”

In Dayton, Ohio, organizers Rachel Sacksteder and John Sparks have been enriched by participating in the program. “It’s a great way to meet other people who want to go deeper into their faith,” Rachel says. “That was a big motivation for me. I wanted to find a community.”

John, too, felt a need to connect with people his own age, as well as to gain a deeper understanding of his Catholic faith. “The topics discussed are really interesting and fascinating. I always go back and reflect on it and think about how I need to integrate this into my life,” he says.

Theresa Ruthman, a Theology-on-Tap organizer in Covington, Kentucky, feels that people in her generation are seeking something deeper in their lives that careers can’t provide. “I think there are more and more young adults who are searching for authenticity, truth and fulfillment and they haven’t found it in their jobs.”

Theology-on-Tap has proven to be a program with considerable reach. In Chicago last summer, more than 40 parishes hosted Theology-on-Tap sessions simultaneously. Do the math: Forty places hosting the series for four weeks equals 160 opportunities for young Catholics to reconnect with their faith.

Theresa has hope that the program will deepen the faith of many in her generation. “I’m definitely hopeful,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of hope for our generation. We are finding the truth and we’re not going to let it go.”

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