NextGen Young Adult gathering at St. Michael in Old Town.
NextGen Young Adult gathering at St. Michael in Old Town.

The Next-Generation Is Here

by Michael Thien Hoang, C.Ss.R.

The NextGen young adults in Old Town, Chicago have been busy the past six months. St. Michael in Old Town hosts a monthly Adult Mass tailored to young adults that offers them an opportunity to pray and worship together with faith-filled, like-minded peers. The church is a big building, but the young adults prefer intimacy so they gather up close and personal in the front pews and sit together for liturgy.

I lead the monthly Masses and young adult activities, but when they are available, Provincial Superior Kevin Zubel and Provincial Vicar Aaron Meszaros are invited to celebrate or concelebrate Masses and participate in gatherings to provide a variance of voices and a strong Redemptorist presence.

St. Michael in Old Town also engages in Faith on Fire, a catechetical program geared toward sparking interest and engagement with Scripture. Our last six months have focused on the letters of St. Paul, and we are now focusing on the readings of the week to prepare young adults to engage with the Sunday Mass more readily, in particular the homily. Our speaker and presenter is Kevin Pease, a biblical scholar at Loyola’s Institute for Scripture Studies in Chicago.

Service is a major aspect of young adult ministry. NextGen young adults participate in Uncle Pete’s Ministry every month, making sandwiches for the homeless of Old Town and the neighboring areas. We make 600 sandwiches (enough for 300 meals), and all monies are used for purchasing the food that goes directly to the needy that same day. Uncle Pete’s is an amazingly popular ministry among young adults here, and we’ve gone over capacity for several months in terms of people registering. Other service-oriented young adult activities include: collaborating with Kolbe House, where young adults write Easter cards to prisoners; helping setup homes for migrants; and assisting with other parish-related needs.

Welcome and inclusivity – regardless of race, gender, creed or sexual orientation – is important to NextGen young adults. Immediately after our last Mass celebrated by Fr. Kevin, we hosted a presentation and discussion led by Angelina Rossi, Co-Director of the Archdiocese of Chicago Gay & Lesbian Organization (AGLO). Angelina shared a heartfelt reflection on the experience of queer Catholics in the Church, addressing even Pope Francis’ recent announcement allowing for the blessing of people in irregular relationships. The young adults were very engaged and had many questions. They expressed gratitude that St. Mike’s welcomes in loving acceptance all people, just as our God embraces all.

Of course, food and drink are a necessity at every NextGen gathering. Clergy and staff members at St. Mike’s decided to invite Sr. MaryAnn McKeogh and Sr. Michael Marie Franzak, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, to give reflections after the homily during weekend Masses during the last two months. The response was amazing for the whole parish, but in particular the young adults. This bold move was made to address the desire among young adults to see the voices of women heard and honoredin the Church.

Much is in the works, but among them will be hosting Theology on Tap, a huge event in Chicago. I have already seen so much blessing and fruit in young adult ministry since my arrival in September of 2023 – and can’t wait to see what’s next!