by Moira Cullings
Topeka — The Blue Moose restaurant in Topeka was buzzing with energy the night of Feb. 18.
On top of the regular Thursday night crowd was a room full of some 40 young adult Catholics gathered to share their faith through conversation, food and fellowship.
The group is known as Credo, and its mission is to bring together young adults between the ages of 21 to 40 for events that will help them grow together in a community of faith.
“Topeka Catholic young adults were being starved of community and fellowship with enthusiastic and eager peers,” said Joe Terick, one of the group’s main organizers.
“I truly believe this is an ‘If you build it, they will come’ opportunity.”
A project in the making
The Topeka group started about a year ago and has since grown rapidly.
“Even as recently as six to eight months ago, when there would be events, there would only be maybe a dozen people [in attendance],” said Father Jaime Zarse, associate pastor of Christ the King Church in Topeka and an active Credo member.
“But in the last six months, it’s gone from 12 or 15 people coming to an event to about 50,” he continued.
The group’s success is in part due to its strong leadership, which works tirelessly to make the program one that young adults are excited about.
“We’re sitting on a winning lottery ticket with [Terick],” said Father Zarse. “And there’s a great team supporting him.”
The young adults who participate in Credo agree.
“[The leaders] really believe in what they’re doing,” said Christ the King parishioner Brooke Ubelaker, “and it’s hard not to get excited when you’re around people like that, who are so invested in this group.”
“I feel as though once a person attends one event, that enthusiasm just kind of rubs off on you,” she added.
Terick has gone so far as to purchase a house to serve as a meeting place for the group’s various events.
“As Credo was growing, we had nowhere to meet on a regular basis,” said Terick. “Consistency is critical to maintain buy-in from all the new people interested in the ministry.”
The investment is proving well worth it, as it has opened doors to additional activities each week.
What the program offers
On Tuesdays, the Credo house hosts a Bible study, which rotates every other week between the men and the women. The group also meets each Sunday after the 9 a.m. Christ the King Mass for brunch. All interested young adults are invited to attend, regardless of parish.
“We want to make it about growing an intentional young adult Catholic culture and community in Topeka across each of the parishes,” said Father Zarse, “because every parish needs young adult Catholics.”
The group’s big event occurs on the third Thursday of each month. It is very similar to a Theology on Tap event, where participants gather at the Blue Moose, enjoy dinner and drinks and listen to a talk from the evening’s guest speaker.
The Feb. 18 event featured Father Nick Blaha, chaplain of the Didde Catholic Campus Center of Emporia State University.
Father Blaha’s talk highlighted the true meaning of the Year of Mercy and how it applies to everyday life.
“I think it’s important in this Year of Mercy, a year in which the treasury of the church’s merits has been thrown wide open for all who seek, that we get right what we’re talking about,” he said.
“What are we talking about? Do we know what we’re talking about when we say mercy? What does it mean?” he asked.
“We need to know what it is and be able to make it the center of what we reflect on as a church here in this time,” he later continued.
To illustrate his points, Father Blaha referenced “Tremendous Trifles” by G.K. Chesterton, “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo and the story of Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke.
Ubelaker said she found Father Blaha’s talk very inspiring.
“He is also an entertaining speaker, so it was easy to be captivated by his message,” she said.
The speakers vary each time, but each message they discuss is selected to resonate with young adults.
Building a foundation of community
It can be difficult for young adults to find their niche, but programs like Credo give people a welcoming opportunity to do just that.
“[It’s] a great way to meet new people you may not have met otherwise,” said Ubelaker.
“And knowing everyone is connected by the Catholic faith,” she continued, “it’s like you’ve got this unspoken bond that breaks down barriers and makes people feel comfortable coming out of their shell and opening up to real, personal conversations.”
Now that the groundwork has been laid for Credo in Topeka, Terick looks on to a hopeful future for this program.
“Topeka is only so big — there are only so many young adults, there is only so much room at my house,” said Terick. “However, from the fruit that I’ve seen in the last 10 months, this will become bigger than anything we had hoped for.
“In three to five years, Credo will be a substantial presence in Topeka and be known to other large towns as a model to follow.”