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Revisiting the Vision of a Young Adult Community House

An architectural concept for a young adult lay community

It is a good day because today, after years of trying to bring together the many desires on my heart, I strongly believe I finally figured out what God is calling me to do. In recent years, I felt God calling me to get involved in real estate, but I didn't know why at first. Now I believe I finally do.

I’ve devoted the better part of my life to spreading the Catholic faith through publications and young adult ministries. This has helped me notice how my generation is a generation of rambling spirits. We are wandering, looking for our hiraeth. We just need a community that understands this search and keeps its beacon lit to help guide the way. The Church can provide that beacon, and it can provide the place, a place built for young adults where they can discern God’s will for their lives. 

When I was in my twenties, there were a few places like this. I visited them as often as I could. One of them was St. Paul’s House in northern Philadelphia. The house was a former convent that was being rented out to a bunch of guys. They hosted Thursday evening socials with Mass, confession, and dinner. There was always at least one priest, religious sister or brother present. This environment not only helped young people find God’s will for them through wholesome conversations. It was also a place where they could form strong friendships and get involved in the local community. 

Whenever these community houses sprung up though, they only lasted for at most a few years. That’s just the nature of young adult life these days. We live in chapters until we find our vocation, and new chapters often mean moving to new places. My proposal is to form different kinds of chapters for young adults: chapter houses that cater to their need for community during the most confusing time of their lives. 

The young people in these communities would live out the Catholic faith through their daily lifestyle. The desire to make such a community happen in a sustainable way is a desire that has been on my heart for about 15 years. Now is the time to make it happen.

There are two other essential components for such a community. It needs to help the local community by resurrecting forgotten properties, like St. Paul’s House did for the former convent they converted. We don’t want to be land grabbers who are just trying to buy up real estate for our own purposes. We want to propose a vision by bringing zombie properties back to life. Doing this will itself be a testimony to the resurrective power of the gospel.

Second, the community has to be self-sustainable. Monasteries and convents---for the centuries when they were prevalent---understood this, and for the most part they still do. They often produce beer, bread, or some other product or offer a practical service to the local community to sustain themselves. A lay religious community should be no different. We can’t rely on the outside community more than we contribute to it. The lay community house needs to have its own garden, shop, or some source of income that directly helps the local area. 

This is the way we rebuild Catholic culture in an attractive way. People will come to see the positive contribution the Catholic Church can have in their hometowns, if this idea for discernment houses takes off. I will discuss further details about the structure and way of life these young adult communities should have in a future post.

For now, I want to focus my attention on acquiring a distressed property in my hometown of Manahawkin, NJ. to serve as the location of the first young adult community house. It is in a dire situation with liens the owner cannot pay. As a member of the Church, I am reaching out to the Body of Christ—and all people of good will—asking for help in raising the funds we need to acquire this property to make this first young adult community house a reality.

When I first entered real estate, I honestly didn't see the connection between this old desire of mine and the real estate business. Now I see how I had to learn the ins and outs of real estate before I could make the moves I needed to make. That's just the way God's will works though. He only reveals our next step, so we don't get the wrong idea and think his will was our idea.

This is crazy, I know. I have only have a vague idea about how we’re going to make this happen, but for some reason this desire hasn’t left me after all these years. I believe it is because it is a serious need in the Church. The young adult generation needs a beacon to help direct them in the rough waters of modernity. I believe future generations of young adults will need it too. These community houses can be that beacon, a place of mutual support where they can discern God’s will in the most transitional---and often most tumultuous---period of their lives.

Featured image generated by prompts given to Midjourney


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