This reflection can be found in the publication "Young Adults Journey with God & Faith" in the Voices of Hope series with the Society of Helpers.
“God became one of us so that we may become more like God.” Growing up, this quote from St. Athanasius of Alexandria always pointed me to ways of finding hope, especially in times when there was plenty of reason to lose hope. Living an authentic Catholic faith hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies, but it’s not always supposed to be. The Apostle Peter, Jesus’ right hand, was the best among the Apostles and models for us that, even in moments when we doubt or even deny Jesus, we can always turn back and follow Jesus again. Sometimes, this can be scary. Life can give us plenty of reasons to find an easier way than faith to guide us, but it is our hope that leads us to the love of Christ and how that love becomes alive in our daily decisions.
The love of God has had many faces on my journey. Starting with my moms, who embody God for me, adopted me, chose me, just as God chose me. The lessons they taught me, the way they put forward their faith as a guide in their actions was something that rooted faith in me. It wasn’t always through going to church, but the constant return to the Gospel that always gave me such hope. As I got older and my family started to fall away from the church for very just reasons, specifically parish life, I had fears that I would lose my way, but I kept my hope in many things and, as my interest in studying theology grew, I turned to the Word of God. A fun fact: the phrase, “Do not be afraid” is written in the Bible 365 times. For me, especially after discovering this, it became a daily reminder from God to live fearless and not just to trust in God’s mysterious ways, but to be aware and be in touch through discernment. That was a daily choice, and it still is. Every day, I wake up and have hope in God through my relationships with family and friends.
My relationship with the Church has been complicated. Due to my strong advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, women’s rights and ordination, and tensions with the idea of not only existing within but serving in a patriarchal hierarchy that has often resulted in alienating those who I love, I often found myself clashing with my peers, teachers, clergy, and others who hold stronger to the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church without any considerations for reform. I also found in the Church, however, many friends, mentors, clergy, and, eventually, my religious community (The Order of St. Benedict), who had common elements on their journey that allowed for mutual accompaniment. In the same vein, I also learned the importance of the universal call to accompaniment of my sisters, brothers, and siblings in Christ who don’t share my views and that, though our approaches may be different, we are to work together for the common good.
My parish growing up starts its mission statement with “All are welcome.” In the Body of Christ, we are all welcome because we, though different, form one body together. This is something I have held onto and will never let go of. That welcoming, that togetherness in Christ, is faith because though we do not all worship the same, have the same theological approach, or follow the same vocational calling, we are all bound to each other by the love of Christ, the same love that we are supposed to embody for others so that they, too, might have hope in a world that severely needs something to believe in, something to place our hope in. Every day, I strive to give hope to anyone whose path I cross.
Dear UCYM Community,
Change is inevitable and, while not always all easy, I want to take this opportunity to update you on some shifts in our staff.
Andrea Infante-Martinez has been appointed the new Executive Director of Puerta Abierta Preschool in Evanston! This incredibly exciting and we are so proud of Andrea's accomplishments. Andrea will transition out of her role with us June 30th. Andrea has served in the capacity of Interim Director for UCYM since December and has been helping keep all of the pieces together from administration to ministry. We wish Andrea well!
Josue Ortiz has been appointed Deputy Director of Digital Strategy for the City of Chicago! Josue is a seasoned and incredibly talented digital media professional. Josue has been serving as our Associate Director of Digital Engagement and is responsible for the wonderful videos and much of the professional photography UCYM produces. We wish Josue well!
Chris Radmacher has been accepted into a grad school program for teaching through Dominican University where they will be teaching in their own classroom! Chris joined us just a short time ago as our Coordinator of Young Adult Life and has been instrumental in helping us create a solid base for ministry with young adults. We wish Chris well!
We are very fortunate in that all three of these wonderful people will be staying on as volunteers!
Malakai (Kai) Chuckas was hired in March as our Coordinator of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and has accepted a promotion to Associate Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Kai joined our team to primarily work on the Anti-Racism Youth Pilot program, but has become invaluable in also helping us reframe our outreach and ministry so that it is inclusive, which is really important to us and to young people as the Church continues to seek a connection today. Kai will oversee a broader scope related to topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Vanessa Barajas was hired in January as our Coordinator of Young Adult Engagement. Vanessa has worked hard on making our podcast a big success! Vanessa has accepted a promotion to Associate Director of Young Adult Engagement. Vanessa will be the team leader for young adult ministry and help oversee the wider scope of ministry with young adults.
Katia Silva was hired in December as our Associate Director of Marketing & Communications and volunteered in that capacity since fall of 2021. Katia has worked tirelessly to create a strategy and plan for UCYM's marketing and communications for the community and parishes. Katia has accepted a promotion to Associate Director of Digital Engagement. In her new role, Katia will help oversee the whole scope of digital media: social media, electronic communications, and paper publications.
Mirka Gallo was rehired in March after leaving for a bit as our Coordinator of Administrative Support. Mirka has worked hard to support the staff with administrative tasks not related to ministry so that ministry staff do not become overwhelmed. Mirka has accepted a promotion to Manager of Administrative Support to support the entire scope of administrative work.
New Staff Members
Please join us in welcoming Mireya Dominguez to our staff as the Senior Coordinator of Quinceañera Ministry! Mireya is a seasoned non-profit professional and volunteers with many non-profit organizations in the area. Mireya is also a catechist assistant in the Religious Education program at St. Nicholas Parish. Mireya will be taking on leadership of the Quinceañera Ministry, which provides faith formation and accompaniment to over 50 young women a year.
I want to especially thank our outgoing staff. They are all moving on to incredibly impressive next chapters and I will, again, say we are lucky they are staying on as volunteers.
Please keep us in prayer as we plan for our new year, which begins July 1st. Please be assured of our prayers as well. More change are coming and we are working hard to continue being a ministry that is available to all young people!
James Holzhauer-Chuckas, ObSB
p.s. see our leadership opportunities page for new volunteer and paid staff opportunities. Come join us!
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. United Catholic Youth Ministries stands in solidarity with our transgender siblings and, especially on this day, we affirm that we see you and we love you! In a Theology on Tap talk, (then) Archbishop Wilton Gregory addressed the question of LGBTQIA+ persons and their participation in the church and he said, "You belong to the heart of this Church. There is nothing that you may do, may say, that will rip you from the heart of this Church." Today, around the world, we recognize your human dignity and want to remind you that you do belong to the heart of our ministry.
We offer this prayer (adapted by James Holzhauer-Chuckas, ObSB):
God of life and love that resides within and among us, we enter this moment with all that we are, with an open heart, and with a love for justice.
We hold in love and prayer all transgender people, so many of whom live under the weight of violence, fear, and intolerance.
We hold in love and prayer all the ways that transgender people have survived and thrived in a hostile world.
We hold in love and prayer all who recognize the significance of gender justice for all people.
We pray for the dawn of a new day when the very humanity of trans people is no longer called into question or ignored.
We pray that physical, emotional, and spiritual violence will come to an end.
We pray that a spirit of compassion and care will fill us to overflowing, that we may have the capacity to listen, learn, and grow not only in our awareness but also in our willingness to act.
We pray for teachers, spiritual leaders, social workers, lawyers, and all people who heed the call to support Trans liberation, Trans leadership, and Trans visibility. May they ultimately lean into the Light of truth and justice, offering hope to Trans and gender nonconforming youth and adults.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.
UCYM Covid-19 Guidelines
As of February 11, 2022
Mask Mandate (from the Archdiocese of Chicago)
In light of the recent decision by City of Chicago officials to lift the city’s mask mandate on February 28, and the relaxation of COVID mitigations in Oak Park and Evanston, all archdiocesan parishes, churches, schools and offices, will transition to mask-optional environments on February 28.
As our parishes and schools transition to mask-optional, please note the following:
Vaccination is no longer required for program participation, however, we strongly encourage everyone to be vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19, the flu, and all other preventable illness.
All programming returns to normal schedule.
Food During Programs
Food and drink during programs has been fully reinstated.
UCYM Center and Office Operations
The UCYM Office return to normal operations and is open to the public.
If you have any questions, please direct them to our Covid-19 Task Force at email@example.com. We thank you in advance for your cooperation as we seek to keep everyone safe and healthy. We will keep you in prayer and we hope you keep us in prayer as well.
Welcoming the new year!
We are very excited to be launching a number of new ministries, programs, and resources in the new year! More information will be available in the coming weeks.
Children’s Youth Group (1st-3rd Grade)
LGBTQIA+ Youth Group
Hispanic/Latinx Youth Group
Interfaith Youth Group
Youth Service Club
Parent Group – Spanish
Parent Group - English
College Outreach Ministry
20s &30s Young Adult Group
In-Person Quinceañera Formation
We hope in your new year's resolutions you will consider getting involved with UCYM!
We are happy to introduce two new members of the UCYM Team: Andrea Martinez (left) and Katia Silva (right)!
Andrea will be assisting the young adult ministry team with bilingual communications, events, and projects. Andrea has been part of youth and young adult ministry for a long time as a youth minister and mentor, leader of the young adult council, and part of the UCYM Board. She brings a passion for the Evanston Catholic community, especially its young adults. Andrea is the assistant director of Puerta Abierta, which is a full Spanish immersion preschool in Evanston. She is also the office support specialist at St. Nicholas Parish.
Katia will be co-leading the social media team with Mirka Gallo and focusing on communication strategies. Katia has been part of UCYM retreat teams for the last couples years and is a graduate of DePaul University. Katia is the program manager at Junior Achievement of Chicago.
Nos complace presentar a dos nuevos miembros del equipo de UCYM: Andrea Martinez (izquierda) y Katia Silva (derecha).
Andrea asistirá al equipo del ministerio de jóvenes adultos con comunicaciones, eventos y proyectos bilingües. Andrea ha sido parte del ministerio de jóvenes y adultos jóvenes durante mucho tiempo como ministra de jóvenes y mentora, líder del consejo de jóvenes adultos y parte de la Junta de UCYM. Aporta pasión por la comunidad católica de Evanston, especialmente por sus adultos jóvenes. Andrea es la subdirectora de Puerta Abierta, que es un preescolar de inmersión total en español en Evanston. También es la especialista en apoyo de la oficina en la parroquia de St. Nicholas.
Katia codirigirá el equipo de redes sociales con Mirka Gallo y se centrará en las estrategias de comunicación. Katia ha sido parte de los equipos de retiro de UCYM durante los últimos años de parejas y se graduó de la Universidad DePaul. Katia es la directora de programas de Junior Achievement of Chicago.
We want to wish all of our youth and young adults from our communities a great school year!! We believe in you and see your efforts. You got this and we are behind you in whatever you need!
¡Queremos desearles a todos nuestros jóvenes y jóvenes adultos de nuestras comunidades un gran año escolar! Creemos en ti y vemos tus esfuerzos. ¡Tienes esto y te apoyamos en todo lo que necesites!