Former convent becomes housing for young adults

Upper Room Ministry Center at St. Jude Church offers residence and meeting space

GREEN BAY — Becky VanKauwenberg and Mike Casey of the faith formation staff of the Quad Parishes of Green Bay (Annunciation, St. Joseph, St. Jude and St. Patrick) were not expecting such a busy summer, but the long hours of cleaning, removing carpet and painting were worth the end result.

The Upper Room Ministry Center, located on the St. Jude property, 1423 Kellogg St., is now open for ministry and to young adults who wish to live in community.

Mike Casey, top right, faith formation staff member at the Quad Parishes of Green Bay, is pictured with young adults who are part of part of the Upper Room Ministry Center, located at St. Jude Church in Green Bay. Also pictured are Chelsea Verges, front left, Mackenzie Giltner, Rachel Denissen and Joe Norman. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“This spring, we talked to Fr. Don (Everts, pastor) about this building,” said VanKauwenberg, faith formation administrator and high school faith formation coordinator. “It was a convent, then the rectory, then parish offices and then rented by nonprofits. The past year, it was vacant. We suggested to Fr. Don that we use this as a hub for young adult ministry on the west side of Green Bay.”

A year ago, Green Bay Catholic Young Adults was formed by Casey, who coordinates middle school and young adult ministry. In addition to the Quad Parishes, the group also receives some support from St. Agnes Parish, Green Bay, and Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Ashwaubenon. Between 20 and 30 young adults attended a kickoff cookout last fall and the group had approximately 15 core members throughout the year.

“There was a gap in the program after confirmation,” said VanKauwenberg. “We knew there was a need for the next level, the next step.”

A consensus workshop invited members to be a part of planning for the group, including goals and values. Among the spiritual gatherings for the young adults was a Lenten Bible study. Casey led the first couple sessions, but members soon volunteered to serve as leaders.

“Young adults value authenticity more than anything else,” said Casey. “To be free to feel what you are feeling and to say what you are thinking and not be judged for it; to be able to have a discussion about it, is something the young adults I have worked with gravitate towards.”

The Green Bay Catholic Young Adults did not meet in the summer, but will resume in September. A grand opening of the Upper Room and an event similar to last year’s cookout are being planned

The building features three separate entrances to provide privacy and security. Men will live on the first floor and women on the second. Space on the west side of the building is designed as a programming area, and will also serve as a nursery on Sunday mornings, coordinated by Mindy Wegner of the Quad parishes staff.

“(Residents) are going to be invited to be a part of the Catholic young adult group,” said Casey. “It’s not going to be a requirement. I believe that, when they move in and start living together and experiencing some of the programming, that it will be a natural transition into the group.

“Our faith formation office is at St. Joseph, so we held some meetings there. We also met at Nativity because we have a couple members there. It’s nice that we are now going to have a centralized base for the group. Obviously, it’s not exclusive, but we widen the possibility of programming that we can do. Not only do we have a place here, but we are by the church. If we want to set up for adoration, we can just walk over to the church.”

“There will be opportunities for community meals, for faith enrichment, opportunities for service,” said VanKauwenberg. “We look at this residential piece as part of our young adult ministry, not something separate.

“We can also connect to the diocese offerings for young adults. It would be nice to host a (diocesan) event.”

In addition to bedrooms — four on the first floor and eight on the second — the residential areas feature shared kitchens and bathrooms, common rooms and laundry facilities. In addition to cosmetic improvements, the renovation projected included new appliances, flooring, doors and 45 new windows for the building, which was constructed in 1957.

Karissa Tousignant, a Quad Parishes staff member, will live in community. She will serve as a liaison between the residents and the parish. Two women moved in the building in August, including Mackenzie Giltner, a member of St. Joseph Parish and recent high school graduate. She discovered the opportunity when invited by VanKauwenberg to help with painting.

“I wanted to live on my own and be independent,” said Giltner. “I talked to my parents and they said that it seems like a really good opportunity. I hope I can meet new friends and learn new life skills. It’s going to be a safe environment and it’s a Catholic faith-based environment.”

Giltner added that she looks forward to participating in the programming for young adults.

“That young adult demographic covers a wide range, 18 to 39,” said Casey. “My hope is that this will be a place where people can figure out more about their personal identity and learn about their faith. I hope this becomes a place where people get to know each other and build relationships.”

“We were able to put forth a vision with a very supportive pastor,” said VanKauwenberg. “I really love that this building is back in our ministry. It was just a rental. Now it’s a space for ministry. It’s looking at our facilities and using them to enhance what we are doing as a community.”

The cost for young adult residents is between $350 and $450 per month; all utilities included. For more information, contact Karissa Tousignant at (920) 497-7042.