MANITOWOC — Walk into Rachel Cohen’s home on tabletop game night and you’ll see most nearly every square inch of table space, plus a few card tables, topped with game boards, pieces, cards and dice.
Gathered around the tables are young adults who are enjoying the games as well as the company.
Cohen, who shares her Manitowoc home with husband, Joe, and son William, 3, is regional young adult ministry coordinator for the Lakeshore region of the Diocese of Green Bay.
Tabletop game night is one way that her ministry reaches out to the young adults of the area.
“That event has been really the most fruitful for us because it brings in a very wide range of adults. Some are Catholic and very involved in our parish. Others are atheists or just not interested in the church at all. Because they’re all in the same space together they form relationships,” Cohen said. “We are trying to make the Catholic faith really approachable so that people can meet Jesus in some way and we’re taking baby steps toward that encounter.”
The 2020 Bishop’s Appeal, “Rising in Faith,” is raising funds for young adult ministry and other programs designed to help people grow in their Catholic faith and introduce nonbelievers to God.
The Bishop’s Appeal is the Catholic Foundation’s annual fundraising campaign, which supports the ministries and services that the Diocese of Green Bay provides to its parishes and schools as well as families and individuals.
Cohen is one of six young adult ministry coordinators in the diocese focusing on outreach and evangelization. Each young adult ministry coordinator gets a stipend and a budget so they can design their programs to meet the needs of their individual areas, Cohen said.
“One of the things that I strive for is to have new people coming every time. That’s the sign of a healthy ministry,” Cohen said.
In addition to being mom to a toddler, Cohen keeps busy as a parish mission planning coach, providing music and prayer for retreats, and working part time at the social services agency Lakeshore CAP as food pantry distribution coordinator.
In youth ministry for many years before her son came along, Cohen brings a lot to the table.
“I knew a lot of young adults, so I thought I could bring that as a gift,” she said. “I like planning things, especially when there wasn’t much for young adults before this was started in the region.”
Cohen works with a young adult core team, which helps put on events.
Recent events included a Catholic singles mixer at an axe-throwing pub, a webcam Bible study, a leadership retreat, and “Theology Pub” nights featuring speakers and discussions at area bars.
The next Theology Pub will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 with Fr. José López speaking on the “Dark Night of the Soul” at El Tequila restaurant in Manitowoc. The next tabletop game night will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at Cohen’s home. For more information, visit Lakeshore Young Adult Catholics on Facebook.
“I’d like to add a long-term service partnership in the community. It works well in pre-evangelization
and development in faith works across the spectrum,” Cohen said.
She also said she plans to provide her young adult core team with more leadership and faith development opportunities.
“Young adults are looking for the same things that you and I want,” said Jane Angha, young adult coordinator for the Diocese of Green Bay.
“We want a place to belong, a purpose and meaning, we’re looking for all those same things. Just because of the nature of their age, 18 to 39, there’s a lot of transition in their lives. There isn’t a one size fits all. It has to be really relational and really focused on meeting the needs where they’re at,” she said.
“They need help with some life skills. They need help ‘adulting.’ They would love for the parish to help them with that,” added Angha. “How to finance a house or car, how to manage their finances, how to make bread, how to sew. They would love to have those mentoring relationships.”
Angha said that Cohen was creative and innovative in her approach to the ministry.
“She is wonderful at building relationships,” Angha said. “She listens well and she’s doing a great job of serving the young church (in the Lakeshore region). The young adults are helping us re-imagine our church for today and for the future.”