Mass & Mingle fills a need among young adult Catholics

The Church in the 21st Century Center program provides a welcoming place to join together for Mass, faith discussions, and friendship

Once a month, a group of about 100 adults in their 20s and 30s come together to attend 5 p.m. Sunday Mass at St. Ignatius Church. Following Mass, they walk over to the Cabaret Room in Boston College’s Vanderslice Hall for food, fellowship, and a discussion about faith.

The young adults are participants in Mass & Mingle, a new program from Boston College’s Church in the 21st Century Center. Conducted in partnership with the ϱ Alumni Association and the Jesuit Parish of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Mass & Mingle is a monthly invitation for young adults to gather together to celebrate Mass, receive the Eucharist, and grow in friendship.

Launched in January of 2023, Mass & Mingle has built a community of more than 650 young adults in just its first year. The program has grown primarily through social media and word-of-mouth. It is believed to be one of the largest organized communities of Catholic young adults in Massachusetts, according to the program’s organizers.

C21 Center Assistant Director of Programming Eileen Corkery recalled the night they posted the invite to the first Mass & Mingle on social media. “My phone wouldn't stop buzzing. It was from all the notifications of people signing up to be a part of this group. That's when we knew we were on to something.

“It showed me that people in their 20s and 30s are hungry for something like this. They’re looking for community, looking to have deeper conversations about the intersection of faith and life,” said Corkery.

Others are discovering Mass & Mingle on their own. “People are finding us when they Google ‘Boston young adult faith groups,’’ said C21 Center Assistant Director of Communications Andrew Craig. “They are literally searching for us. There’s a desire to find peers and companions for a time in life that's very transitional.”

A strong faith community of peers was something that both Corkery and Craig sharply missed after they graduated ϱ.

“My friends and I were involved in campus ministry programs. It was a beautiful community of support, service, and faith,” said Corkery, a graduate of the Class of 2017. “Suddenly, you graduate and you don't have that formalized programming and that structure. I was looking for something to fill that in my life, a kind of faith formative group that would nourish me now as a working professional.”

Craig, also a 2017 graduate, agreed. “Once you graduate, the 24/7 access to those intentional friendships and conversations is no longer there. Mass & Mingle creates a sacred space where people in their 20s and 30s can find a sense of community and companions on the journey where we're all asking these really big questions.”

Corkery and Craig, under the direction of C21 Center Director Karen Kiefer, are the leaders of Mass & Mingle.

“People in their 20s and 30s are hungry for something like this. They’re looking for community, looking to have deeper conversations about the intersection of faith and life."

Mass & Mingle is not intended for ϱ undergraduates; its audience is young working professionals and graduate students in the Greater Boston area. While about half of the Mass & Mingle community are affiliated with ϱ—as alumni or current graduate students—the other half of participants have no ϱ affiliation.

Mass & Mingle is for any young adult looking for a faith community, Corkery emphasized. “You don’t have to be a ϱ grad. You don’t need to be a college graduate. The Church is for everyone, regardless of your resume.”

Brendan Albertson, a 2018 graduate of Merrimack College, first heard about Mass & Mingle from a friend. He said he keeps coming because it’s fun and the good turnout offers the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. “Mass & Mingle is a great chance to attend Mass and have dinner and drinks with other Catholic young adults.”

“Our program is the only model of its kind for young adults that integrates Mass, bringing young people to the Eucharist,” said Kiefer. “We're really excited and proud about that.”

Mass of Healing and Hope offered in the aftermath of the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Mass took place at St. Ignatius Church and a Sacramental Anointing followed the Mass itself.

Every Mass & Mingle starts with Mass at St. Ignatius Church. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

The idea for Mass & Mingle came from the findings of the C21 Center’s Student Voices Project, according to Kiefer, who noted that one of the big takeaways from the survey was the importance young people place on forging faith connections in a community setting. “Young people want to be in a community centered around their faith. They want the Church to invite them into greater participation,” she said.

That is why, she explained, so much care and stewardship is devoted to the Mingle component of Mass & Mingle. “We truly welcome young people in a fabulous way.”

The Mingle venue is decorated and music plays in the background. A sit-down dinner, cocktails, and dessert are served. By design, each Mingle is slightly different, but there is a constant thread of faith and a “big question” that guides the evening’s small group discussions.

“Challenges at work, relationships, and resilience—these are things 20- and 30-somethings might be struggling with,” said Kiefer. “How can their faith help them navigate questions related to these topics and in their day-to-day lives?”

"The sense of community and shared faith during Mass & Mingle is unparalleled,” said participant Kristyn Stoia ’21, a graduate student in the Connell School of Nursing. “Mass & Mingle provides an opportunity for profound conversations. I look forward to these gatherings, not only for the spiritual enrichment they provide, but also for the joy of introducing friends to the richness and beauty of our faith community."

Some of the Mingles have featured a guest speaker, such as Sister Carlotta Gilarde, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph for nearly 65 years who has provided decades of service in Boston and beyond. She talked about her vocation and the power of one person to make a difference. Her presentation connected with the big question “How can you enact service in your own life?”

A recent Mass & Mingle was focused on gratitude. Henry Shea, S.J., the celebrant of the 5 p.m. Mass, talked about the importance of community outreach and gratitude in his homily. At the Mingle, participants wrote cards and assembled care packages for residents in the Jesuits’ Campion Center in Weston.

While the Mass and faith discussion are the heart of Mass & Mingle, organizers make sure the events are fun, too. Each Mingle has trivia and a raffle for tickets to a concert or sporting event.

The organizers have also put together a couple of stand-alone social events. In June, more than 100 Mass & Mingle participants went to Fenway Park to catch a Red Sox game. Mass & Mingle organizers and ϱ’s Roche Center for Catholic Education co-hosted a tailgate before the Boston College-Holy Cross football game in September.

“It is our hope that Mass & Mingle can serve as a model for parishes,” said Kiefer. It’s also possible that ϱ alumni chapters around the country could partner with parishes in their cities to host a Mass & Mingle program of their own.

Added Kiefer: “Mass & Mingle honors the 20+ year mission of the Church in the 21st Century Center to be a catalyst and resource for the renewal of the Catholic Church.”

To learn more about Mass & Mingle, email or visit the program's page on the C21 Center website.