By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator 

As a young adult and high school religion teacher, Ryan Hallford experienced firsthand a paucity of activities offered by the Catholic Church geared toward his age group. 

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He and his peers appear to be caught in a void, certainly too old to participate in many of the activities and ministries targeted may have been actively involved in at the college level but perhaps just a bit too young to become involved at the traditional parish level. 

As an ordained clergy member and still a young adult, Father Hallford more than ever recognizes the need and is committed to bridging that gap. 

“Young adults and millennials are longing for community,” Father Hallford said, adding they are not often finding that. 

So he and fellow members of the Catholic Social Organization are in the final stages of launching Frassati House, which is designed to promote a virtuous community of charity, respect and support. He said the house will be a place of community, laity, formation, friendship and fun. 

“There are not a lot of places for young adults to go, so the idea is to have a place for them to come,” Father Hallford said. “It’s an idea of community, joining together.” 

“We have plenty of young adult Catholics in Baton Rouge who desire to form a more robust community if given a chance,” he added. 

He said the Catholic Church has the best theology of community but questioned its effectiveness if “we don’t work for its corresponding reality.” 

Father Hallford called the Frassati House a sanctuary for an authentic community. He said it will be a place of encounter and a place of grace, with the goal of tempering what he called an exodus of millennials from the church. 

His goal is to form a culture of love, which will help cultivate the virtues necessary for young adults to grow in their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions. 

Father Hallford said he is hoping the Frassati House will become a hub for the young adult Catholic community, providing everything from formal events to Bible study groups or simply be a haven where the coffee is hot and members can drop in and spend time with their Catholic peers in a relaxed and spiritual environment. 

He said those relationships will form the culture of community but should also lead to greater expressions of charity, which by its nature requires a united effort of receiving and offering love to others. 

Father Hallford, who was ordained in 2017 and is currently the parochial vicar at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge, was a founding member of the Catholic Social Organization, an apostolate of Cor Unum (one heart), serving Catholics 21 to 39. 

“Cor Unum (one heart) encourages and expects Frassati House members to respond to the way God is calling them to serve others by participating and serving their local church parish and the greater community,” Father Hallford said. 

The house is named after blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who excelled in the virtue of friendship. His spiritual life centered around a devotion to Christ and the Blessed Virgin. 

Father Hallford said the idea to develop Frassati House was formed even before he was ordained, while still teaching in high school. He said in his three years since ordination, several young adults, both singles and married couples, have approached him about finding a place for them in the church, where they could meet Catholics in their age group in the hope of forming friendships and community. 

He admitted he would often attempt to connect them with others but said “it’s hit or miss.” 

Father Hallford acknowledged that events designed for young adults last only a few hours and can often be months apart, leaving little opportunity for participants to make connections. He said the real answer is to provide a more natural way to foster community, hence the development of Frassati House. 

Father Hallford said the search is underway to locate a site in Baton Rouge, although he is optimistic about one particular location, noting it must clear some zoning challenges. 

He also said fundraising is a major factor in turning the vision into reality. Anyone interested in becoming a member of Cor Unum or simply pledging a donation can visit corunumlife.org.