Virginia Community’s Young Adult Ministry Inspires, Connects

John Lilly Around the Province

Henry Fulmer leads a Theology on Tap

Henry Fulmer shares his vocation story with the young adults at St. Francis of Assisi Parish during a recent Theology on Tap. (Photo courtesy of John Lilly)

The article below is part of an occasional series about young adult programs around Holy Name Province. Last month, the young adult program at Boston’s St. Anthony Shrine was featured.

TRIANGLE, Va. — The Young Adult Ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Parish is connecting, challenging, and inspiring young adults from all walks of life. Over the past year, a variety of programs — both spiritual and social — have been offered as a way to enable young adults to encounter Christ, grow closer to one another in community, and put their faith into action.

The first few events in the fall of 2015 saw a variety of different opportunities: social outings to a local bar, Bible study, bowling, and a Christmas party. However, it wasn’t until Theology on Tap launched in April of this year that things really took off.

Theology on Tap started as an outreach to the young adults in the local area, as a way to engage millennials on their turf and on their terms. Holding a parish event at a bar is refreshing for young adults, though, because it helps them engage with the church outside of Mass on Sundays.

Opportunities and Challenges
“In this day and age, it’s difficult to find young adults who are passionate about their faith and who are willing to grow any way possible,” said participant Fred Hirsch, whose family grew up going to St. Francis. “The Young Adult Ministry has given me the opportunity to find other young adults who are just as passionate about their faith. It has challenged me to set higher standards for myself.”

Another young professional, Kat Fish, has had a similar experience with the group.

“I have attended a few of the Theology on Tap events,” Fish said. “I have found that not only can I connect more with Catholicism, but I am connecting with other young adults who have the same belief systems that I do.”

“The Theology on Tap program is a national program that started some years ago,” said John O’Connor, OFM, parochial administrator. “It is now available in numerous dioceses across the U.S. It has become a very effective way of reaching young adults, as is demonstrated by the enthusiastic response to our parish program.”

“I find meeting fellow Catholic young adults over a pint of local craft brew, followed by inspiring words from clergy and laymen alike to be a perfect way to unwind after a hard day’s work,” local young adult Chris Campbell said. “St. Francis’s Young Adult Ministry strikes a great balance between providing fun times and spiritual sustenance.”

Casey Cole

Casey Cole leads a Theology on Tap for the young adult ministry. (Photo courtesy of John)

Friar Presentations
Last summer, Casey Cole, OFM, began meeting with a group of college students. He did everything from teach catechism lessons to play kickball with them. He created momentum until his internship ended and school began again in the fall.

In May, Br. Casey paid the young adults a brief visit as he passed through town. He talked for almost two hours with college students, Marine cadets, and young professionals about social justice and the Eucharist.

In July, representatives from the Franciscan Mission Service came to share information about the domestic and international work they do to serve the poor. Both provided wonderful opportunities for learning more about the work of friars and lay people all across the country.

In late August, after recently being assigned to the parish, Henry Fulmer, OFM, shared with young adults his journey to the Franciscans. He spoke about how he had to decide whether or not to teach tennis on a professional level or whether to discern the call to religious life. Before entering Holy Name Province, he spent countless hours a day practicing and honing his skills as a tennis player. However, he continually felt the Holy Spirit nudging him towards religious life.

“It was a great experience being able to share my journey to the Franciscans,” said Henry. “I felt a calling to the religious life since the third grade. You have to go through it in order to get to it. That’s always true in life.”

The desired outcome for these events was to engage, attract, and inspire young adults. Back in the spring, parish staff members discussed different options for the young adults in the parish. Holding events off campus was agreed upon unanimously.

— John Lilly is communications manager and young adult coordinator for St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Va. He was hired in summer 2015 after having served as campus minister at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

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