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Local young Catholics bond and learn with Theology on Tap


They gathered on a late summer weeknight evening, meeting on the chosen venue’s upper-level patio. These were an estimated 65 young adults, in their 20s and early 30s, who soon had their preferred beverages in hand. Some quickly claimed the seats surrounding the outdoor fireplace. 

Theology on Tap gathered 65 young adults in a relaxed atmosphere to learn more about their faith. The Aug. 23 event took place at the Buffalo Yacht Club. (Photo by Michael Mroziak)

But this wasn’t your typical happy hour in downtown Buffalo. During this relaxed gathering, these young adults would listen to and discuss information about their Catholic faith. This was the latest gathering of Theology on Tap, held Aug. 23 at the Buffalo Yacht Club. 

“It’s a good community, and to start building up community,” said guest Christine Webb. “I think with the Road to Renewal it’s also really good, because then we have people from other parishes we can collaborate with, or at least journey with. That’s part of why I came out.”

Theology on Tap was created in 1981 in the Archdiocese of Chicago to give young adults a setting where they could learn more about their faith and feel welcomed and appreciated. 

Organizing the Buffalo Theology on Tap event was Jonathan Molik, pastoral associate for St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View, a member of Parish Family 29. He learned about the program from peers who previously served in young adult ministries. This was the fifth such event he has organized. 

“I have youth and young adult mentors that I’d looked up to when I got into youth ministry, who were in their 30s and 40s. They did it when they were in their 20s,” he recalled. “I did some research on it, got it sorted out, and started bringing it back to Buffalo.”        

With drinks in hand, the attendees sat to listen to the evening’s guest speaker, Father Peter Karalus, vicar general for the Diocese of Buffalo. He opened his remarks by reading a passage from the Book of Joshua, and spoke of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt, first by crossing the Red Sea, and then later in their 40-year journey crossing the River Jordan.        

He added that Jesus’ earliest encounters with his disciples were also on a waterfront.        

“Think about each one of us as disciples, each one of us as believers. Our journey with Christ begins in the waters of baptism,” Karalus said. “And our journey on this earth ends with those same waters. Because when we pass from this world to the next, our caskets, our bodies, are sprinkled with Holy Water.         “

Throughout the time from baptism to the time of our funeral, God has formed us. He has shaped us. He has challenged us on our journey of faith, our journey of life.”Participants also took part in a game of Catholic Jeopardy, modeled after the longtime television quiz show, but with topics including the Old and New Testaments, papal history, and the Diocese of Buffalo and its Road to Renewal.        

Guests were treated to their first round of drinks by the event sponsor, Buffalo Dental Group. Bernard Kolber, DDS, explained the importance of keeping young Catholics engaged.        

“Our parishes are way too gray,” he answered. “The problem we’re going to have is not with the shortage of priests, it’s going to be the shortage of parishioners unless we do something to change that.”        

What keeps young people away from church? The reasons vary, but Kolber says you see the effects.        

Father Peter Karalus, vicar general for the Diocese of Buffalo, speaks to young adults about the Israelites’ journey from Egypt at the Theology on Tap event Aug. 23. (Photo by Michael Mroziak)

“You don’t know what you don’t know, and they don’t know what they don’t have. And they’re lost,” he said. “I mean, if you look at the amount of the number of problems that we have with addiction, chronic depression, medications for everything. So many of these people don’t have God in their lives.”        

But certainly there are devoted, faithful young Catholics simply looking for peers. Megan Walsh attended college in Cleveland, where she enjoyed a tight-knit Catholic community.        

“After graduating, I wasn’t sure how to be able to find something like that. It just helped me grow my faith so much over the past couple of years in college. But now that I found this, I just think we have a lot of like-minded people, all similar ages,” Walsh said. “We can just really relate to a lot of things. And I just love the setting as well, because it’s very laid back and we can all just, you know, hang out.” 

There are other opportunities for young adult Catholics to meet. The group Young Adult Professionals (YAP) Buffalo hosts gatherings, as does Dynamis WNY. Francis Boeck, who attended at Theology on Tap, is active with the latter. 

“I think we’re trying to bring the Church back to its roots,” Boeck said. “I think the past few generations kind of got lost in the culture. I think there’s a group of young people here in the diocese, and across the globe, that seek to bring the world culture back to Christ, back to the church. I think that’s where this energy is coming from.”        

Father Karalus, whose Catholic Center office is immediately next door to that of Bishop Michael W. Fisher, told the audience that the bishop cares for young adult Catholics and their concerns.        

What message do they have for the bishop?        

“We are here. We are ready to spread the word to everyone, and with each other, and we are passionate about it,” Walsh said.

Hear the story here.


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