In the Diocese of Orange, there is something for everyone in every age group with a thirst to learn more about the Catholic faith.
Theological and faith-based social meet-up groups have been gathering in many parishes throughout the Diocese in order to offer people a chance to gain a deeper understanding of the faith over food and drinks and in a casual and welcoming atmosphere.
At St. Kilian Church in Mission Viejo, the “Backyard Theology” group has been meeting for over 20 years. It’s free, open to adults and offered for four evenings every July. Childcare is provided and guests can bring a dish to share at the barbecue potluck where hamburgers, turkey burgers and hotdogs are served.
“The purpose is a social event. It allows the parishioners a time to get together in an informal setting,” explained Nancy Bonds, coordinator for the program. “A lot of visiting is going on, but also at the same time there is a speaker, the theological aspect to it, so there is a learning piece to it.”
Some of the past speakers have included Renee Bondi, Father Steve Sallot as well as John and Claire Frazier-Yzaguirre.
Other parishes in the Diocese offer a slightly different approach for a younger audience called “Theology on Tap,” designed for young adults in their twenties and thirties.
“It’s pre-evangelization being primarily for those that are not engaged in church, that are less likely to come to other events or maybe even to church in general,” explained Michael Ramirez, young adult and ministry coordinator for St. Denis Parish in Diamond Bar, one of many parishes offering the program. “It’s an effort to reach out to those by creating an environment that’s more relaxed and with a friend and then we’re leading them into trying to facilitate an encounter with Jesus.”
The free summer series is also offered four evenings in July. The first hour begins with food and beer from the open bar, followed by an icebreaker activity and opening prayer. The bar closes once the speaker begins the presentation on a variety of topics relevant to young people in the church. Praise and worship concludes the evening.
The newly formed Popcorn Theology group at Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Habra is intended for young adults ages 18 to 35.
“It evolved from an awareness over the last three years that although in our parish we confirm 100 teens every year, they go out into the world and we’re not offering them much opportunity to continue their spiritual journey,” said Nick Rawe, coordinator of the program. “It’s painful to watch, that as they go out to the secular world, off to college, many of them will lose their faith.”
The idea grew out of “Theology on Tap” but without the tap so that young people ages 18 to 20 could also engage. About 15 people meet every third Friday of the month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. to enjoy popcorn, pizza, a presentation and small group discussions. Rawe draws topics from the Theology of the Body Institute and plans to incorporate other issues facing young people.
“We respect their time, so we end with a prayer at 8:30 but most of them have been staying until around 9:30 just to talk around some of these ideas,” said Rawe. “It’s really amazing.”
To host a similar group at your parish, contact the diocesan Institute for Pastoral Ministry for more information.