Theology on Tap brings together young adults

Theology on Tap offers an innovative solution to one of today’s most pressing pastoral concerns: how to reach out to young Catholic adults.

Gatherings, coordinated by Marthamaria Morales, Diocese of Venice Youth & Young Adult Director, are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Mandeville Beer Garden in downtown Sarasota, just a few blocks from St. Martha Parish. The bar includes an outdoor deck which offered the ideal location for fellowship and a discussion about the Faith in a comfortable and relaxed setting.

“It can often be difficult for young adults to stay connected to the Faith,” Morales added. “As a young Catholic, it can be easy to feel left out of the Parish because few activities are designed to appeal to them. Theology on Tap is a program specifically for them.”

The idea of Theology on Tap is to bring together young adults where they feel most comfortable while inviting them to discover how Faith can make sense of their everyday lives. The evenings are about coming together to socialize, collaborate, pray, and grow in their spiritual understanding, all while building a strong core community. The outreach began in 2012 in Naples and Fort Myers and rotated through Parishes in Sarasota County for many years before settling on a single gathering place.

Morales, who has been in her position since January 2023, said the monthly meetings range in size from 30-50 young men and women each month. A different speaker, often a priest, speaks on timely topics and a lively discussion often follows.

The featured presenter for the Theology on Tap on June 15, 2023, was Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocese of Venice Director of Catholic Education. Father Belmonte spoke about the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival.

Launched as an initiative of the U.S. Catholic Bishops in June 2022, the National Eucharistic Revival is a three-year movement by the U.S. Bishops to answer the call of Jesus Christ to return to the source and summit of Our Faith – the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. This effort will culminate in 2024 with a National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis.

The Revival’s first year was titled “The Year of Diocesan Revival,” and efforts focused on formation for Diocesan leadership and Diocesan-wide events (March 2023 Diocesan Eucharistic Congress and Youth Rally). The Revival’s second year, “The Year of Parish Revival,” aims to reach Catholics in their Parishes through renewed attention to the “art” of the Mass, Eucharistic devotions, and small-group faith sharing and formation and began on June 11, 2023, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi).

Father Belmonte said the Revival is directed toward all Catholics, but there is a special emphasis on those who have fallen away from the Faith, which includes many young adults after they are away from the direct influence of their family.

Offering an overview of what has taken place in Diocesan Catholic schools to support the Revival, Father Belmonte shared a recap of a recently concluded Devotional Project to the Most Holy Eucharist. This including sharing a prayer card with artwork created by school students and on the reverse includes the prayer: “Devotional Prayer to the Most Holy Eucharist.” This prayer was prayed together to open Father’s talk. As an educator, Father also quizzed the young adults about their knowledge of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Next, Father shared an image of the “Defenders of the Eucharist,” a 1625 painting by Peter Paul Rubens, which is on display at the nearby Ringling Museum of Art on the Sarasota bayfront. This artwork depicts seven saints who worked to safeguard and promote the Eucharist (Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Clare of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Norbert and Jerome). Father explained how each had a unique story on how the Most Holy Eucharist has been challenged and defended, dating to the Last Supper.

Following his remarks, Father Belmonte fielded questions from the 30 who were gathered on a hot summer evening. Many asked what more can be done to promote a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

Each month, there are regulars who participate and among the newbies, several said they loved the format and would be returning. Others shared ideas of doing more for young adults at the Parish level, but this outreach is not as widespread as some would prefer.

Morales was pleased with the June turnout as it was very hot and muggy, and she hopes the numbers remain strong through the summer. She will be making an extra promotional push in the coming months.

“I know there is a demand and know young adults want to be a part of the Church. It is all about spreading the word,” Morales said.

The next gathering of Theology on Tap in Sarasota will take place at 7 p.m., July 20, at the Mandeville Beer Garden, 428 N. Lemon St., and the featured speaker will be Father Eric Scanlan, Pastor of Incarnation Parish in Sarasota.