'Theology on Tap' aimed at bringing young Catholics back to faith

By Paul Giorgio - Producer

VIERA, Fla. - In the back room of a bustling restaurant in Suntree, a group assembles, drinks in hand, for what could easily be a birthday party or going away party for that matter. But this is more like a coming home party. They have come together for Theology on Tap, a program sponsored by the Catholic Dioceses and whose mission is partly to bring young wayward Catholics back to the faith.

Held throughout the country, mostly in bars and restaurants, the idea is to "bring faith to where the people are."

Most of the events begin with a guest speaker, followed by a question and answer session where those in attendance can seek guidance and answers to their questions about faith. 

The concept of alcohol being served up with religion may be controversial to some, but to those in attendance it makes perfect sense.

"The emphasis is not on the drinking you know, it's on the social experience and the theology that we'll be discussing," said Father Peter Walsh, Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist. "It's meant to be a social experience, and so one of the ways in which people of any age socialize is over a nice cold beer or a glass of wine."

Attendees range in age from 21 to 39.

"It's meant to hopefully bring in people who might have been raised Catholic and went off to college and got lost in the process," said Walsh.

Valerie Farrell has been attending the meetings since January, when they first began in South Brevard. "This is the kind of environment where we hope people can feel welcome," she said. "They're so many people who grew up Catholic and fell away from the church for various reasons. We love having the opportunity to answer their questions."

Teresa Henisey says she likes the religious conversation taken out of the classroom, setting but admits it took a while to get used to.

"The first time you come it seems odd. Like we're in a bar discussing religion, but one glass of wine or one beer and you're like all right I'm feeling this. So it kind of breaks the ice and loosens things up."

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