Reaching out to young adults, priest gets creative with his ministry
By Amy White
Special to The Texas Catholic
Some ministries begin over rosary beads, others over a cold drink. In the case of Father Ignacio Olvera’s young adult Faith Fitness Ministry in Dallas, the latter is true.
“When I was in my first assignment as a priest at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church here in Dallas, I decided to go to the bar to have a beer,” recalls Father Olvera, who now serves as parochial vicar at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Dallas, “The bartender was a young man. We started talking, and out of nowhere he asked me ‘What religion are you?’”
When Father Olvera revealed that he was Catholic, the young bartender disclosed that he himself had once been Catholic but had left the faith in college. The two began discussing the questions about Catholicism that had challenged the bartender’s faith, and Father Olvera began offering answers. There, over that bar counter, the bartender expressed an intent to reconsider his lost faith.
“What this encounter brought to me was inspiration,” said Father Olvera, “I thought, ‘Young adults are here. We need to reach out to them where they are.’”
Emboldened by this experience, Father Olvera began the young adult Faith Fitness Ministry in the summer of 2019.
The ministry consists, in part, of faith events hosted at different breweries each month. Past brewery events include a Christmas Party hosted on Dec. 15 at Deep Ellum Brewery Co., in which singer Bradley Banning and magician Giancarlo Bernini provided entertainment.
Brewery events typically include drinks and appetizers, a spiritual talk from Father Olvera, and young adult fellowship.
“The group discussion is a favorite part for young adults, because they are able to talk about what they care about, share experiences that relate to the talk, and get to know each other,” Father Olvera said.
The largest of the ministry’s past events was the Faith Fitness 2.0 event held on Oct. 28, 2020. During the event, Bishop Edward Burns addressed 130 young adults in attendance about the importance of discernment in long-term decisions.
Besides these events, the Faith Fitness Ministry includes several fitness-focused gatherings. Such events include the ministry’s sports tournament, hosted twice a year, which consists of sports like basketball, volleyball, and football.
Additionally, the ministry hosted a virtual 5K race this year—attended by approximately 45 participants—which raised funds to contribute to future Faith Fitness Ministry events.
“That’s why we call it Faith Fitness,” shared Father Olvera, “We want to include the spiritual and the body: the whole person.”
As the ministry has evolved, the Faith Fitness core team has remained sensitive to the needs of its young adults. One particularly noble improvement is the team’s recent effort to help young adults access much-needed counselling.
“Many times young adults may think they need spiritual direction but really need counseling. After seeing many cases like that, I approached some counselors and requested a grant from the Catholic Foundation, so we could provide affordable counselling to our young adults,” Father Olvera said, adding that, already, several young adults have expressed interest in this remarkable offer.
The Faith Fitness Ministry takes inspiration from its patron, the recently beatified Blessed Carlo Acutis, who, if he were still alive, would be the same age as many of the young adults benefitting from this ministry.