By Father Ignacio Olvera
Special to The Texas Catholic
What happens when a priest walks into a bar? With the will of God, anything it seems.
A few years ago during my first assignment at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, a visit to such an establishment led to a chance encounter with a young bartender, who shared with me that he had left the Catholic Church for lack of understanding of the faith. This was an eye-opening moment for me; just thinking about how many more young Catholics there were in Dallas not practicing their faith or worse, leaving the faith, left much for me to contemplate.
And so, as the story goes, I was compelled by the grace of God to reach out to these young adults in Dallas, who were on the verge of leaving the Church, by establishing Faith Fitness Ministry for young adults in the Summer of 2019. This involved visiting breweries and meeting the young adults where they are. We are the so-called “mobile church,” bringing Christ to the young people wherever we find them.
Faith Fitness Ministry is about evangelization through monthly spiritual talks hosted at a local brewery. The brewery event usually includes appetizers, drinks, and live music. At the event, we also provide the Sacrament of Penance delivered by two priests. We always have long queues of penitents. On one occasion, I recall that the priests were still hearing confessions for about 45 minutes after the event.
Our most recent event took place at Whiterock Alehouse and Brewery on March 16. We had as our guest speaker Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly, who shared a reflection on “Why Does the Church Care About Young Adults?” Bishop Kelly answered this question by stating, “The Church cares about you because each and every one of you is a child of God.”
Bishop Kelly offered several examples on how the Church indeed cares about our young adults. The Church provides “priests who heroically visit the COVID patients during this pandemic” and “through Catholic Charities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, works tirelessly to help the poor and less fortunate in our society.”
The most pivotal moment of these events comes during the group discussion and at the Q&A because it is at this point when the attendees have an opportunity to share their faith, learn from one another, and get to know each other.
On March 16, Bishop Kelly was asked eight enlightening questions, illustrating just how much the young adults wanted to learn about and grow in their faith. This is exactly what I had envisioned, that the young adults would leave the event knowing that the Church loves and cherishes each and every one of them and has an innate desire to serve them.
Faith Fitness would not be Faith Fitness without the Fitness part. We host monthly sporting events such as kickball, 5Ks, hiking, sand volleyball, dancing, etc. Most of our young adults enjoy the sporting events because it builds community by allowing them to be themselves in a relaxed and safe environment. The most recent sporting event we organized was a 5K running tour around the Bishop Arts district. This month we will go country dancing!
I cannot express enough my joy every time I am at one of our young adult events. I describe it as a jubilant celebration in which we talk freely and openly about our Catholic faith in a secular environment. I will continue to provide both Faith and Fitness to as many young adults in Dallas as possible.
With your prayers and with God’s blessing, let us continue to build up the Kingdom of God here in Dallas!
Father Ignacio Olvera, parochial vicar at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, is the founder and executive director of Faith Fitness Ministry.
Editor’s Note: Find more photos in the TexasCatholic.com photo gallery.