Kaelin Corina has learned that it’s not nearly so simple to connect with other young-adult Catholics in a parish setting as it was at Franciscan University of Steubenville, from which she graduated in 2005.
That void spurred Corina, 26, to help launch monthly young-adult gatherings within the Tompkins Region Planning Group. The year-old venture has proven successful while creating anew an appealing atmosphere for Corina.
"I do miss the conversations and the debates from college. It’s kind of nice to get together with people who are, first of all, my age and also have my values and beliefs — to have a conversation and not have to worry about who we’re offending," she said with a laugh.
The group is open to young adults ages 18 to 35, married or single. It employs an approach similar to Theology on Tap, the popular national program by which young adults can enjoy discussion and fellowship in a relaxed environment. As the title indicates, Theology on Tap meetings often take place in bars or restaurants. Yet after sampling such venues initially, the Tompkins coalition has held its more recent meetings at St. Catherine of Siena and Immaculate Conception parishes in Ithaca.
"This particular group seems to like quieter places," remarked Corina, an Immaculate Conception member, who serves as the group’s co-organizer along with John Bradac from St. Catherine of Siena.
Average attendance has been 10 to 15 young adults per meeting. Corina said the venture is going "really, really well. We started with six or seven, but everyone was real excited and wanted it to continue."
Participation is welcomed from all seven faith communities in the Tompkins Planning Group: Immaculate Conception and St. Catherine of Siena; the parishes of Holy Cross, Dryden; All Saints, Lansing; and St. Anthony, Groton; and the campus ministries of Ithaca College and Cornell University. Corina said the group hopes to rotate meetings among all the sites in the upcoming year.
Meeting themes have varied from keeping Christ in Christmas, to Catholic Church history, to theology of the body. Corina noted that a particularly lively get-together took place in October involving conscience and the Catholic vote. A panel of speakers discussed with participants such key voting issues as abortion, which is considered an intrinsic evil by the Catholic Church, and the plight of our nation’s economy.
"I think a lot of the attendees got a lot out of it," Corina said. She added that future sessions will hopefully have a seasonal theme; for instance, she’d like to see a presentation for couples offered in February to coincide with Valentine’s Day.
Meetings for the Tompkins young adults begin at 7 p.m. and run until 8:30 or 9 p.m. Corina said there will be no January get-together due to the college break, but the monthly schedule will resume in February. (To confirm future dates, locations and other details, check your parish bulletin or e-mail Corina at email@example.com.)
Presently, Tompkins has the only Catholic parish young-adult group active in the Southern Tier. Theology on Tap was held until very recently in Elmira under the leadership of Laurie Garner, beginning in 2006. Guest speakers lectured on such topics as the permanent diaconate and other vocations, divorce and annulment, and the real presence in the Eucharist.
However, Garner said the final Theology on Tap took place in November because she could no longer commit the time to oversee it and nobody volunteered to take her place. She said she remains hopeful that a leader or leaders will emerge in the future to revitalize Theology on Tap.