Parish’s young adult outreach taps into ‘homebrewed evangelism’

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SCOTTSDALE — Parish leaders are brewing up a new approach to young adult evangelization — literally.

A young adult pours what will ultimately become the first beer out of The Smiling Pope Church Brew during a brewing session at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale Jan. 17. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
A young adult pours what will ultimately become the first beer out of The Smiling Pope Church Brew during a brewing session at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale Jan. 17. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Inspired in part by “The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Homebrewed Evangelism,” and in part by the desire to find a suitable home for a lingering portrait of Pope John Paul I at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the parish’s new “The Smiling Pope Church Brew” was born.

Other papal portraits already found permanent homes around parish grounds. Brian Canon, director of evangelization at OLPH, noticed the one of Pope John Paul, who died 33 days after being elected to the papacy in 1978, did not.

“He’s called the smiling pope. He must have been happy,” Canon said.

He envisioned similar smiles as young adults gathered around the parish’s new 15-gallon brewing system for brewing days — a nod to the current craft beer culture — followed by “Think and Drink” sessions a good month later once the malted beverage is ready. The name stuck.

“Most of the people I talk to think it’s a brilliant idea,” Canon said. “A lot of my non-Catholic friends think it’s hilarious and awesome.”

Several young adults — including a few who briefly stopped by from Tolleson — gathered on a warm Sunday following Mass Jan. 17 to embark on the first brew: an Imperial Rye IPA. Fr. Greg Schlarb, pastor and one of the brewery’s “GoFundMe” start-up sponsors, earned the honor of choosing the first brew.

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The Smiling Pope Church Brew

What: Young Adult ‘Think and Drink’ for ages 21+

When: 7 p.m. March 3

Where: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 7655 E. Main St., Scottsdale

Info: event page or (480) 874-3702

Catholic Beer Club

What: Informal gathering of young adults

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 27. Details.

Where: Papago Brewing Company in Scottsdale

Info: catholicbeerclub.com for future meetups as locations may change

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The first “Think and Drink” session is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 3. The topic: “Adventures in Adulting” where three generations of priests will share the joys and struggles of growing up.

Leaders vow to check IDs at the door, not baptismal certificates. Drinks are free, but the alcoholic ones will be limited. Soda and other non-alcoholic beverages will be available for non-drinkers and designated drivers.

Canon is marketing to young adults in their 20s and 30s, but found support among donors beyond that age range. He said it offered a tangible way for them to invest in young adult ministry.

Chris Forschino, the “master brewer” for the day, once connected with Canon while serving on a core team under Canon’s leadership. Forschino sees “The Smiling Pope Church Brew” as an easy social thing for young Catholics and their friends of any or no faith to bond over. He said dancing was the “in” thing for his dad’s generation.

Canon sees the brewing and drinking days as opportunities to reach those who identify as Catholic, but may not often go to Mass. It will open up conversation on where they are in their faith journey and perhaps why.

“We sort of expect that when people show up in a pew, they’ve been evangelized,” Canon said. He called “The Smiling Pope Church Brew” an entry point for people into the Church.

Young adults prepare the first brew out of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Jan. 17. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Young adults prepare the first brew out of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Jan. 17. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Catholic Beer Club

For those already in the Church and interested in Catholic friends and casual conversation, the Phoenix chapter of the Catholic Beer Club might be an option too. There are no agendas, just community and relationship, its tagline says.

People like Christian Andreen can attest to that. The Creighton University alumna once launched a chapter near her alma mater and helped re-launch Phoenix’s chapter last August. Conversation often starts with the common ground of the faith, veers off into work, personal and family life as the case may be, but often comes back to Catholicism.

Roughly 30 people from across the Valley, the largest gathering yet, came to the latest meet up Jan. 23 at Papago Brewing Company. Andreen sees the public gatherings as a chance to evangelize and has noticed bartenders asking patrons if they’re “here with the church group.”

“We’re really about enjoying life the way God intends us to,” she said.

The Catholic Beer Club has chapters in at least eight other states.

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