Chris Martin, center, marches with Local 5285 in a Labor Day parade ahead of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 3. (CNS photo/Jessica Rinaldi, Reuters)

In the early days of the Church, St. Paul engaged the Greeks in the Areopagus, telling them the truths of the Christian faith. Ryan Hanning said something similar is taking place in Valley hotspots today through “Theology on Tap.”

The local Theology on Tap program is launching a three-part series 7 p.m. Oct. 8 dubbed “The Participation of Catholics in the Political Life” at Ajo Al’s Mexican Café, 5101 N. 16th St., Phoenix. Fr. John Ehrich, director of Medical Ethics for the diocese, will lead the discussions.

Hanning, director of parish leadership support for the Diocese of Phoenix, said Theology on Tap reaches out to young adults, engaging them where they are about the truth and beauty of Catholicism.

“It’s a young adult ministry meant to catechize young adults in the settings they’re already in,” Hanning said. “Our nights are all opportunities for a catechesis that we host in restaurants, cafes and bars.”

The approach is effective, Hanning said, because it reaches out to young adults in a place where they are already comfortable. “Why can’t we turn that experience into something sanctifying and glorifying to God, by praying together, studying His word and having a great talk on one of the key themes of our faith?” Hanning asked rhetorically during an interview with The Catholic Sun.

Pamelle Easterling, an Arizona State University graduate and a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, is co-facilitator for the upcoming Theology on Tap series. She said the program originated in Chicago, but is known locally as Theology on Tap-Phx and is approved by the Diocese of Phoenix.

Easterling worked with Hanning and Fr. John Ehrich, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, in developing the upcoming series. This year, Theology on Tap will incorporate the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

“The Year of Faith will be the overarching theme for everything we are doing,” Easterling said. “The USCCB says that the young adult population, 18-35 year-olds, represent half of the Church. We’re mobile…a lot of people don’t think we exist.”

Easterling said the political series will take place on three Monday nights in October and will help participants become well-formed Catholic voters.

“The first one will talk about Catholics in political life; the second one will be about forming a Catholic conscience and how Catholics need to engage the political realm,” Easterling said. The last forum in October will be a Q-and-A session with a panel of experts in law and bioethics.

Easterling said young adults from about 58 parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix have participated in Theology on Tap series in the past. She and co-coordinator, Nicole Denison, are both hoping for a good turnout.

Denison, a convert to the faith, said she became involved in Theology on Tap as a way to build community.

“You need to grow in community in order to stay strong with your faith,” Denison said. “People should attend this event so they can meet a hundred other people who are in the same age group, same walk of life.”

Denison and Easterling both said a variety of young adults attend Theology on Tap — singles, married, and working adults.

“We’re now leading a huge group to World Youth Day,” Denison said.  “Ministries and friendships have grown through this. It’s a springboard to get to know people and to foster community.”

Theology on Tap

For more information about Theology on Tap, visit To register for the series, visit

The political series will take place on three Mondays in October at Ajo Al’s Mexican Café, 5101 N. 16th St., Phoenix.