THE Rev. Peter Marshall, dressed in full clerical garb, came to offer answers for the faithful gathered near him inside a local downtown bar recently. But he opened with a question.
“Does anybody in here really believe that Catholics worship Mary and the saints?” asked Marshall, a priest at Indianapolis’ Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church.
No hands rose.
Yet, with that query, St. Bartholomew Catholic Church’s Young Adult Ministries popped the top on a new six-pack series of discussions known as Theology On Tap. The gatherings, set in the side room of the Powerhouse Brewing Company’s Columbus Bar, began last year to nurture knowledge and faith among the 18 to 30-something set in the parish, though visitors are welcome.
Speakers come from the Catholic community throughout the state to address a variety of sobering topics.
“No one’s coming to this to get drunk,” Young Adult Ministries leader Theresa Racanelli said.
Here, the questions such as Marshall’s reign almost as supreme as the answers.
Even before Marshall began speaking — and stopping once for a sip of his beer — members of his audience already acknowledged that plenty of friends and acquaintances asked them about worshiping Mary and more.
Which explains why the theme this night was, “Myth Busters: Catholic Edition.”
The series grew out of Racanelli’s practical response to a basic problem: getting young people to church for serious discussions. Her first attempt drew five people, including two who came because they were her friends.
So she figured she needed to go where people automatically gather.
“Young adults are looking for a place to connect with their peers as much as they’re looking for a place to connect with the church,” Racanelli said. “A place like this allows them to feel comfortable and easily meet other people.”
She drew 43 people for the first session last year. She attracted more than 100 people for another session when a Greenwood priest spoke about exorcisms he has conducted (that presentation was moved to the church to accommodate the crowd).
Marshall fielded questions on bad popes (some in the Middle Ages were “absolutely crazy”), salvation (“get over the works you do and throw yourself at the altar under his grace”), and purgatory (“it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card”).
He spoke freely and with humor, even delving into some of his background of being raised by a fundamentalist Protestant minister father.
Listeners among a cozy group of 12 people included Chris Bachman, a Cummins Inc. worker who moved here three months ago.
“This seems as good a place as any to meet,” Bachman said of the surroundings as a waitress passed back and forth with buffalo chicken wraps and drinks. “But I’m curious to find out what some of the myths are.”
Katie Wesolowski, 19, and the youngest in attendance, said the get-togethers “help me feel more relaxed around others on Sunday morning.”
She also mentioned that practical tips offered on such topics as prayer in a busy life have helped her considerably. She even took notes during the latest session.
Paul Hengesbach has acquired insight to better explain his faith to others.
“It has helped me be better equipped to talk to others,” he said. “I know the answer to many questions is, ‘No, we don’t believe that,’ but I couldn’t always tell you why.”
Marshall, enjoying his second visit as a Theology On Tap speaker, has noted that younger audiences he addresses rarely ask about older-audience topics such female priests. Instead, they want to know more about beliefs and guidelines.
Racanelli called them “hungry” — and she referred to more than their natural appetite. She feels sure Jesus would go to a bar to reach people.
“Yes, Jesus preached in the synagogue from time to time,” Racanelli said. “But he spent much more time going out to find where the people were.”