You’re about to graduate, and adult life awaits you. No more communal dorm bathrooms, guest policies to contend with, and RAs to befriend (or avoid?). There are many freedoms to look forward to post-grad: You’ll move to a new town or city, meet new people, start a new job or graduate school. Even if you’re moving home, the city will still be new to you in this phase of life. As you find your new favorite coffee shop, grocery store, and gas station, it’s also worth thinking about the role faith — and the Church — will play in your post-grad life.
A church community may have been easy to plug into on your college campus — if you attended a faith-based institution, you may have had a Church looming large over the landscape of campus. If not, perhaps you attended a Newman Center with student-centered Masses, retreats, and community-building events.
The faith offerings in college are often easy to come by as they’re geared toward people in that 18-22 age group. Spoiler alert: life doesn’t always look this way after graduation! But with a little effort and intentionality, you can find a faith community if that’s something you’re looking for.
After graduate school, I moved across the country to Phoenix, Arizona. It was 2,000 miles away from home and a place where I had only one close friend. I figured that I was a sociable, extroverted person and would be able to make friends easily. I’m also someone who is pretty open about my faith being important to me, and thought I would find plenty of opportunities to get involved in my local parish.
Well, it turns out that just being open to it wasn’t quite enough to find the community I was looking for. Most parishes don’t serve young adults very well because we tend to move around a lot. And we don’t yet have children who need to be baptized or educated, which are often where a parish will dedicate much of its resources. So I had to be more intentional and thoughtful about gathering the kinds of people around me that I needed to feel grounded in my faith.
While it was harder than I realized, I slowly made inroads to connect with some like-minded people who were interested in conversations of depth and relationships built on shared faith. Those connections were so helpful to make me feel grounded and at home. I needed good friends who shared my values, and I found them in the faith-based communities I joined.
Here are some tips as you navigate finding a faith community post-grad:
1. Try your nearby parish first.
There’s a great tradition in the Church that that parish you belong to is the one closest to you geographically. You’ve already got an “in” there just by virtue of being located near it — you already belong there.
If you enjoy this parish’s style of Mass and offerings, the best part is you’ll meet people who live near you! In Phoenix, I happened to live in an apartment building across the street from a Jesuit parish, St. Francis. After walking there a few times for Mass, I noticed the same young woman waiting at the crosswalk with me. She happened to ask me if I was heading to Mass and if I lived nearby. Turned out we both lived walking-distance from the church and exchanged names and numbers to grab coffee.
It’s okay if your closest parish doesn’t feel like a good fit, too. I ended up going to Mass at a different community each Sunday with my best friend and her husband and kids. I loved that parish’s music and vibe, and the best part was being there with friends who felt like family.
2. Look for diocesan-level offerings for young adults.
Sometimes, a diocese (a geographic grouping of multiple parishes) will have a staff member specializing in young adult ministry. With a quick Google search, you can find this person’s contact info and reach out to ask about events geared toward young adults.
Often, a diocese will put on several events for any young adults in the diocese. This might include a retreat for people under 35, a “Theology on Tap” event where young adults gather at a bar or pub to listen to a speaker, or a special Saturday night Mass with a social afterward. I joined my diocesan Facebook group and it was an easy way to receive communication about young adult events throughout the metro area.
3. Find someone who is already involved.
When you scroll through your Instagram feed, is there someone in your area who posts about a retreat they went to, a women’s/men’s group they’re involved in, or a social they attended at their parish? Slide into their DMs or their email inbox — if they’re sharing their involvement publicly, they’ll be excited to help others plug into the community!
This can be an easy way to make a new friend over coffee or snag an invite to that next young adult social. My first new friend in Phoenix was a gal who was helping out at my job orientation and mentioned a parish she belonged to. She invited me to a young adult event called “Whiskey Wisdom Wednesday,” where she and her friends enjoyed a potluck meal and conversations around faith-in-action.
4. Look for groups that transcend parish boundaries.
The Catholic world is far-reaching, and there have been so many movements over the years to gather people together to form community. Some of these groups are purely social, like Catholic Beer Club (no agendas — just beer and new friends). Some are geared toward professional networking while deepening faith, like Young Catholic Professionals. Others are movements within the Church that have their own unique spirituality and might include faith sharing groups — some even have national and international networks.
If you find a spirituality that really jives with your own, these are groups you can plug into wherever you go in life. Established examples include Communion and Liberation and Focolare; groups that are innovating new ways to draw people together include Blessed is She and any of these local movements.
5. Volunteer, and meet people who share similar values.
Volunteering is not only a great way to serve those in need in your community, but also a great way to connect with people who value the same things you do. Look for charities supported by your local parish or volunteer programs run by the Church, then contact the volunteer coordinator and get involved!
6. Do your own thing!
Once you meet a few people who share a similar desire to have faith be a part of their life, start something new with them. It could be a women’s/men’s group, a “Lord’s Day” Sunday potluck dinner, a trivia night, or anything else that fosters community.
My best friend and her husband started a seasonal movie discussion group on a film that could be viewed through a lens of faith. We watched Les Mis, Free Solo, and A Hidden Life, to name a few. Recently, I asked three women around my age to start a women’s group with me. I cook a simple soup dinner and we get together every two weeks to discuss how we sense God in our lives. Organic events like these can be some of the best ways to foster community and are so easy, low-barrier events to invite in new people once you become a “regular.”
7. Be patient.
These things take time. I thought of myself as the kind of person who could work any room, but even I had some awkward moments trying to meet people at Church events. Eventually, I met a few people who shared a similar intentionality around faith, and those were the relationships that made my time in Phoenix worthwhile.
Even though the journey had its challenges, seeking a faith-based community reinforced my desire to find people who also want faith to play an important role in their adult lives. I have become more grounded in my desire to find a Church and a group of people to go to church with. I have become more hopeful that I can find Christian community or even create it if it’s something I really want. Now, I can confidently say that the journey — even with its struggles — is worth it for the friendships and community life we forge on the way.