Brown’s Brewing never seemed so holy. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, over 30 young adult Catholics filled the Malt Room at Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy. Familiar friends greeted each other across the bar, while others went around introducing themselves, a drink in their hand and a smile on their face. 

Tom Cronin, advisor to the Bishop for Family & Parish Evangelization, made his way around the venue handing out drink “tokens” (tiny beer bottle caps, fittingly), while guests chatted about the room’s festive Christmas decor or the smell of delicious food just down the bar. 

It was a night of good food, drink and company, and just one of many the Diocese of Albany is hosting specifically for young adults. This series of Advent social gatherings, titled “You Belong!,” is striving to bring together young adult Catholics who might be looking for a community of friends their age within the Church. 

“We’re not doing enough for this younger age demographic of young adults,” said Cronin, who helped organize and implement the You Belong! gatherings. “It’s sad, but lots of young adults view confirmation as graduation, and then all of a sudden we don’t see them. But are we creating opportunities for them to want to be a part of our family?”

The You Belong! series, which is offering one gathering in each Vicariate in the Diocese, runs throughout the Advent season. The series kicked off Dec. 4, at Davidson Brothers Brewing Co., with the Adirondack Vicariate. Other stops have been at Frog Alley Brewing in Schenectady and Alfresco’s Italian Bistro in Oneonta. The social gatherings are one part of the campaign that focuses on ways to make Advent more meaningful this season, and is a collaborative effort between the diocesan communications and evangelization offices. (You can find more Advent resources online at www.rcda.org/youbelong).

Cronin — who received a grant from the Roman Catholic Faith Formation Endowment Fund for the campaign — hopes young adults, who are active in their parishes, will invite others to join them. 

Jeff Gazdacko got a Facebook invite to the Brown’s Brewing event from his friend. Gazdacko, who is involved with a few young adult groups in the Diocese, still thinks there’s room to grow.

“I moved a little over a year ago from Ann Arbor, Mich., and  — between Ann Arbor, Detroit, and other suburbs — there was a gigantic young adult scene there and that seemed to be lacking here up until recently. The past six months it seems there’s been a buildup of young adult events; maybe it’s because I’ve become friends with more people.”

According to the Pew Research Center, almost half of unaffiliated Catholics left the Church before reaching age 18, and 30 percent left the Church between ages 18-23. Cronin hopes these events will show fallen-away Catholics that there is a community for them in the Church. 

“The theme ‘You Belong!,’ which was the brainchild of our diocesan Communication Office, ties in really beautifully to this opportunity to bring these young adults together and show them that there is a community, there is belonging in the Catholic Church, and an opportunity where we can rally each other in our faith in this judgment-free zone and be able to talk about our faith,” Cronin said.