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Life, and faith, after college

First slide

Katie Mitchell attended the University of Notre Dame in Indiana to play golf, but wound up finding her Catholic faith. With chapels in every building and friends who shared the same values, sacraments and spiritual encouragement were never more than a dorm room away. Finding that same environment after college was a little more challenging.

After graduation, Mitchell and her husband, Charlie, moved around a lot, bouncing from parish to parish. When they settled down in Alexandria, they decided to be more intentional about investing in a church. The couple found the young adult community at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria and fell in love, said Mitchell. "We found our Notre Dame community," she said. "It just took a while to get there."

As Mitchell found, the Arlington Diocese is full of opportunities for newly graduated Catholics to find faith communities - from parish groups to diocesanwide events. On a typical Tuesday night, a young adult can pray through contemporary Christian music at Arlington Worship at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. They can attend a sock-hop or lecture at the Arlington Forum at St. Charles Borromeo Church Friday night, and join fellow Catholics for a game of soccer at St. Leo Church in Farifax Sunday.

"There are so many different things for so many different people," said Brendan Gotta, diocesan young adult coordinator. "So if P3 is your thing - a crowd of 200 people (gathering for penance, prayer and a trip to a pub with St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington) - you can do that. But if you'd rather meet with a Bible study of 10, that's available too."

Young adult communities are places where peers figure out their lives together - jobs, housing, spirituality, dating and everything in between. Here, young adult leaders in the diocese give their advice on life after college.

A place to work and a place to sleep

In the Northern Virginia area, networking can be the key to finding both housing and a good job. "That first job is the most difficult one," said Josh Bickl, a member of the young adult community at Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls. "Start talking to people and be flexible."

Many people also find their roommates through word of mouth, or asking their friends via social media. Even if you're good friends with potential roommates, be sure you'll be compatible living together, counsels Mitchell. "Does this person have these qualities? Can we live with each other in peace?" she said.

Arragon Perrone, a former FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary, spent a while looking for a job in ministry, he said. Now the coordinator of the youth and young adult apostolate at St. Mary Church in Alexandria tells people to look for jobs within the Catholic Church at CatholicJobs.com and to talk to familiar priests for leads.

Once you have a job, don't be afraid to find a career with a better fit, says Mitchell. "I did consulting and my husband is an attorney. We were working crazy hours and we were so stressed and disconnected," she said. "My advice is to stay open-minded; it's a continual search the perfect job. The job (I now have in corporate finance) really fits our lifestyle much better."

Creating community

After finding a place to work and a place to live, young adults should look for a spiritual home. "It's never fun being the new person in the room, but you already have a lot in common from a faith-life perspective," said Mitchell.

Perrone recommends joining a parish group to forge a core group of friends, and then meeting new people at larger events, such as St. Mary's Christmas caroling night in Old Town Alexandria.

Young adult communities can be great places to meet a future boyfriend or girlfriend, but Bickl believes that's not the best way to approach it. "Grow together in faith and fellowship, and trust that the rest of it will work out," he said.

Bickl also suggests forming single-sex small groups. Fiat, the Our Lady of Hope young adult community "has a lot of co-ed things, but it's really important that men hang out together and that women hang out together, because women's approach to spirituality may be different and vice versa," he said.

Being an adult

The key part of being a Catholic young adult is being an adult - a full-fledged member of the body of Christ, said Gotta. "At the heart of it, we are called to community, and it's not just one age group. I think a lot of times with young adults the mindset is, 'What can I get from this parish?' Instead of, 'What can I give?'"

Being an adult means taking responsibility for your soul, your prayer life and your relationship with Christ, said Perrone. "Be diligent to daily prayer - that's the first thing that will go, especially if you're very active." He recommends a silent time of mental prayer and an examination of conscience at night. "That's the ideal - trying to invite God into your day," he said.

For spiritual beginners and longtime Catholics alike, faith communities make a big difference, as Bickl discovered. "In college, I wasn't a practicing Catholic, but once I started getting involved in (my parish), my faith started to grow a lot," he said. "Just show up and God will do the rest."

Check out these young adult resources:

View the Catholic Herald's The Scene Calendar page for upcoming events for young adults and singles.

DC Area Catholics Looking for Roommates

Sign up to get weekly Arlington Young Adult Ministry emails here.

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Sign up to get Catholic Sports Club of the Diocese of Arlington emails here.

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Arlington Forum

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St. Mary Church in Alexandria

St. Veronica Church in Chantilly


Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls


Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria

Check your parish bulletin to see if your church is home to a young adult community.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016