Richard Staehr (left to right), Kieran McManus, Laura McManus, Agatha McManus and Carlo Stebbings eat a pasta dinner at McManuses’ Union Spring home August 11 before the start of a Bible study group for young adults. (Photo by Glenn Gaston)
In July 2019, a handful of people showed up for the first meeting of a new Bible study group for young adults in the Auburn area. Three years later, the small group has grown into a close-knit faith-sharing community, led along the way by three young adults determined to share the spiritual nourishment they received.
“It’s actually a beautiful story of…how God works through others, and the essence and nature of community and how that affects a soul,” remarked Grace Fallon, the group’s founder.
Young adult finds vibrant Catholic community in Steubenville and tries to recreate it in Auburn
Fallon grew up in a Catholic family, but it wasn’t until her undergraduate years at Franciscan University in Steubenville in Ohio that her faith really “came to life,” she said. There Fallon was surrounded by people who loved Christ and were not afraid to let their faith influence every aspect of their lives. She joined a Bible study group organized by a young couple who modeled the hospitality, joy and love of God.
After graduating in May 2019, Fallon returned home to Auburn and quickly began to miss the vibrant and active community of young Catholic adults she left behind in Steubenville. Rather than lament the lack of opportunity for local young adults, however, Fallon decided to try his hand at organizing the kind of community he lacked.
“If I had received and received so much while I was a band member at Franciscan, why couldn’t I give the same drive here in Auburn?” she explained.
Fallon spread the word among her peers, and when the date for the new group’s first meeting finally arrived, she nervously waited for people to arrive at her parents’ house. When it was time for the meeting and no cars had stopped in the driveway, Fallon was disappointed but tried to salvage the evening by going to play football with her siblings. She had only been gone for a few minutes when she received a phone call from her mother, who told her to hurry home because her guests had arrived.
“I was so surprised at the number of people who came, ready to dive into the scriptures. I thought the first session was a no-show, but by the end my heart was burning with that zeal and excitement for Christ that I had felt at Franciscan,” Fallon said.
A Bible study group turns into a close-knit faith-sharing community
The group is growing over the weeks. Members read passages from the Old Testament and New Testament, discussing what they had read as well as everything from the various ecumenical councils in church history to the challenges of living the Catholic faith on the workplace.
The task of leading the group was daunting at times, but Fallon tried to remember that God was the true host of the group.
“It was his word we were talking about, not mine, and when I handed it to him, the session ended up being a beautiful discussion where we really met Christ and came away differently,” she said. .
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life in the spring of 2020, band members began meeting virtually, and one member later told Fallon that the reunions had been a source of hope during those dark days. Band members had resumed in-person meetings in the fall of 2020, when Kieran and Laura McManus traveled to Auburn. They were looking for a house to buy, as Laura McManus had just accepted a position on the faculty of Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate, a private Catholic high school in Auburn, and had been invited to a Bible study session.
“We took a chance and showed up, and we were greeted with such warmth and a welcome and the spirit of Christ,” Kieran McManus said.
“We found a home in this Bible study community even before my husband and I bought and moved into our home,” Laura McManus added. “The joy of the Holy Spirit was tangible there, inspiring people and inspiring conversation.”
A new couple takes over the leadership of the Bible study group, the group is open to older adults.
When Fallon announced earlier this year that she would be moving out, the McManus became the band’s new hosts. They now hold meetings at their house every Thursday evening at 7 p.m., preceded by informal pasta dinners at 6:30 p.m.
“I feel like now it’s our turn to give that sense of community to others because we’ve been so blessed with it,” Kieran McManus said.
“We hope everyone who attends feels welcomed, cherished and truly belongs,” Laura McManus added.
Originally founded for young adults, the group has since expanded to also accommodate people outside this age range. Opening up the group in this way has enriched the experience for all, as younger members learn from the wisdom and experience of their older counterparts, while older members are “animated and encouraged” by older members. young, Fallon said.