Before you graduate college you should probably know …

Kelly Skahan

The vast majority of worries students face after graduation revolve around moving to a new city and being out of their element. Unfamiliarity with an area makes it difficult to live day-to-day; after all, when simple things like a quick run to the ATM, a stop at the grocery store or a daily jog require a thorough scouring of Google Maps, taking care of more daunting tasks like finding a reputable dentist, doctor or drug store become all the more overwhelming.

One thing that often falls by the wayside, however, is finding a new church after a move. Catholic or not, many of us grew up attending the same services at the same parishes for our entire lives. The jump to Villanova was an intimidating one in and of itself; when your family has been hitting the 5 p.m. Mass at your parish since before you can remember, shifting your weekend around to accommodate a service on Sunday night at school can be a much bigger change in your faith life than you anticipated.

It’s a whole different ballgame, however, when you can’t even find a church nearby, let alone a service that fits your schedule. Living in a city helps the situation sometimes; a church stands out like a sore thumb on a crowded city block, and you can check out the front doors for service times.

In the suburbs, though, it’s a little more difficult. If you’re Catholic, it’s always worth checking out the official Web site of the Diocese or Archdiocese in which you live. Usually, it’ll have a list of churches in the area near you, including addresses and service times, and sometimes it’ll even allow you to search using your address to find the closest parish to your house.

If you’re not Catholic, there are several Web sites that allow you to search for the type of church, mosque or synagogue you’re looking for. lets you enter your address and denomination into a search engine and will produce a fairly accurate list of churches in the area that meet your needs, but the Web site only includes Christian churches. caters to a wider variety of faiths, including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and other religions; the only downside is that it searches by city, and figuring out which church is closest to you in an unfamiliar town can be frustrating.

It helps to make a list of two or three religious services you want to research further; check out their Web sites, call ahead of time or pick up a weekly bulletin to see what faith community the church caters to. If you’re looking for a parish similar to the one in which you grew up, look for a church with similar programs.

If you’re looking at a church that caters to an older audience, ask questions about opportunities for young adults in parish activities. A new church is also a great place to meet new people who share the same faith as you; see if there are events for new worshippers or opportunities to get to know the community better.

Make sure you visit two or three services at each church that you’re seriously considering before making a decision. Try to attend at least one service by the pastor of the community, since his or her demeanor and sermons are good indicators of the parish’s aesthetic. There’s no shame in attending one service and deciding it’s not for you, so go with your gut if you feel something really doesn’t fit. That said, if you’re happy after one service, make sure you attend a few more just to make sure; it would be a shame to be disappointed after formally joining the community.

Once you’ve found a church you like, call the parish office to see what steps you need to take to formally join.