Faith formation continues remotely

ORLANDO | Directors of religious education around the diocese are working hard to provide catechists tools for ongoing formation. “We have an opportunity over the next several weeks to accompany the people of God and be the face of Christ during an uncertain time,” said Dan Boyd, secretary for Laity, Family and Life at the Diocese of Orlando. In a letter to directors of religious education after the diocese announced that parishes would be closed until further notice due to COVID-19, Boyd offered resources and suggestions. “Recognizing the stress that some families are experiencing, I invite you to consider how we can open the doors of faith and help others to trust in God and strengthen their relationship with Him.”

Although virtual classes are available, Boyd focused on ways to “invite families to prayer and that opens their minds and hearts to the grace and peace of Christ.” He suggested dinner table conversation questions that relate to faith, enabling children of all ages to see what God is doing in their midst. Questions such as: “Is your faith more like ___ or __? (pillow or rock; treasure chest or banquet; roots or wings) allow children to draw on their experiences, rather than their linguistic ability, noted Boyd.

Another idea was to play a short video or audio reflection on Scripture or Sunday’s Gospel reading, then ask how this relates to each person’s daily life. He encouraged priests to post messages on parish social media accounts to unite communities that are feeling separated by self-quarantine restrictions. Boyd added, “A family schedule and rhythm of prayer, might lend a sense of normalcy to an otherwise interrupted schedule.”

Many parishes subscribe to Formed.org, a Catholic website that provides movies, studies, and reflections. Families in those parishes can log on and grow in faith together. A parish novena can be shared via social media and the parish website. This is a time to learn a new prayer practice. The online Guide to Lectio Divina with Children (Guía de Lectio Divina para Niños) is a great way to get started.

“Let’s connect with one another,” encourages Boyd. “Think of someone who would be grateful to hear an uplifting word, then give them a call. Start with family and then move on to those with whom we haven’t recently spoken. This will give us a chance to catch up, meaningfully connect, and find out what they need.” He noted that offering to close the call with a prayer brings hope, by lifting their specific needs to the Lord and praying for peace and healing. If you are comfortable, he adds, “Invite them to join in communal prayer at a certain time.”

Finally, consider writing letters or making cards for those in a care facility unable to receive visitors. Reaching out to those who are isolated and lonely is asked of us in Scripture: “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers,” Rom 12:13.

While parishes, catechists and parents continue to find new ways to evangelize and deepen faith in trying times, Boyd hopes this will also be a period of great fruitfulness, as the diocese’s faithful come together in prayer for one another. “For those of us who have committed our lives to working for the Church, our apostolate may have shifted, but our mission remains the same: bring Jesus Christ and His Gospel, in word and deed, to all people,” said Boyd.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic March 25, 2020