Faith formation flourishes at home

ORLANDO | Church leaders, parents, and catechists continue passing on the faith of Jesus Christ thanks to new technology. As schools announced online learning would continue through the end of the school year, Secretary for Laity, Family and Life, Daniel Boyd, in conjunction with Catholic schools, asked that parishes move all catechetical efforts from in-person to virtual for the remainder of the catechetical year. Boyd spoke to the Florida Catholic regarding his department’s efforts and how families can pass on the faith.

FC: When state leaders first told people to stay home during the pandemic, how did faith formation change?

BOYD: Some catechists continued teaching through Zoom. Almost everyone resumed some sort of faith formation virtually – whether that was sharing resources with parents so that they could take up the mantle or the pastor holding some sort of video reflection for the community and asking them to reflect as a family. There was a really creative response to the needs of the time.

FC: How is that changing now that the period is extending?

BOYD: It largely hasn’t changed because most parishes had completed the Sacramental prep requirements. As much as people need, parishes can continue offering formation online. It’s a beautiful thing for the parents to be the primary educators because that is their role anyway. The Church reminds us that parents are the primary educators of their children and now parishes have been providing families with the resources to do just that.

FC: Is there a general catechesis being used throughout the diocese?

BOYD: No. That is a pastoral decision because of the different abilities and capacities of the parishes. If you have a young population with young catechists, it’s not that hard to jump online and do Zoom classes. Whereas, a much older population has a harder time. There is quite a diversity in offerings. Some parishes meet on different weekdays, others have family-based catechesis where the parents are the primary educators, while still others meet twice a month for family and communal gatherings for catechesis.

FC: What are some ways in which parishes have continued formation?

BOYD: Some of the more creative ones that I’ve seen include using Instagram to hold retreats. I participated in a retreat at Prince of Peace (Ormond Beach) where I gave a reflection. They had Zoom going and Instagram Live and Instagram TV.

FC: How are parishes being assisted?

BOYD: Many of the publishers have given open access to all of their content. That has allowed parishes to share that directly with parents. For example, with Loyola Press, if a parish did not have the full subscription to online textbooks and video libraries, Loyola opened that up and shared it with parents. For programs like Zoom, Cisco Webex, and others, we (Office of Laity, Family and Life) were very careful to share with parish catechetical leaders how they can use those in safe ways so that children are not exposed to unwelcome interruptions.

FC: When will students awaiting to receive Sacraments be able to do so?

BOYD: Once public liturgies resume, parishes will be allowed to schedule the celebration of those Sacraments according to their calendar and needs.

FC: Some polling agencies have indicated online Mass attendance is going down among Christians. What can you tell parents to encourage them on this journey as educators, keeping the faith vibrant and alive?

BOYD: The obligation is to keep holy the Lord’s day. If the only thing we did to make it the Lord’s day was to go to Mass, but there was no change in our hearts… then how authentically was that a practice of what the Lord was inviting us to?  … If we want our children to have a strong relationship with God, then we need to have a strong relationship with God. Our life needs to be Christocentric. He needs to be the center around which everything else is organized. If we fit Jesus in wherever there’s room, that is what our children are going to do.

FC: What are the consequences for our young people if we don’t get this right?

BOYD: We risk telling children, of any age, that participation in the life of the Church is not important if we don’t make this a priority. …Children largely look at their parents to establish a framework for establishing what is important in life, a set of principles and values that guide us. If we showed children –  by our actions and how you use our time and what we talk about – that a relationship with God is fundamental and the most important thing we can do with our life, then we maximize the possibility that they will have that same set of values and principles.

It’s an extension of, “Take the log out of your own eye before you remove the spec out of your brother’s. When our lives are in order and we are living devout Catholic lives: people who are clearly dedicated, we talk about our faith, our faith is important to us, we participate in not just the Sunday liturgy, but in the entire communal life of the parish; then our children are going to see that and it’s going to be important to them.

FC: How can families continue to help their children grow in faith?

BOYD: The Diocese of Orlando Office of Laity, Family and Life’s Facebook page is a good resource. We offer webinars (Raise Kids Who Stay Catholic, April 29, 8-9 p.m.), live Spanish retreats (Reconstruyeme, Sat., April 25, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., https://tinyurl.com/registroretiro), provide framework for spiritual formation for families, and consolidate lots of good resources for spiritual formation for parishes to share on social media. We’ve also collaborated with San Pedro to provide resources on their website: https://www.sanpedrocenter.org/.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic April 23, 2020