Seeing Love Work Through Faith Formation in the Midst of COVID
March 2020 seems like a VERY long time ago, but it was then that your Blessed Sacrament Faith Formation Team, like so many others, picked up their computers, books, and calendars from their offices and went home to work for what we all thought would be a couple of weeks while the Corona Virus emergency came and went. Certainly, we would all be back together for Easter, right? When it became clear that we would not be able to finish the formation year as we had begun it, the team shifted their approach in order to stay connected with all of our households and families.
Instead of in-person lessons, we went virtual, just like our community did for Mass. We created video lessons, and held zoom meetings. We invited parishioners to write and send over 350 Easter cards to a segment of our church family that might have been feeling a bit more isolated by the ever-evolving circumstances. Some of these interactions resulted in beautiful cross-generational relationships of younger families connecting with long time members. Because families couldn’t gather for the traditional Easter Egg Hunt, we created a Midland Community-Wide one instead. People were invited to color paper eggs and put them in their windows. Families could then travel around Midland, count the number of eggs that they “collected,” and then submit their names and the number to become eligible to win an Easter basket! We had people from our parish as well as the wider community participate! So much fun!
May, June, July came and went. We were disappointed to forgo our traditional registration weekend, but it led to new ways of thinking about registration and participation. Children’s Liturgy of the Word (CLOW) continued to make the Word of God accessible for our youngest parishioners through thoughtfully crafted video lessons. The Graduation Celebration was replaced with a wonderful banner and a virtual message and blessing. The 5th grade transition to YM became a fun at home activity. VBS was an interactive on-line experience, and the celebration of Confirmation and First Eucharist for our second graders took on a quiet, personal feel. The beauty is that these things all still happened!! The virus could not put a stop to the work of the Holy Spirit! Even the High School Youth to Youth Retreat Team and the High School Outreach Team found unique ways to honor and celebrate all of the work that they had done throughout the year though the final retreat and trip were cancelled. This strange time forced us to look at how we had always done things and seek new ways to reach, teach and share the love of Jesus Christ.
Over the summer, the team gathered outdoors to talk about what 2020/2021 could/would look like as we dove into our theme of LOVE WORKS. Father Rob encouraged us to focus on ways for people to serve since they couldn’t gather and to find ways for families to participate without being overwhelmed. The Corporal Works of Mercy became the perfect platform on which to build the year, but the question of how to best reach parishioners remained. We took a new approach to registering for age level programs. If you were a registered member of the parish, then we just considered your children registered for faith formation; no paperwork, no registration fee. We kicked off the year with a Blessed Sacrament Community Wide Corporal Works of Mercy Service Blitz, and then instead of coming to us for formation, we went out to all of our families… over 400 of them with kids between the ages of 3 and 18. Through traditional mail, phone calls, and emails we laid the groundwork for the new programming year. With beautifully crafted, age appropriate Flocknotes (including for adults) we have produced weekly on-line lessons, and with an army of volunteers, we put together and delivered home packets to all of our families for the months of October and November. Our main goal was to reach out and hold on tightly to families, even ones who haven’t been engaged for several years. Our hope is that they realize that we are here for them, they are loved, and they are an important part of our Blessed Sacrament family. I wish that I could say that we have 100% participation, but there are many reasons why families might choose not to participate. We understand, but we aren’t letting go of them J. We will be connecting with each family individually this spring to see how they are doing and to invite them into the adventure of encountering Jesus through involvement in faith formation opportunities in 2021/2022.
Other notable events from the year was our first ever Halloween Trunk or Treat, a Christmas card writing initiative like at Easter, and the suggestion of gifting Christmas ornaments to parishioners. Corinne, Christine, and Justin created and ran a virtual Christmas trivia game for families and we find ourselves coming full circle as we just talked about asking folks to write and send Easter cards again. I am happy to report that Adult Faith Formation has been continuing in both virtual and in-person settings as the Governor’s orders allow. We are on our third Laidback Book Club book since summer having read and discussed JUST MERCY and THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS. Currently we are reading Pope Francis’s LET US DREAM and will read KISSES FROM KATIE during Lent. More than twenty people participated in the video-based small groups of THE SEARCH, and nearly thirty were part of our LOVE DOES video/book discussions. We even had people from Chicago and the “Thumb” participate because we met via Zoom. How awesome is THAT?! During Lent, we will be doing the follow-up to LOVE DOES, EVERYBODY ALWAYS, and it would be wonderful to have you join us. Small faith groups and Bible studies continue to meet outdoors or virtually depending on weather and our Men’s and Women’s Christ Renews teams have been hard at work preparing for whenever the next retreat can happen.
Keep an eye out for the next four blog posts from your Faith Formation Team. Corinne Cathcart, Christine Sellnow, and Justin Rose will be sharing details of their programs and you will have an opportunity to view some of the amazing lessons that they have constructed. Chris Buchalski will be catching everyone up on what has been happening with new membership, baptisms, and people joining the Catholic faith. I am so grateful to all of them for their creativity and hard work and desire to provide opportunities for people to encounter Jesus Christ. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Ansley Dauenhauer for her hard work at the end of last year in our elementary program and Lorraine Beacom for the way that she continues to hold us all together and keep us on track.
Thank you to all of you for putting your trust in us to bring meaningful opportunities for prayer, service, connection, formation, and encounter to parishioners of all ages and at all stages of their faith journey. We look forward to walking forward in faith with you.
With peace, joy, and so much hope, Lyn