“Let the Children Come to Me” – Elementary Faith Formation During COVID
So much has happened in the world of Blessed Sacrament’s Elementary Faith Formation since last year at this time! A year ago, Elementary Faith Formation was led by three part-time coordinators: Ansley Dauenhauer led Faith Formation and Children’s Liturgy of the Word, I was leading Sacramental Preparation, and Eileen Surbrook was starting to plan Vacation Bible School for 2020. Over the summer, all three roles were combined into one, and I’ve been leading the charge since August! Before I go any further in this blog, I have to thank both Ansley and Eileen for their years of service to the Faith Formation program here at Blessed Sacrament. You both have left me big shoes to fill!
Last March, as the “three weeks” of Covid safety measures stretched into a month and more, Elementary Faith Formation went virtual with Children’s Liturgy of the Word videos, online lessons about the sacraments, and some great resources about dealing with the pandemic. Families enjoyed last year’s special Easter Egg Hunt, driving around Midland neighborhoods and looking for colored egg pictures in windows. In the Sacramental Preparation corner, our First Eucharist/Confirmation Jesus Experience Day retreat turned into some at-home bread baking and crafting and some short video lessons. Instead of one big First Eucharist & Confirmation Mass, we celebrated “small” with four or five families at a time on a series of summer weeknights. Vacation Bible School became a quieter, at-home experience.
As the new school year began, I was excited to begin working with this amazing team of Faith Formation leaders, helping the families of Blessed Sacrament make “Love Work” (our theme for the year) by learning about and living out the Corporal Works of Mercy! Our mission this year has been to make sure that every Blessed Sacrament family knows that they are included and loved, and that, despite the storms of life raging around all of us during the past months, Faith Formation is alive and well here at Blessed Sacrament! So guess what we did! We hand-delivered packets of materials to all of our Blessed Sacrament families to start them off on this year’s Faith Formation journey!
We kicked off our year with a parish-wide Works of Mercy Service Blitz, and then settled in for some awesome virtual lessons delivered weekly via Flocknote, exploring a different Corporal Work of Mercy each month. We begin each month with a deep look at a big Bible story like the Greatest Commandments or the Good Samaritan. During the second week, we learn about a saint who provided a great example of our Corporal Work of Mercy, like St. Damien of Molokai or St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and we do a service project inspired by him or her. Then, during the third week of the month, we bring it all back together with an activity and a connection to the life of our church. The last week of the month is spent making a connection to what’s happening in the liturgical year (All Saints Day, Epiphany, Christmas, Lent…). Each lesson also comes with a traditional prayer to learn, a short video from me, a verse of Scripture to meditate on, a song, a God sighting, and an opportunity to connect with a “Share Your Faith Work” button. For a sample, check out this Flocknote lesson about the Corporal Work of Mercy “Feed the Hungry.”
Children’s Liturgy of the Word this year is a biweekly video posted to our Blessed Sacrament YouTube page. With upbeat music, submitted photos and videos of Blessed Sacrament kids serving as lectors and leading the responses, and homilies geared to younger listeners, this year’s CLOW videos are a great way for families to connect to the Sunday liturgy from home.
First Eucharist preparation begins in a couple weeks, with some virtual lessons that will bring home some of the best parts of our traditional in-person Parent/Child introductory session and our Jesus Experience Day retreat. Families can choose a regular weekend mass during the summer on which to celebrate their special day, and we’ll come together in a small group on the day before each for a practice and mini retreat.
Vacation Bible School preparation is under way for the week after school lets out, with plans for an outdoor experience at Assumption with tents and lots of Social Distance.
Our elementary kids have also had the opportunity to participate in a collaborative Nativity Play video (if you missed it, click here!), a Christmas trivia night, and an upcoming collaborative Stations of the Cross video.
I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve used phrases like “if things were normal, we would have…” or “unusual, unprecedented times…” or “this crazy year…” I can tell you, though, that despite the global tragedy of the past months, we’ve learned to be more thoughtful, more flexible, and more creative. I think those lessons are going to make for an even greater Faith Formation program in years to come! And we’re going to continue, as St. Teresa of Calcutta so poetically suggests, doing “small things with great love.”