Part 2 in our Faith Formation Series. Read Part 1 here.
Digital Youth Ministry in the Times of COVID
The past year has unfolded in ways that we did not expect. A year ago in February, the High School Y2Y team was well underway in plans to host and experience an amazing retreat. The Outreach team was prepping to travel in Madison Wisconsin in June. The Sunday Night Formation groups were meeting to finish the last of our sessions. Then Covid hit in very real and life altering ways.
Despite all of the disappointment, changes, and adaptations we have experienced, I am immensely proud of the students, parents, and programming we have put forth to finish last year, and continued to produce during this current school year.
In May of 2020, the Y2Y and Outreach teams decided to work through May and into June, despite the continued postponement and then cancellation of those events. Y2Y finished the year by sharing Witness talks and closing thoughts on Zoom meetings and in one outdoor gathering in the church parking lot where we celebrated with a physically distanced picnic and discussion. Many Outreach teens took on an active role in the cleanup efforts following the dam collapse in Sanford and the flooding in Midland. I was immensely proud of our senior teen leaders, Ryan Kreusch, Katelyn Corrion, Ruth Pasek, and Collin Erickson, for their parts in organizing the closing prayers, organizing service groups doing cleanup, and keeping the focus of their respective groups at staying positive during the chaos and uncertainty of their final 3 months of school.
Over the summer, the formation team formulated plans to adapt programming for the coming school year to fit the ever-changing status of large group meetings. We united to tackle the same set of topics, the Corporal Works and Catholic Social Teaching, in age appropriate lessons and events for our families. We kicked off the year with a family friendly and physically distance Service Blitz in which families could choose service projects from a list of find some of their own that fit with the seven Corporal Works topics this year. We also decided to reach out to ALL families with school age students and deliver packets filled with materials for at home projects that coincided with our weekly lessons sent out via Flocknote.
Over the first three months of the year, the high school students each received a journal used for the weekly reflection questions and to take notes on Sunday Night Zoom meetings, origami paper to use for a folded cross prayer card to give to friends, family, or leave for neighbors, and instructions for at home service projects each month. I also included an instructional family cooking video once a month in hopes to have high school students and parents working together while we were all cooped up inside. I offered live Zoom calls every Sunday night in which we had a lesson, discussion time with catechists and in large group, and updates on the service projects. The third Sunday of each month we had a guest speaker. October through December we were joined by Laurie Witt who offered a guided meditation Yoga lesson. In January, our guest speaker was Fr. Bob McGraw, a priest, friend, and man of much experience from the Lansing diocese. Please see the Flocknote for January 31st for the high school lesson and my discussion with Fr. Bob, and a list of other events and parish information.
Y2Y and Outreach have continued to meet virtually throughout the fall and winter. We have high hopes that we will be able to meet in person to finish planning for the high school retreat and summer outreach event in Sanford. Y2Y has focused this year on finding a theme and messaging to fit the current uncertain times, settling on “Surviving the Storm.” Outreach has used the first half of this school year to do smaller service projects such as raking, Christmas Wreath sales, and Adopt-a-Family. Now Outreach has changed our focus to researching community outreach organizations in Midland County in small groups. Each of the five assigned small group will put together a bio of a different outreach organization complete with video, contact information, and description of some of the events each organization runs to help our community. Once these bio pages and videos are complete, we will put together a reference page for the parish website to give parishioners a way to contact outside organizations for help or to volunteer.
As we continue to adapt, it is easy to complain or feel frustrated about the constant uncertainty of the next month, week, or even day. I have not, however, been disappointed in the teens, parents, or parishioners who I have endeavored to help and provide programming and service during the past year. Many have done their best to stay connected and remain active through the entire pandemic. I am honored and blessed to serve a wonderful parish and community.
God Bless, Justin Rose