By Amy White
Special to The Texas Catholic
In the current coronavirus climate, faith formation leaders must find novel ways to care for the soul while protecting the body.
“COVID has forced us to envision new methods,” said Jason Deuterman, Diocese of Dallas director of Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries. “For some folks, it’s all virtual; for some, it’s a hybrid; for some, it’s gathering entirely in the family.”
The hybrid method mentioned by Deuterman, in which students primarily learn at home but may meet in person at times, is a method currently utilized by Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Duncanville.
Holy Spirit’s faith formation for children, for example, gives students the option to come to the gym for instruction once a month. Of course, this instruction looks very different than it looked pre-pandemic.
“The children are split into pods and sit in hula-hoops that are spaced out from the other kids,” said Devyn Buschow, director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at Holy Spirit. “They are required to wear masks the whole time…Everyone gets their temperature taken before they leave their car.”
When not in-person, children may complete activities online instead.
Holy Spirit’s youth ministry similarly uses a hybrid approach, pairing a monthly Eucharistic adoration with online videos, activities, resources, and small groups.
“Since we are mostly virtual,” Buschow said, “we’ve actually had some families come to us from other churches because their parents work in the medical field or they are immunocompromised… I’m sure some of our families who wanted in-person were able to find another program that worked for them.”
Unlike Holy Spirit Catholic Church, St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Oak Cliff has chosen a completely virtual method of faith formation.
“The families are now able to do the lessons at home together, allowing the parents to serve as the primary catechist,” said Elizabeth Seidemann, the parish catechetical leader of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
The children’s at-home lessons consist of “Gospel Weeklies,” lessons focused on the Gospel reading of the week, and a biweekly Zoom meeting to review these lessons. St. Elizabeth’s youth ministry also relies on Zoom for discussion, drawing its lesson content from the online “The Search” series. During monthly Zoom lessons, the whole family can engage in faith formation geared toward forming the family as a whole.
“I love the challenge of truly involving the whole family in the faith of their children,” Seidemann said. “This is something we should have been doing all along.”
Of course, the adoption of new faith formation methods has presented some unique challenges: Leaders have had to learn about new technologies, train parents and catechists to use unfamiliar programs and forums, and work through frustrating technical difficulties. Additionally, parishes must bear with the cancellation or postponement of important large-scale faith formation events, including the 2021 Dallas Catholic Youth Conference and The 635, a large scale gathering of Catholic young adults.
Even so, several faith formation leaders suggest that the need to adapt to current circumstances has actually been largely beneficial to faith formation in many ways: New Dallas-specific small group materials are being produced, families are being brought more deeply into the faith formation process, and methods of formation are being revamped and reevaluated to serve parishes better than ever before.
By demanding departure from the old status quo, the pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for leaders of faith formation to envision newer and better ways of sharing the Good News of the faith with those in their parish.
“Throughout the tradition of the Church are periods of recollection and renewal,” Deuterman said. “Maybe this is ours.”