At the archdiocesan Catechetical and Youth Ministry offices, administrators have been providing guidelines for ministries for an upcoming season of mostly virtual and video faith formation at the parish level.
The Catechetical Office and the Youth Ministry offices together form the Office of Youth Faith Formation.
“All of these ways that we in the Catechetical Office and ministries throughout the archdiocese continue to reach out virtually are to clearly proclaim that nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; not even this pandemic,” Sister Joan Curtin, C.N.D., director of the Catechetical Office, told Catholic New York last week.
“I would also like to mention the weekly Faith at Home brochure sent to every family to assist them in reflecting together on the Sunday Gospel...The whole purpose of catechesis is to bring the person of whatever age closer in communion with the person of Jesus.
“I am very hopeful that whether our religious education programs are onsite or virtual, or a hybrid model of both, that through God’s grace and the dedicated directors/coordinators and catechists, the faith will continue to be nurtured and taught with integrity and joy.”
Sister Joan added, “My only regret is that some students, particularly in parts of the Bronx and Manhattan, lack the necessary equipment for this virtual religious education. They need assistance to buy computers, Chromebooks, so they can participate virtually.”
In a recent letter to directors and coordinators of religious education programs, Sister Joan said, “While you are working on your plans for the opening of parish religious education in September, we in the Catechetical Office are working on (virtual and video) resources that can assist you.”
Sister Joan also noted that the letter would alert the catechetical leaders “to guidelines and resources that are basically in place but at the same time are being further developed and shaped to serve the needs of your parish religious education programs during this unprecedented time.”
The letter included these guiding words from the Catechetical Office for program structure:
• The religious education models introduced in the fall of 2019 are proving to be providential and helpful, especially the models which combine onsite and online learning and directly involve the parents in their child’s catechetical experience. As you make your plans, please recognize that the likelihood for onsite parish religious education is not high unless the parish program is small. Given the realities of our current situation, we highly recommend that each parish consider the following two basic approaches to religious education:
• The weekly Onsite Parish Religious Education Approach, where it can be done safely and in accordance with all state requirements for social distancing and safety and following the directives of archdiocesan authorities.
• The Family-Based Parish Religious Education Approach, which combines at-home learning led by the parent and oversight by the pastor through the direction of the parish director/coordinator of religious education. A meeting between the parent and the parish director/coordinator every fourth week helps parents prepare for the religious education sessions of the coming weeks.
At the archdiocesan Youth Ministry Office, administrators recently reminded parish ministry leaders that “Safe and Sound: Guidelines and Procedures for Holding Onsite Religious Education and Youth Ministry” was shared with all parishes, and that they should have received an email copy of the guidelines. The document outlines the required procedures for parish communities that wish to conduct onsite religious education and youth ministry gatherings, i.e., face coverings, social distancing, using hand sanitizer.
“My hope is that they stay rooted, that they know and realize and recognize that they are loved,” Cynthia Psencik, director of the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry, told CNY.
“We’ve been working hard so that they can continue to have an anchor in their faith, to continue with this opportunity to draw closer to God; and to continue also to find community in any way that they can. More than ever we need community.”
Ms. Psencik said neither New York Catholic Youth Day or the Forum on Catechesis and Youth Ministry would take place this fall because of Covid-19 restrictions. Both events are normally held in October.
“The Department of Youth Faith Formation,” she noted, “will be doing a reboot and refresh video series for our catechists and youth ministers in October, for their professional development with virtual and video opportunities.”
The youths, she said, will have opportunities to grow in the faith through virtual and video programs and activities. She said some parish youth ministry leaders have reported meeting with teens during the summer to stay in touch. The gatherings included hiking days and parish parking lot meetings for fellowship, some of which will likely continue.
Ms. Psencik’s office has also informed parish youth ministers and teens that it is accepting applications for youths to join CYLA (Catholic Youth Leaders of the Archdiocese). CYLA is a team of young people from around the archdiocese who work together throughout the year to foster fellowship and formation, and to create premier events and other opportunities for their peers, such as Level Up 2020, an OYMNY YouTube channel event last month that featured fellowship, reflections and motivational talks.