Family Faith at Home Program Encourages Virtual Domestic Church Practices


In these unprecedented times of global uncertainty, the Archdiocese of New York has established a program called Family Faith at Home—designed to guide the faithful in setting aside more time to discuss the Gospel readings, watch faith-based videos and pray as a family.

The resources, updated weekly, are available in English and Spanish, with the archdiocese and parishes offering them to families during this time of growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Ela Milewska, director of archdiocesan Youth Faith Formation, is the lead coordinator of Family Faith at Home (FFAH), La Fe en Familia en Casa (FFEC).

The program helps and encourages families to have faith-filled conversations regarding the Sunday Mass readings. The digital resource is sent to parishes to share with their families. Youth Faith Formation is providing the resources in conjunction with the archdiocesan Catechetical Office. The online program began March 29.

“It is an invitation to share faith as a family more often and more intentionally during the Covid-19 crisis,” Ms. Milewska said in a phone interview with Catholic New York. “It includes inspirational videos, like a really great video on Good Shepherd Sunday, how sheep actually do know the voice of their shepherd—and activities for kids and parents, like preparing a meal package and taking it to a food bank...We designed these resources in response to the Covid crisis.

“Because of faith formation and youth ministry stopping in our parishes, we wanted something for our families just to continue to have conversations of faith.” Ms. Milewska said many parishes are “doing incredible faith formation virtually, by sharing resources; some are setting up websites, some are doing Zoom meetings.”

She said her office wants to help families “grow together as a family, to do that maybe around the kitchen table, with the Scripture. It is a virtual space for conversation, to set aside a time in our day, in our family dynamics to have these conversations. It provides moments of faith sharing that can be done at any level. And when we keep talking about faith, we develop faith vocabulary, a conversational faith, something that becomes natural, and that’s how we grow deep in our faith, sharing our stories.”

Ms. Milewska said faith is “really something that is passed on from person to person. The Catechism, in 166, says, ‘No one comes to faith alone; we’re all linked in a chain of believers.’ And to me the strongest links in that chain of believers are mom and dad—the first teachers, and the first witnesses of faith to children...It has been really fun (the Family Faith at Home program) for us to make, and I think really great for our people to receive. It’s a way to also connect them to a larger Church community, too...We hope that when this crisis is done, that they will want to continue to gather at the kitchen table and talk about where they see God every day.”

The website resources include a Holy Week video message from Cardinal Dolan, in which the cardinal says that during this time of crisis he is aware that “we kind of feel by ourselves. One person who is always with us is Jesus. Remember what he said, before he went back to heaven with his Father, he said ‘I’ll be with you all days, even until the end of the world’”

The cardinal then asks that in our prayers, Bible readings and studies of our Catholic faith, as well as in our TV and online witness of livestreamed Vatican and local Mass celebrations, “just know that you’re close, we’re all close together in the unity of faith, and we’re very close to Jesus who is with us all days even in the end of the world. Even His death on the cross couldn’t stop Him from being with us.”

Brenda Trigueros, a married mother of three, said she and her family have been using resources offered through the Family Faith at Home online program. The family parish is St. John Bosco in Port Chester.

“There are many links to choose from; we all like the program,” Ms. Trigueros told CNY this week. “This is very good that they provide this virtual program,” she added.

“Watching the news about the crisis, it can be very stressful and confusing. The online resources have been very helpful. Our faith is getting us through this.” She said her family utilizes both the English and Spanish program components.

Her daughter, Angel Maria, 11, is in the parish’s religious education program. Angel Maria said she’s glad she can continue learning about her faith via the virtual resources. “My favorite one was the Good Shepherd,” she said about one of the program videos.

Irma Austin, coordinator of religious education at St. John Bosco, said, “In these times when we are all working hard to reach our parish families with messages of encouragement and hope, having a resource online program like Family Faith at Home and La Fe en Familia en Casa has minimized the research needed to put into the hands of our parents and guardians the material they need to continue to be the faith formation leaders of their families.”

Here’s the link: