Spotlight: Bridge to Life

The Bridge to Life is a nonprofit that depends on donations. It is trying to help save the lives of the unborn.

As the Coronavirus swept through the world, our country stood still in fear and anxiety. The outbreak hit New York City with such force, declaring Queens as the epicenter. People were quarantined, businesses shut down. Yet, The Bridge to Life, a pregnancy crisis center located in Flushing Queens, stood firm in considering our operations as an essential service. And it continued helping families in need. The center persevered and implemented a continuance of operations plans without disruption. Bridge to Life would meet with families by appointment only. Families would receive baby clothes and supplies through curbside pick-up.  The center has helped pregnant women and new moms in an effort to help women avoid abortion and keep their babies. It provides counseling and referrals for medical services like sonograms as well as clothes and baby supplies — all for free.

 

Francesca Yellico, Bridge to Life’s executive director, said “Three babies are alive today because we were opened during this time!” She pointed out that, from March 16, 2020, to the present day, Bridge to Life helped approximately 500 mothers and children as they faced many unprecedented difficulties during the pandemic.” With major stores closed during the pandemic, women could not get the basic needs for their babies. Francesca noticed the looks of appreciation and gratitude from the women (even though a facemask). “We are here for anyone who needs our help. This is truly a ministry to the people in need.” This ministry has helped alleviate some of the stress, fears, burdens, and financial difficulties brought on by this unexpected outbreak.

 

The Bridge to Life is a nonprofit that depends on donations. It is trying to help save the lives of the unborn

If you wish to donate by visiting our website:

www.thebridgetolife.org Or sending their donation to:

The Bridge to Life

147-32 Sanford Ave. 2nd Floor

Flushing, NY 11355

 

 

Keeping Teens Connected to Christ During a Pandemic

Many youth ministers use several resources to transition to online gatherings with their young people. Tailoring them to our Brooklyn and Queens teens and using Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube to keep their connection alive

Youth ministry is known for its fun, interactive gatherings for our young people. Each youth ministry program provides a safe space for teens to explore their relationship with Christ, while also building friendships. Youth ministers find joy in planning, preparing, and hosting gatherings that include ice breakers, games, bible lessons, and questions/discussions to guide our youth in learning their faith. Then in March, our world was placed on pause.

The pandemic affected the lives of millions and changed the way we all interact. From work to family gatherings, everything halted. This also impacted our church greatly. While pastors and DRE’s tried to figure out their next step, youth ministers also faced a challenge: How are they supposed to support their teens while in the middle of a pandemic?

Youth ministers faced personal challenges and their own fears of COVID-19, yet many managed to put this to the side in order to support their teens and continue to keep this as their priority as we slowly find a way to reunite.

Organizations such as the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), Project YM, ODB Films, and many others provided webinars and resources for youth ministers to transition to online gatherings with their young people. Our local youth ministers took these resources and figured out how to tailor them to our Brooklyn and Queens teens. Many youth ministers turned to Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube to keep their connection alive. Initially, the youth ministers were encouraged to simply provide a safe space for teens to express their fears, anxiety, questions, and pray together. The goal was to connect teens together even if it was virtually. Slowly, more and more youth ministers began to plan their virtual gatherings around in-person models such as praying the rosary together, reflections on the week’s Gospel, group sharing, games, and even fitness time.

The youth ministers of Brooklyn and Queens displayed their faith and resilience during a time of pain and fear by placing teens first and ensuring they had the time and space to connect with their friends and most importantly with God.

The Office of Adult Faith Formation

In the midst of a pandemic, virtual Rosaries, Lectio Divina, RCIA, among others faith formation and catechesis channels, are migrating to digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Go-to-Meeting and Zoom.

“Flatten the curve,” three words that became the norm for each of us to hear during these unprecedented times. For us in the Secretariat of Evangelization & Catechesis, it meant “hit the ground running.” Maintaining a real presence in the midst of a pandemic was an opportunity and a challenge, and posed innumerable questions:  What does this mean for our ministry? Where do we go from here? How do we continue to evangelize? How does one run a Zoom meeting after being only a participant? We found ourselves meeting as a staff every week as well as meeting with our catechetical leaders on a weekly basis to offer resources and assistance where needed. We often heard the phrase; “we are all in this together” and these words echoed throughout our universal Church. We were not simply in an isolated situation rather we shared in solidarity with all of humanity as we navigate through this turbulent storm of Covid-19. Yet, in all the uncertainty one thing was certain that is faith. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We could no longer meet “in person” yet this did not prevent us from meeting virtually and going forth like the Israelites crossing the Dead Sea into the unknown.

Microsoft Teams, Go-to-Meeting, and Zoom became platforms that we used to connect with others, to offer faith formation, guidance for catechesis, and moments of prayer. We have learned that many in our parishes began to do the same: virtual rosaries, Lectio Divina, RCIA and so much more. This pandemic has taught us that we can and must continue to reach out to one another. The year 2020 will not be forgotten in history and we are a part of that history. A year in which all Catholics had to give up the “source and summit of the Christian life” namely, the Eucharist, and the sacraments during lent and for longer than that. Watching the daily Mass offered by Pope Francis, Eucharistic Adoration and other forms of prayer became the new normal for many. But it also became an opportunity to worship together as a family, not rushing out of the “church” at the end of Mass, taking the time to sit with the Word of God and like Our Blessed Mother, to ponder the words in our hearts. For some who participate in the Holy Spirit Institute Volunteer Track in Spanish, the opportunity to complete their last course and seminar was life-giving. It not only gave them an opportunity to gather virtually but also enabled them to go deeper in their relationship with God and with one another. As more than one student remarked, “I look forward to the meeting so that I can be in community with others.” Another shared how the formation he had received and the pandemic gave him “new eyes” to see the needs of others and as an essential worker to not turn a “blind eye”, rather help strangers he never would have thought of helping before.

Throughout these several months, I have been a witness to the gratitude and generosity of others. Those catechetical leaders who were grateful for a call, an email, or just knowing that someone was present in case they had a need. In being that witness, I want to reiterate to you even in this time of enforced solitude the interconnectedness of our parish, our ministries, and indeed, our Catholic community through prayer. “In these difficult times, may He allow us to discover the communion that binds us and the unity which is always greater than any division” (Pope Francis, Homily 4/14/2020).

Marriage Preparation Go Digital During COVID-19 Pandemic 

The online Pre-Cana class platform was a blessing to Patricia Gianatiempo & Salvatore Musso. They were better prepared to commit to one another and staying true to one another.

 

In the midst of the global coronavirus crisis, the Office of Marriage, Family Formation, and Respect Life Education have consistently sought to protect the health, safety, and overall well-being of our Pre-Cana engaged couples and host couples. With so much uncertainty about the impact and scope of COVID-19, the office made both short- and long-term decisions that are believed to be in the best interest of the Pre-Cana program and the broader community. Since March 2020, All in-person Pre-Cana classes have been canceled.

In order for engaged couples to have their Pre-Cana class and meet the diocesan requirement, the office has developed an online and on-demand Pre-Cana experience. It’s a major change, as the marriage preparation for Catholics has always been done in person. In this new experience, couples will have the same content and material as a live Pre-Cana class.  The topics introduced in the online Pre-Cana include Communication and Problem-Solving Skills, Self-Awareness, Morality in Marriage, Living the Sacrament of Matrimony, Intimacy and Sexuality, Natural Family Planning, and Wedding Liturgy Planning. Once the couple finishes the course, they receive a Certificate of Completion that they can download, print, and email it to the clergyman who is preparing them for the sacrament.

This new online platform was a blessing to Patricia Gianatiempo & Salvatore Musso. They both intended on getting married in June and were worried about how they would finish their marriage preparation before their wedding. Patricia told the office that, “we were relieved to have that option to be able to do it online.” “We are better prepared because [pre-cana] shed more light on how important it is to commit to one another,” Salvatore told us that, “We learned that staying true to one another is going to be most helpful in our marriage.”

The office believes that this new online platform will be very beneficial now during these uncertain times. But it will be an option moving forward into the future.

Couples have also taken advantage of the Pre-Marriage Inventory provided by FOCCUS. The Inventory is designed to help engaged couples appreciate their unique relationship, learn more about themselves, and discuss topics important to their lifelong marriage. Taking the inventory results in a personalized Couple Report that helps target discussion topics important to marital success. While FOCCUS is not a test and is not used to label couples or predict marital outcomes, the report is used by clergy and lay leaders to help couples celebrate their relationship strengths and talk to each other about topics warranting further attention. “After taking the inventory, we believe that we are ready to walk down the aisle. We are more open with our feelings and have better communication skills”, said Lindsey Gossan. With videoconferencing platforms, couples and facilitators have been able to meet safely to discuss the results of their inventory.

Subscribe to Our Ministry Today

Subscribe




* indicates required


Religious Education Goes On

A global pandemic didn’t stop Christ the King Church in Jamaica – religious education continued on because of the passion and commitment of its catechists and students

When in-person classes came to a halt in March, with the guidance and support of Director of Faith Formation Robbin Johnson, catechists quickly adapted.

Johnson and her fellow catechists developed a new system of leaving packets with the learning materials at the church for parents to pick up, bring home to their students to work on and then bring back for assessment. Throughout this time, catechists continued to be an accessible resource, contacting families each week to check in until the program’s finish.

Pleased with the packet program’s success, catechist Odette Jones mentions what drives her commitment: “No religious education, no future spiritual leaders. This year was an awesome experience for me to see each child pray and to know the power of prayers.” Catechist Sandra Sanon adds, “Ministering at Christ the King as a substitute faith formation instructor, I have been blessed to share my love of Jesus, and the experience of my faith journey with the young people as I learn from their participation and input.”

At the end of the program, students were given their final progress report and resources for the summer. Last but most certainly not least, the program capped off with two end-of-term projects coordinated by Johnson. One project involves the students collecting bottle caps to raise funds to provide free dialysis to patients, and the other is to send thank you cards to healthcare workers in Queens General Hospital.

Johnson also credits the parents for the program’s success. “They are hardworking, unified and very supportive in assisting in their children’s faith journeys. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

A First For First Communion

AnneMarie Greene, Director of Faith Formation at St. Francis DeSales Parish in Belle Harbor, was determined. After months of learning and preparation for the parish children, their First Holy Communion ceremony was sadly and unexpectedly canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the next few weeks, Greene took note of the parish pastors Father Sweeney and Father Cunningham’s online daily and Sunday masses, and then reached out to the parish academy’s principal, Chris Scharbach, for his technology expertise and know-how.

This inquiry quickly led to what became St. Francis DeSales’ first virtual Holy Communion ceremony, held on May 2, 2020via Principal Scharbach’s Zoom account. Once Greene confirmed she had in-person support and the access to the technology for a virtual event, she immediately went to work on creating the program for this event, a responsibility she welcomed with open arms as this is her passion and forte: to create any program or material around religious education and the faith formation journey.

This Holy Communion ceremony was a wonderful prayer service which included scripture and live music from the parish choir. Along with the 92 Communion celebrants, Principal Scharbach, Father Sweeney, Father Cunningham, Father Gelfant from Blessed Trinity Parish in Breezy Point, catechists and parish academy teachers were also in the Zoom session, sharing in this important milestone for the children and, as Greene mentioned, “looking on in prayer and service to God”. Afterwards, the children – some proudly dressed in their First Communion white attire – swung by the parish rectory to pick up a gift from the parish.

Their gifted crosses and prayer cards in hand, and along with the beautiful prayer service – this is exactly what the catechists and children needed to honor this special day in the Catholic faith.

St. Pancras: Parish Life During the Pandemic

By Juan Perez, Director of Faith Formation, St. Pancras Church

As the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic increased in great numbers, the State of New York set restrictions for the health and safety of the public. It became apparent that this was going to affect our Parish life. Reverend Francis J. Hughes, Pastor of St. Pancras Roman Catholic Church, and I, as Director of Faith Formation, needed to come up with a plan for completing the rest of the year’s program. The schools were closed, the church was closed, and our program was suspended until further notice.

For us, faith formation is a very important piece in the life of the Church. After meeting with Father Hughes, we spoke about many ideas. As a result, we came to the conclusion that we needed to have the catechists, the parents, and the students involved as much as we could. Our idea was to create PDF remote lessons for the students, and this is how we did it. First, we contacted the 11 catechists, who teach 1st through 8th grades, and explained our ideas. Then, we sent an email to the parents, explaining the procedure for the rest of the school year.

  • Each catechist was asked to send me an assessment for each chapter, for a total of eight weeks.
  • Next, I converted the lessons into fill-in PDF forms.
  • The PDF forms were sent to each catechist with the names of the students and respective emails.
  • Every week, the catechists sent the remote lessons to the parents with the directions and due dates.
  • It was suggested that the parents work with their children to read chapters and complete the lessons. Upon completion, the parents were asked to send the completed lessons to their catechist.
  • After the catechists received the completed lessons from the parents, they recorded the students as present on the attendance sheet.
  • Every week, I kept in contact with the catechists and my pastor to review how the process was going.

At the conclusion of the school year, we promoted all of those students who were involved in the program. Father Hughes and I met to review the procedures we followed during the pandemic.  We agreed that our plan of having the catechists, the parents, and the children involved with the remote lessons was very successful, and we were pleased with the outcome. In addition, Father and I spoke about registration for the next school year.  Father suggested that we should try implementing online registrations and payments, which are already in motion.

After receiving my Master’s Degree in Systematic Theology in 2015, I wanted to do more for the Church and explore new ways to evangelize by taking advantage of the new technology. As a result, I have been using Facebook Live to preach the Gospel of the Lord in a different way. Thanks to this, about 40,000 people follow my Bible teachings and reflections on my Facebook page, Comunidad Catolica Fuego de Dios, translated in English, Catholic Community of God’s Fire.

In response to the request of many Latinos within the Diocese of Brooklyn and surrounding communities, my online teaching sessions increased enormously. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, I had to reinvent myself by transforming my bedroom into a mini-stream studio in order to be able to teach online through Zoom and Facebook rooms. To make the lessons more interesting, I incorporated Power Point presentations and prayers. The sessions also include live music with ministers from God’s Fire International Music Ministry, who connected with me through Zoom and Facebook Live. The viewers are given the opportunity to interact and make prayer requests. As a result, each presentation has between 8,000 and 20,000 viewers with very positive feedback.

The online presentations have opened other doors for me. Members of the Latino communities expressed an interest in having me prepare and offer retreats all over the United States, and including some other countries. These retreats are offered to young people, men, women, and families. This experience has changed my life because I see the pain, the suffering, and the desire to have a real and sincere relationship with God.

For years, I have written and produced music and videos for our Catholic community, based in the teachings and the Doctrine of the Church, which have had a very positive impact in the communities I have served. I am also in the process of releasing my new album, We Are Israel, and my upcoming book, Rise Up with Power.

Check me up on Facebook, on Instagram: @juancofgod, and YouTube – Camilo Perez.

Brooklyn and Queens Catholic Youth Day 2020, A YouTube Affair

On the eve of Pentecost Sunday, May 30, 2020, Brooklyn and Queens had its very first virtual Catholic Youth Day (BQCYD) celebration. Spearheaded by the Secretary of Evangelization & Catechesis Theodore Musco, lead event coordinator Lucia Morales and the BQCYD committee, the event as always consisted of inspirational talks, the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, praise and worship and fellowship with and amongst youth from multiple parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

The excitement, passion and positive energy was palpable as youth ministers welcomed the online participants and host-emcee the Symbol moved the celebration forward with keynote speaker introductions, warm shout-outs to youth as they joined the online session, personal anecdotes from his own faith journey and good beats in between. There were also peaceful moments of prayer and reflection as Father James Kuroly led the online attendees through the Adoration and Father Henry Torres spoke of how the Holy Spirit is ever-present in everyday lives and that, if one opens his/her heart to the Holy Spirit, one’s gift will be revealed. Last but most certainly not least, youth from across the diocese submitted fun videos as part of a TikTok challenge.

Overall, there were good vibes shared all around. As of June 11, 2020, the YouTube video has garnered 2,900 views. BQCYD was indeed an online success and a testament to a strong and ever-faithful youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Brooklyn.