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.”
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.
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.
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.