17 March 2020
I am overwhelmed. Maybe you are too. But I wanted to connect with you personally before tomorrow, so that you have an idea of how faith formation will be moving forward. This email contains general information, more specific information will be forthcoming about Sacramental preparation in the days to come. If you haven’t done so already, also please see Bishop Kettler’s statement released today: http://stcdio.org/coronavirus-update/
State of the Situation
Our faith formation policy states that we follow the district 742 cancellation schedule. Right now, the implication of this policy is that our Community Meal and Wednesday classes will be canceled March 18 and March 25. Sunday School is canceled at St. Peter’s through the end of the year. Children’s Liturgy of the Word at St. Michael’s is indefinitely suspended.
Canceled school means more togetherness than most families regularly experience. I’ve already seen memes sharing challenges: “Homeschool day 1, Wondering how I can get this kid transferred out of my class” and “Been homeschooling a 6-yr-old and an 8-yr-old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.” All humor aside, we will need some new resources to help us get through the next weeks.
Faith education is important, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are three suggestions for incorporating faith learning into our Covid-containment lives: 1) Establish prayer routines; 2) Create a framework for family reflection and conversation on current events; and 3) Engage home-based educational materials.
Suggestion One: Establishing Prayer Routines
Let’s face it, many of us do not sit down to eat as a family very often. Being stuck inside for a couple weeks as a family creates an opportunity for us to change this busy-family dynamic. Try to choose at least one meal where members of the family who are home sit down and eat together. In the context of this family meal, consider using or learning the before and after meal prayers. By framing our meals with prayer, we show our gratitude to God for the gifts he’s given us, and we prepare ourselves to more gracefully leave the table in care of our world and each other. Words to our meal prayers can be found here: https://www.stpetestpaul.org/prayers
The Liturgy of the Hours includes readings, psalms and prayers said several times throughout the day. Consider choosing a time during the day to gather in prayer. You could do this at the beginning of your day, at the end of learning time, during a meal or at the end of the day. Here’s a US Catholic article with some practical advice for incorporating the Liturgy of the Hours into family life: https://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201909/use-liturgy-hours-nurture-family-time-31816
Suggestion Two: Family Reflection and Conversation
Right now, during this crisis, is when we will see our faith in action. How are people helping one another? How are we sharing our resources with people who have less than we do? Ho w are people choosing compassion, care, empathy and action? Our spiritual and corporal works of mercy will be on display as we navigate new challenges.
Theological reflection is the activity of utilizing our daily experiences to reflect on God’s movement in the world and in our life. When we see people responding to current health events and provide space for reflection about those events, we can discern how God is calling us to respond.
Your family can learn to do theological reflection together. Choose something to reflect on, this could be something that happened in your family, or it could be something someone read on the news.
Follow this procedure:
- Have someone summarize or read the happening to those present or show a video to the group.
- Ask, “What did you see and hear in the story?” And here you’re looking for people to repeat back pieces of what they actually saw and heard, not giving meaning to those things. You can spend a long time on this step, depending on how long your story is. Someone can write these down, or not.
- Ask, “What does this story mean for us today?” and
- Ask, “Based on our discussion what is the Gospel / Jesus / God calling us to do?
- End your time together by praying spontaneously about the issues brought forward and your family’s response to those issues, or with a memorized prayer.
Suggestion Three: Utilize Resources
Many resources exist for teaching faith at home. You could choose to pick up your student’s text from St. Peter’s – let me know and I’ll meet you there. Or, you can utilize online or print materials you already have.
I’ll curate some online resources for you over the next days and have them available on our website. One I recommend consists of reflecting on Sunday readings, then breaking open the word together: https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/liturgical-year/sunday-connection I choose this resource to highlight because it is easy to use as a family with mixed-ages of children. To use it with your family, I’d recommend the following:
- Choose the same time every week to meet and reflect on the readings together. This could be Sunday morning, or Wednesday evening as per our regular routines.
- Choose readers from your family to read selected readings, choosing only as many as your children would reasonably be able to sit through and “hear.”
- Utilize presented discussion starters and activities to break open the word from the tabs that are appropriate for the ages of your children.
I don’t know how to best communicate with you during this time, but I’ve created a Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/taofaithformation Please join.
Thank you for your patience with all of this. None of us know how the next days will unfold, but it is a great act of solidarity to reduce the risk of infection by following health recommendations.