By Dan Russo
DUBUQUE — Catholics across the archdiocese are using technology to communicate and provide assistance to teachers, faith formation leaders and families as restrictions on face-to-face interactions continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a virtual event March 25 hosted by the Faith Formation Division of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, over 40 people came together. While working from home, attendees discussed how they were coping with the unusual situation personally and developed strategies on how to continue evangelizing and providing pastoral care to families that are also in their houses.
“Luckily, we had already started the majority of sacramental prep being done at home,” wrote Brenda Strayer, director of faith formation at St. Mark Parish in Iowa Falls during a text chat that accompanied the video conversation. “We have told parents to continue home lessons as planned.”
How to handle cancelation of confirmations, other sacraments and events was still being worked out as of March 25, according to officials. A faith formation staff member from the Heart of Mary Cluster of parishes, based in Vinton, reported that pastoral councils are sending “pay the kindness forward” notes to parishioners and asking them to write to others. In some areas, parishes are performing “ding, dong, ditch” efforts with parish bulletins. In essence, representatives of the parish drop off paper copies of the bulletins at people’s homes and then leave as a way to maintain social distance.
Although being at home a majority of the time presented challenges, there were also some unexpected benefits, according to participants in the virtual meeting.
“Maybe our parishes will be ripe for small groups this fall,” reflected Mary Pedersen, director of adult faith formation for the archdiocese. “God’s going to be working through all of this for good. I’m hearing from people praying more online. I’m hearing from people praying from home now more than ever.”
The Faith Formation Division of the Archdiocese of Dubuque has been circulating recommendations and other resources for people through its website, email and other means. Many gatherings are occurring using online meeting software such as Zoom or Google Hangout.
Cover image: A screen shot of a virtual meeting on Zoom involving faith formation personnel from around the Archdiocese of Dubuque.