Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship provides faith formation opportunities online
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke across the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, diocesan schools, churches and ministries had to make the difficult decision to close their doors to the public. Nearly overnight, it became important to maintain distance, as the physical well-being of individuals became an unprecedented priority. Yet, faith cannot be furloughed. Christ cannot be canceled.
To the contrary, this time of uncertainty and increased anxiety presents a distinct invitation to care for the body of Christ in a new way, fostering a unique spiritual closeness in this season of separation and isolation.
This invitation has been answered by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship. Initially taking high-priority ministries online, such as marriage conferences, it has since expanded programming, providing many virtual faith formation opportunities.
“With all the uncertainties the pandemic has triggered, people are more open now to thinking about life’s big questions,” said Deacon Frederick Everett, secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship.
Responding to a call to reach those looking for answers to those life questions — looking for more — one virtual offering is Alpha, a free, 10-week small-group discussion series exploring the Christian faith and life’s big questions. This weekly series is open to anyone — Christian or not — asking life’s big questions and interested in exploring what faith looks like.
Caty Burke, associate director for Marriage and Family Ministry, shared that the secretariat is offering three unique programs catering to couples, providing “an opportunity for a couple to take a break from the craziness of life and spend quality time together, intentionally strengthening their marriage.” Including monthly, weekly and weekend opportunities, all programming is held in the evenings to accommodate families with children. This myriad of offerings is catered to fit any particular couple’s capacity and needs.
Offering existing ministries remotely — such as the monthly Ava’s Grace support group for those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss — allows the secretariat to include participants beyond the diocese’s geographical region.
“It has been beautiful to see people participate from all over the country, who in many cases would not have had this kind of spiritual and emotional support available to them otherwise,” said Lisa Everett, director of Marriage and Family Ministry.
Sean Allen, director of Young Adult Ministry, is embracing this season as an opportunity to offer “activities focused on growing one’s relationship with the Lord, no matter where someone is along their spiritual journey. A fruit of this would hopefully be a deeper peace, joy, self-control, patience, etc., that comes with a deeper relationship with the Lord.”
“There’s something about the screen that makes people let down their walls more quickly than in person. With the small groups, people can skip the small talk and get right to the content of the discussion questions,” added Burke.
Lisa affirmed this, saying, “It has been powerful to see how God is drawing good out of this very difficult situation by enabling us to reach many more people through digital platforms than we would be able to do in person.”
Besides their own programming, the Secretariat for Evangelization has been collaborating with other offices on virtual offerings, such as the Office of Worship and Hispanic Ministry’s “From Mass to Mission” retreat for Spanish-speaking liturgical ministers. The retreat was open to anyone with a heart for ministry and took place this past June, bringing in over 200 participants from across the diocese. The retreat content is still accessible at diocesefwsb.org/RetiroVirtual.
To view and register for upcoming virtual offerings, visit diocesefwsb.org/virtual.
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