From a Physical Body to a Virtual Body: Catechesis goes remote during quarantine

by Kiki Hayden

North Texas Catholic

April 2, 2020

Youth ministers across the diocese met virtually via Zoom, a video conferencing platform, on April 2, 2020. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)Youth ministers across the diocese met virtually via Zoom, a video conferencing platform, on April 2, 2020. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
Youth ministers across the diocese met virtually via Zoom, a video conferencing platform, on April 2, 2020. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)


FORT WORTH — Reflecting on the spread of coronavirus in North Texas and the impact that has had on catechesis, Marlon De La Torre said, “We went from a physical body to a virtual body.”

De La Torre, department director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Fort Worth, said the ministries of the diocese have responded quickly and proactively to the ever-changing coronavirus situation. Training and formation classes are being held remotely, and the catechists of the diocese continue to pray for parishioners.

“Pray that through the intercession of St. Isidore of Seville, patron of the internet, that technology works, and we can still do effective ministry even though we’re not face to face,” Chris Vaughan, Director of Marriage and Family Life, told the North Texas Catholic.

 

Teaching Remotely

The Safe Environment Office ran their first remote training session on Friday, March 20. With the support of the VIRTUS program, they are using Zoom, an interactive video conferencing platform that allows participants to ask questions and participate in discussions verbally or via chat.

“For these kinds of discussions, it’s really useful and most effective when you have multiple people participating,” explained Sandra Schrader-Farry, Director of Safe Environment.

The new remote format of the Protecting God’s Children sessions reminds participants and instructors that online threats to children continue to be prevalent. “The threats become more real when you realize the capabilities that are out there,” Schrader-Farry said.

Other departments, such as the diaconate formation program, marriage preparation, the St. Francis de Sales catechist formation program, and the St. Junipero Serra Institute, are also using platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. De La Torre said that many religious education directors and instructors are sending parents online resources to continue the Catholic formation of their children.

Jason Spoolstra, Director of Youth, Young Adult, Campus, and Singles Ministries, highlighted the ingenuity of the campus ministries within the diocese. “Currently they have different things going on at least once a day.” There are Bible studies, Rosaries, and even movie nights. Many parishes are also continuing youth groups online. Such gatherings are held to strict Safe Environment standards: two safe-environment certified chaperones must be present, and parents are invited to participate.

Jason Spoolstra, Diocesan Director of Youth, Young Adult, Campus, and Singles Ministries, leads a Zoom meeting with youth ministers across the diocese April 2. (NTC/Jason Spoolstra)Jason Spoolstra, Diocesan Director of Youth, Young Adult, Campus, and Singles Ministries, leads a Zoom meeting with youth ministers across the diocese April 2. (NTC/Jason Spoolstra)
Jason Spoolstra, Diocesan Director of Youth, Young Adult, Campus, and Singles Ministries, leads a Zoom meeting with youth ministers across the diocese April 2. (NTC/Jason Spoolstra)


A recent Zoom meeting hosted by Spoolstra for youth ministers across the diocese saw nearly 30 ministers interacting and sharing ideas through the video conferencing platform.

Nonetheless, Spoolstra pointed out that in such a large diocese, there are parishes without access to fast internet. “We are really praying for those parishes.”

Paula Quintero-Araújo, director of the St. Junipero Serra Institute and instructor for the St. Francis de Sales program, wrote in an email that some of her students lack computers, or even access to the internet. Quintero-Araújo teaches many classes in Spanish. “Because Hispanics are always willing to help others,” she wrote, “they are helping each other; they call each other and work together… to resolve the challenges.” 

 

Supporting the diocese

Several of De La Torre’s friends have lost loved ones due to the virus. He encourages the diocese to “pray for all those who are ill [and those] who have passed away from the coronavirus. It’s a time to serve more faithfully.”

Some of Quintero-Araújo’s students have lost their jobs. And the effects of the coronavirus have spread beyond infection and job loss.

Schrader-Farry believes, “In this isolation, we’re going to see a lot more [abuse] cases than ever before.” She encourages all adults in the diocese to be “hypervigilant” searching for possible signs of abuse. She told the NTC about some resources for parishioners, such as the Texas Youth Help Line (1-800-989-6884), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990). “There are ways for children to reach out; there are ways for families to reach out before abuse occurs.”

According to Spoolstra, the mission of catechists is “accompanying and apprenticing these people into the life of Christ.” De La Torre emphasized the responsibility of catechists in a time of uncertainty: To provide prayer, support, and formation “for those who question why God has allowed this to happen…  We need to show the faithful that we’re not going to leave them, that we’re available.”

 

Communal Beings

Asked if there will be attrition in face-to-face ministry when the quarantine is over, Spoolstra responded, “I’m not too concerned. I think… all of these quarantine mandates have really [demonstrated] not just to Catholics but to the whole world that we were created to be communal beings….  I pray that it will have a reverse effect, that we will see many teens and young adults coming back to the Church saying, ‘Man, I miss this.’”

Vaughan and his wife are modeling to their children how to pray often at home, and he encourages other couples to do the same. “Any time we give to the Lord, He multiplies it,” he said.

De La Torre believes the appropriate response to this situation is “Prayer, fasting, and sacrifice.”  He added that catechists of the diocese continue to support parishioners through service (remotely) and in prayer (as present as ever).

 

FORT WORTH — Reflecting on the spread of coronavirus in North Texas and the impact that has had on catechesis, Marlon De La Torre said, “We went from a physical body to a virtual body.”

Published (until 12/5/2041)