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Zoom Ministry: caring for our youth online Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Angela Curio, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Apr. 30, 2020 -- 12:00 AM

SMG and Zoom
Middle schoolers at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison meet via Zoom. (Contributed photo)

MADISON -- "Hey, J. Gregory!" said a teen over the video conferencing platform Zoom. "Don't you own a pair of scissors?"

Jaymes Gregory Curran, the youth director of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Madison, certainly wouldn't have envisioned sitting in his parish's empty youth room talking over Zoom a few months ago.

"I'd heard of Zoom before the pandemic hit," he said. "But I have never been a fan of FaceTime, Skype, or other similar apps."

But with the Safer at Home order, youth ministry and religious education have had to pivot along with schools and other youth activities.

Zoom meetings

The first youth Zoom meeting at Blessed Sacrament happened on Wednesday, April 15. The event ran from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

Curran reported that the meeting was both chaotic but fun. "I met some of their dogs and cats, we had tours of their rooms, shared some laughs, checked in on how they are doing at home, I shared a message of encouragement with them, and then we closed in prayer."

The following Sunday, he hosted another Zoom event for the parish's Confirmation students.

"We have about 50 active teens in our EDGE Middle School, HSM (High School Youth Ministry), and Confirmation preparation programs," Curran said.

The transition to the online medium also came a little gradually. "I was initially hopeful that [the stay at home order] would last only a week or two. My hopes were dashed quickly, but then my creative juices started flowing. I sent a 'Holy Week Retreat at Home' activity sheet for children and teens. It was filled with links to activities, prayers, YouTube videos, and videos and movies from Formed.org I also made a video version of the Stations of the Cross."

Other parishes such as Holy Mother of Consolation of Oregon and St. Maria Goretti of Madison have been implementing Zoom in their Youth Ministry as well. Even Theology on Tap -- a program for young adults that typically hosts events at The Brink Lounge in downtown Madison -- is moving to Zoom.

"That's right," read the Facebook event page. "We're going to have Theology on Tap, this Thursday, April 23, at the regularly scheduled time of 7 p.m."

Those attending the virtual event were invited to "grab your favorite homebrew and relax in the safety and comfort of your own home."

Thursday's event hosted newly ordained Deacon Michael Wanta in a talk about recognizing God's providence "even in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic."

Religious Education changes

Religious Education Director Margaret Berunig-Clark at St. Maria Goretti in Madison hasn't had the opportunity to experiment with Zoom. April 20 was scheduled to be the last day of classes as well as an ice cream social for children at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Madison.

Instead of hosting the ice cream social, she had the catechists submit pictures of them eating ice cream with messages about how much they miss the children.

"It's been harder than I thought it would be," Berunig-Clark said. "I miss seeing the children and their parents. I miss seeing the amazing catechists and volunteers."

Focusing her attention on preparing the second graders for their first Holy Communion, she has been sending home weekly lesson plans to the families. "The lesson plans include reading through the workbook together, completing a learning activity, and answering questions on Khoot, which is an interactive, fun way to 'quiz' the children's understanding of the topic."

That said, the Safer at Home program has pushed the reception of the sacrament into the fall, leaving parents and children disappointed.

"I think it's important to continue to have some religious education," Berunig-Clark said. "While also being aware that many families are feeling overwhelmed with homeschooling, financial difficulties, uncertainty about the future, disappointment in missing major milestones or events, and working from home."

Words of encouragement

As hard as this situation is for everyone, she urges people to "keep hope alive."

"For those who were supposed to be receiving Jesus for the first time in Holy Communion this Spring," she said. "My heart goes out to you and your families. I look forward to the day when we can gather again in the Church and all receive Jesus in the Eucharist."

Curran offered these words of advice to all those involved in youth ministry: "Pray for your teens. Remember them. Don't get discouraged -- keep up your excitement level to serve the Church and Her teens. In a ministry that is so driven by events, physical gatherings, and constant presence, you and I are severely limited. That fact breaks my heart.

"[But] God reminds us that it's never about the events and doing. It's about prayer, love, and being. You and I would be idiots to think the only way that happens is through events.

"It primarily happens throughout hearts, broken like Christ's, for these sheep who need a Shepherd. Remind the young Church that you love them and that you miss and care for them.

"Please be assured of my increased fervent prayers for your parishes, your teens, and for you. Please reach out to me if there is any way I can help you get through this! My fellow youth ministers -- you are loved!"

 
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