Originally from Montreal but now in Alberta for 25 years, Bonnie Kirk is an Oblate Missionary of Mary Immaculate, She completed her Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry (1980) at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa. Bonnie has been in active ministry since 1977, enjoying the RCIA adventure for close to 30 years. She currently serves as pastoral assistant/sacramental coordinator at St. Joseph’s Basilica in Edmonton.
Does your parish have a year-round RCIA process? Do you have a story you’d like to share? If so, please send about 1,000 words to Nick Wagner, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Jesus say, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” I never thought I would want to amend that to hear him add, “and even in cyberspace.”
Full disclosure: I remain a technological dinosaur, and Blessed Carlo Acutis has become my go-to companion in ministry.
We experienced a slight stall when COVID-19 began, but through the Internet and the gift of Zoom, we quickly resumed our community life. It was an almost seamless transition from the parish meeting rooms to an at-home screen.
As COVID-19 spread, we began a lockdown on March 17th. The following Sunday saw the beginning of the live-streamed Mass.
Not being together in person, we cannot offer a weekly dismissal for our catechumens during Mass. Instead, we now Zoom for about a half-hour after Mass for reflection and sharing. We have extended this to our candidates and neophytes completing their neophyte year.
A year-round online community
Our parish is committed to a year-round process and has embraced a model that underlines the uniqueness of an individual’s faith journey lived within a community. We have drawn extensively from TeamRCIA resources, especially Nick’s Seek the Living God and Diana’s Your Parish Is the Curriculum.
We offer Zoom gatherings once a month for inquirers, candidates, catechumens, and neophytes. The little “screen share” button on Zoom opens so many possibilities: the sharing of videos, games, and PowerPoint illustrations, to name a few. Also, a team member meets each month individually with seekers to check-in and fine-tune our response to each one’s needs.
On the last Wednesday of the month, we gather with the greater community for an online chat, using one of Nick’s 50 ideas for RCIA teams during the pandemic: What the Church thinks about…. We have looked at suffering and other “hot button topics”—the McCarrick report had just come out, and MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) is a serious concern as it progresses through our Canadian parliament.
The parish had been meeting for Bible study on Thursday evenings, and that seamlessly moved online. We are currently studying Ascension Press’ Bible Timeline. Those in the RCIA process are always welcome. We also offer devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help each week, as well as the Rosary.
We moved our Children’s Liturgy of the Word to Zoom. We gather the children a half-hour before Mass, proclaim the gospel, and break it open for and with them. By emailing directions and explanations during the week to parents, we can offer an activity that reinforces the message. We have also been able to bring families together for preparation for First Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation.
Yes, I, the technological dinosaur, praise God for technology as it allows us to pray, study, share and support one another. It offered us the possibility of the Divine Mercy Novena, Lenten and initiation retreats, workshops, the Novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost, as well as the Rosary and Way of the Cross.
Journeying online through Advent
Nick’s “50 ideas” post both encouraged and challenged our team. We allowed it to feed our imagination and give vision to our Advent journey.
Through the efforts of someone more skilled than this dinosaur writing here, our parish Facebook page has the Advent wreath with weekly family prayer and a locally developed Advent Calendar.
We have developed packets of prayers with directions for families to make their own Advent wreath and Jesse Tree. We invite parishioners to share pictures of their wreaths and trees both on Facebook and during our Advent Family Evenings on Mondays.
At the first Advent Family Evening, we watched a video “Advent with St. Nicholas” from 23rd Publications. The video explains the meaning and traditions of Advent. We will also watch Max Lucado’s “Crippled Lamb.” Our team will host a family Bible scavenger hunt. The clues are Bible verses that lead to an item in the home. We ask that families take pictures of themselves with these items, and we will award certificates for participation. Christmas trivia will be another theme night in the weeks ahead.
I began by confessing that I am technologically challenged. It is true. I have yet to master my cell phone. That said, I have become amazingly comfortable with a cyberspace ministry. I encourage you to venture forth. May Blessed Carlo intercede for you as you take your first steps.
How have you transitioned online during the pandemic? What helpful tools have you found? What aspects will need more attention? Share your thoughts in the comments below.