Faith Formation Resources
For initial guidance, please review these materials from our initial town hall support meetings for catechetical leaders, youth ministers and other formation ministers.
- Presentation in English (ppt)
- Presentation in Spanish (ppt)
- Presentation in Polish (ppt)
- Home prayer service resource (English / Spanish)
- Questions and Answers (pdf)
Please look for the weekly Pastoral Newsletter from your vicariate Lifelong Formation Coordinator for updates and resources. In addition, weekly virtual support sessions are available to provide an opportunity to:
- Gather in prayer
- Build community
- Share ideas and resources
- Respond to issues/concerns
- Gather info that needs Archdiocesan attention
Please see below for information on available sessions:
- Vicariate 1: Tuesdays from 10 – 11 a.m. (contact [email protected] for details)
- Vicariate 2: Wednesdays from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. (contact [email protected] for details)
- Vicariate 3: Mondays from 10 – 11 a.m. (Spanish) Wednesdays 10 – 11 a.m. (English) (contact [email protected] for details)
- Vicariate 4: Fridays from 10 – 11 a.m. (contact [email protected] for details)
- Vicariate 5: Wednesdays from 3 – 4 p.m. (contact [email protected] for details)
- Vicariate 6: Wednesdays from 9 – 10 a.m. (contact [email protected] for details)
- Youth Ministers: Thursdays from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. (contact [email protected] for details)
Training and Spiritual Renewal Opportunities from Outside the Archdiocese
In a time of crisis, it's more important than ever to be intentional about the language we use to provide hope, articulate urgency, and bring people together.
The following resources can help you navigate the social, emotional and spiritual challenges of the current outbreak with your community:
- How to Talk about COVID-19: Free resource written by a team of scientists and community psychologists on how to talk about the current crisis in ways which inspire empathy, understanding, clarity, and good decision-making (link)
- Coronavirus Response Lesson from Loyola Press (English and Spanish) (link)
- Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus (English) (Spanish)
- Resilient Youth Ministry in the Face of Crisis from LifeTeen (link)
- COVID-19 Emotional Processing Activity Book for children age 7 and under, available in English, Spanish and Polish (link)
- Search Institute 4S’s Interview Tool helps you build strong relationships with youth durin social distancing (link)
- Old St. Mary's Catholic Church offers "Unemployed Together", a weekly virtual small faith group experience running from April 22 to May 20 intended to help those facing the same challenge, unemployment, to grow in faith and relationship with Christ (link)
Christian mercy can serve as a sign of hope and faith in the Resurrection for our families, communities, nation and world during a time of fear and uncertainty. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers suggestions on ways for families to practice The Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
There are many virtual engagement platforms and tools available online to facilitate communication and learning. Information on various platforms can be found here.
Developing a Communication Strategy
Communication helps ensure that members of your community feel supported and remain engaged. It is important to develop a simple, practical strategy to stay connected in ways that do not overburden ministry staff or members of the community.
Tips for Developing a Communication Strategy
- Determine which communication method your community is most comfortable with (e.g., email, video meetings, social media group, phone calls, etc.)
- Parents and program participants
- Catechetical team
- Set a standard weekly time to email, call, and/or meet virtually and communicate that to parents/participants/catechists (e.g.: “Weekly email update will be on Wednesday mornings”)
- If using a new virtual meeting platform, host an initial virtual gathering with catechetical team before launching tool to make sure everyone can access and knows how to use
Serving Communities with Limited Access to Technology
We recognize that for many families digital resourcing may prove difficult or impossible. In such situations, you may consider starting a phone tree to ensure that families are supported:
- Choose simple activities a family can do at home (like Scriptural reflection and prayer)
- Assign catechists families to call each week and offer instructions
- Ask catechists to offer to pray with families when they call
- Use programs such as Google Voice to create a free phone number that works on smartphones and on the web (check out a free Google Voice tutorial video here)
Another option is to start a private Facebook group to share activity/prayer suggestions (learn how here). Many families who do not own a computer or tablet may still have access to Facebook via their phones.
Please note that it is currently not safe to access your parish or school building.
As formation ministries transition to e-learning and virtual gathering models, it is important catechetical leaders, catechists and volunteers become familiar with safe environment practices related to electronic communication.
Documents to Review
- Being Safe in the Time of COVID-19 (link)
- Electronic Communication Guidelines (link)
- Special Rules for Use of Group Messaging Apps (link)
- Social Media Request Form (link)
- Email Communication
- Use official email accounts (school, parish, or Archdiocesan issued) when communicating with students or children
- Emails should go to the school, parish, or Archdiocesan email account of the intended recipient. If the recipient does not have such an account, use the email account on file with the parish or school
- Text Messaging/Cell Phones
- You may use social messaging platforms such as Remind or GroupMe as long as you follow the process and guidelines for approving the platform with your pastor or school principal
- Only make phone calls to adults. Do not call students or children in a parish program on their cell phones. Instead, call their parent or guardian
- Do not communicate with students, children, parents, or parishioners via direct text message
- Use of Social Media/Website Platforms
- Use an official parish or school social media account and make sure the pastor or school principal has administrative access. Do not communicate with students, children, parents, or parishioners via your personal social media accounts
- Prior to creating any social media or website platform, you must complete a Social Media Request Form to be approved by your supervisor and you must follow appropriate protocol
- Use of Publisher Platforms
- Some free online programs ask for an email login. For minors, please ensure that the account is set up using the email address of their parent or guardian.
Virtual Meetings and Classes
Please note that video communication with minors are subject to the Special Rules for Use of Group Messaging Apps issued by archdiocesan Legal Services. If you are going to utilize video chats with minors, please ensure that:
- The use of the platform is approved by your pastor via the Social Media Request Form
- Video is only used with a group and not for one-on-one meetings
- Parents have access to and can observe the sessions
- The application’s private messaging feature is disabled
Interim Virtual Safe Environment Guidelines
Archdiocesan interim guidelines for virtual safe environment are available here. The Archdiocese continues to evaluate policy changes based on increased use of digital technologies. Welcome feedback to the [email protected] email address regarding any challenges these policies pose to parishes.
It is recommended that parishes plan to resume sacramental preparation programming, if feasible to ensure that sacraments can be celebrated as quickly as possible when parishes again become open to the general public.
Currently, no firm date can be set for the resumption the administration of sacraments. Here are some recommendations in communicating with those preparing to receive sacraments such as First Communion, Confirmation, Baptism and Marriage:
- Be open and honest that you are not able to offer a timeline
- Reassure them that normal activity will eventually resume and that you will work with them to ensure the timeliest celebration possible
- Help them continue formation in practical, spiritually nourishing ways during this time
Resources for Sacramental Preparation
- Virtual resources for First Communion, Adolescent Confirmation and Adult Confirmation (link)
- Special guidance for Adolescent Confirmation (PDF)
- Baptismal Preparation online resources are available from Renew International through July 31. For more information or to take advantage of this special offer, send an email to [email protected], including your parish name and mailing address, phone number and contact person, and contact email.
- PreCana sessions continue to be offered virtually. Please visit Marriage and Family Ministry for information.
- Free at-home retreat guides in English for first communion and Confirmation, as well as a family at-home retreat and seven day marriage retreat from the Diocese of Kalamazoo (link)
- The Augustine Institute now presents sacramental preparation through their new platform Prepared for Grace. Includes program to prepare children for First Holy Communion in English (link) and resources for the formation of RCIA candidates in English (link) and Spanish (link)
Now more than ever, special emphasis should be placed on fostering and supporting family catechesis and empowering individuals as missionary disciples. This is a great opportunity to ensure that your families and participants feel supported and connected throughout the entire digital formation process.
Strategies for Adapting Ministry to E-Learning and At-Home Formation
Develop a Simplified Online Curriculum
Review the online curriculum resources of your current textbook publisher and determine if there is a need to consider supplemental, easier-to-use resources for e-learning. Adjust lesson plans and program expectations as needed.
Establish Consistent Communication
Set a weekly schedule of communication between catechists (or the catechetical leader) and families. Consider a regular check-in meeting with parents using a virtual conferencing program (there are many free programs available), and share simple lesson plans, instructions, and resources with parents via email.
Help Parents Create Sacred Space at Home
Develop a how-to guide for parents to create sacred space for prayer at home, lead family prayer, livestream Mass at home, receive Spiritual Communion, lead faith formation lessons at home. Consider using this resource (English / Spanish) from the Archdiocese of Washington.
Support Catechists and Volunteers
Catechists and volunteers may or may not be formally ministering right now or have the capacity to provide lesson or activity plans. Catechetical leaders and youth ministers might consider connecting with them weekly via online conference platforms or telephone to offer spiritual support, to pray, and to gather feedback on their needs.
Meet People Where They Are
Where there is no digital access, catechists/CLs can connect with families by phone (weekly/bi-weekly) to provide advice on what they can do at home for the coming weeks. Focus on simple suggestions like prayer in the home, suggested Scripture readings, discussion topics, and activities that require minimal resources or planning.
Resources for Virtual Religious Education
Many publishers are offering free online subscriptions during this time. A listing of offerings from various publishers can be found here.
Prayer at Home Resources
- Home prayer service resource (English | Spanish)
- How to Pray a Livestreamed Mass (Link)
- How to Pray the Rosary (Link)
- How to Pray Lectio Divina (Link)
Holy Week Resources
We encourage catechists to continue participation in the online certification program during the stay-at-home period. The deadline for completion of online courses for catechist certification has been extended to August 15, 2020. Please click here to view a summary chart of the Archdiocese of Chicago catechist certification program. Please contact the catechist certification staff at [email protected] if you have questions.
Certification Retreat: 7 Ways to Grow Spiritually During the Pandemic
The certification team is coordinating a virtual retreat facilitated by Joe Paprocki, National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, with more than 40 years of experience in pastoral ministry including 10 years as a Catholic school teacher. The date will be Friday, May 1, 2020. Registration information and additional details will follow next week.
In this retreat, Joe Paprocki, DMin, will draw from his book, 7 Keys to Spiritual Wellness, to invite Catholic participants to explore and reflect on 7 ways to grow spiritually during the pandemic experience:
- by putting the needs of others before our own
- by embracing solidarity rather than rivalry
- by being less impulsive and learning to think about everything we do
- by learning how to “do without”
- by setting limits for ourselves
- by learning how to “stop and smell the roses”
- by being imaginative
Prayer Groups and Book Clubs start during Holy Week and continue throughout the Easter season. Offered in English, Polish and Spanish. There are several days/times from which to select. Once you sign up a facilitator will be in touch regarding next steps and information on how to connect.
- Prayer groups (intimate size at 15 people per group) will gather weekly for 30-40 minutes to read and reflect on the Word of God, build community and share prayer intentions. Sign up here today!
- Book clubs will gather weekly for approximately 60 minutes to read and reflect on faith and values-based books, articles and other resources. Sign up here today!
The following resources can be utilized in virtual small group prayers and reflections, or simply shared with adults in your community to continue to grow in faith at home.
- Magnificat is currently offering complimentary access to its at-home prayer resources (English | Spanish)
- Daily Catholic Gospel is a free daily email resource providing reflections on the Gospel of the day (English, Spanish) (link)
- Formed Catholic Online offers affordable online faith and discipleship courses are available at (English, Spanish) (link)
- The University of Notre Dame offers a free virtual course designed to help deepen knowledge of and relationship with Scripture (link)
- Our Sunday Visitor provides free online Sunday readings and questions of the week (link)
- Adult virtual Bible study from Ascension Press occurs on Fridays at 7pm CST (link)
- Catholic reading list for adults (link)
- Daily three minute retreats from Loyola Press for adults (available in English and Spanish) (link)
- Documentaries, TV shows, podcasts, and radio segments from Salt and Light Media that highlight stories and issues relevant to the Catholic community in the world today (link)
- USCCB “Made for Love” podcast featuring stories of Catholics living out the call to love in their daily lives (link)
- Liturgy Training Publications free online resources in English and Spanish for prayer and connection in times of crisis, including daily prayers, scriptural reflections and resources reflecting on the Sunday Gospel as a family (link)
- The Boston College School of Theology and Ministry free online recordings of lectures in theology and ministry, along with suggested discussion questions, to use in your adult formation programming (link)
The archdiocesan Youth Ministry Team is available to support parishes in ministering to youth during the current crisis.
- Weekly forums for Youth Ministers occur online on Thursdays from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
- The Youth Ministry e-newsletter provides useful resources and important updates.
Contact [email protected] to be added to the Youth Ministry e-newsletter or for information about weekly youth minister virtual support forums
Suggestions and Things to Keep in Mind
Plan for ongoing digital communication with your parents
Whether it is through a weekly email, virtual meetings, or some other channel of communication, set up a system for staying in contact with your parents throughout this time. This helps strengthen the faith of the entire family, and due to safe environment concerns parents need to be informed of what practices you are implementing for communicating with youth.
Select a platform for communication
Research tells us that Gen Z is a lonely generation who already struggles with meaningful connections. The quarantine can exacerbate this problem. Letting them know that you care about how they feel and spend their time is the most important thing you can do right now, but it is important to follow the safe environment guidelines below to figure out a safe, effective way to communicate with your teens. Let them know you are available to process with them. To maintain appropriate professional boundaries, set up “office hours” for when you will respond to teens and only do so through approved platforms.
You do not need to create your own videos and lessons, many organizations and publishers are making their content available for free right now. a time for your teens to watch a video or listen to a talk, then host a small group immediately afterwards. Using content someone else developed frees you up to be present to your teens. See suggested resources and platforms below.
- ProjectYM weekly ministry nights (link)
- Short films for teens and adults from ODB (link)
- Life Teen weekly ministry nights and Sunday reflections (link)
- VCAT free online youth catechism videos (link)
- Bible Project illustrated free videos (link)
- The Archdiocese of New York offers short, entertaining videos about how to do youth meetings via platforms (link)
Additionally, Benedictine College has a trained youth outreach team of college students who are offering to put on a digital youth group night for individual parishes. This is a good option for a more customized experience. (link)
Building Community and Finding Support
In addition to resources for teens, there are also multiple resources for available to support youth ministers. Consider taking advantage of one of the following opportunities or networks for support:
- Weekly archdiocesan Youth Ministry Support Meetings (contact [email protected] for details)
- Marathon youth ministry community (link)
- NFCYM ministry network and webinars (link)
- Webinars from LifeTeen (link)
- Stuff You Can Use Facebook community (link)
- ProjectYM host CYM Live, a weekly webshow for Catholic Youth Ministers on Tuesdays at 12 p.m. (link)
The Office of Lifelong Formation offers PreCana virtually using Zoom in English, Spanish and Polish. PreCana sessions are held live and led by trained married couples. Engaged couples enjoy the benefit of live interaction with other couples as well as the comfort of having private conversations. PreCana programs are offered as one six-hour session or two three-hour sessions. Couples can choose between weekend and weekday evening options. Couples to do not need to be living or getting married in the Archdiocese of Chicago to participate.
A full schedule for English PreCana sessions through the end of June and registration can be found here.
A full schedule of Spanish PreCana sessions through the end of June and registration can be found here.
Reviews of Virtual PreCana from Participants
“I thought it was nice to do it in the comfort of our home. I feel as though we shared more bc we were not worried about what we were saying.”
“We really liked using Zoom as we felt that when we could talk about topics as a couple it was private and just amongst the two of us and then we would tune back into the classroom when time was called.”
“Being at home made it easier for my fiancé and I to have open and honest discussions. We enjoyed everything more because it was private.”
La Oficina de Formación para toda la Vida ofrece programas de PreCaná virtualmente usando Zoom en inglés, español y polaco. Las sesiones de PreCaná se llevan a cabo en vivo y son dirigidas por parejas casadas capacitadas. Las parejas comprometidas disfrutan el beneficio de una interacción en vivo con otras parejas, así como también la comodidad de tener conversaciones privadas. Los programas de PreCaná se ofrecen como una sesión de seis horas o dos sesiones de tres horas. Las parejas pueden escoger entre opciones del fin de semana y días entre semana en la noche. Las parejas no necesitan vivir ni casarse en la Arquidiócesis de Chicago para participar.
Encuentre el horario completo para las sesiones de PreCaná en español hasta finales de junio y la inscripción aquí.
Encuentre el horario completo para las sesiones de PreCaná en inglés hasta finales de junio y la inscripción aquí.
Reseñas de los participantes sobre las sesiones virtuales de PreCaná
“Me pareció agradable hacerlo en la comodidad de nuestro hogar. Siento que compartimos más porque no estábamos preocupados acerca de lo que estábamos diciendo”.
“Realmente nos gustó usar Zoom ya que sentimos que cuando podíamos hablar de temas como pareja era privado y solo entre nosotros dos y luego nos sintonizábamos otra vez con el aula cuando era el momento”.
“Estar en casa hizo que fuera más fácil para mi prometido y para mí tener discusiones honestas y abiertas. Disfrutamos todo más porque era privado”.