Parish Religious Education Programs (PREP) are taking new measures to ensure students continue in their catechetical formation, despite the cancellation of in-person instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the closure of all schools and PREP programs on March 13 through March 27 as a safety precaution, with re-evaluations pending future developments.
Now most PREP programs are utilizing homeschooling to continue education.
“As a family of faith, there is also a pastoral component that must permeate our response to COVID-19,” wrote Ann Menna, deputy secretary for Catechetical Formation, in a memo to directors and coordinators of religious education at the 214 parishes of the archdiocese.
Various approaches are being used to support PREP homeschooling programs, according to Menna. She praised the efforts of many publishers who are providing online lessons and resources, as well as e-assessments that can be sent directly to directors of religious education.
Other popular approaches include emails from catechists to parents with student assignments and pacing charts posted to parish websites to help parents and caretakers navigate the homeschooling process.
St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Ambler is among parishes employing pacing charts to assist parents and guardians. Broken down by week and student level, they include hyperlinks to online parent guides, assignments, due dates and online quizzes that are electronically sent to the director of religious education through the publisher’s website.
For students preparing to receive their first holy Communion, there are special videos and response questions through Google Docs. Assignments also include a required parent/child home retreat, in place of the cancelled first Communion retreat.
The pacing chart opened with a message thanking parents for continuing student lessons at home, and encouraged utilizing prayer and Scripture as a family. Hyperlinks to Mass readings for children were included.
At the end of the chart was a song for reflection, Lauren Daigle’s Christian contemporary hit, “Look Up Child.”
Catechists at St. Anthony of Padua Parish aren’t the only ones employing multimedia to support those entrusted to their care.
Archbishop Nelson Perez released video pastoral messages on March 18 as part of the archdiocese’s ongoing pastoral and temporal response to the coronavirus. One message was directly addressed to the school students of the archdiocese. (Watch the message below.)
While he said he hoped to visit students in their classrooms, meet their teachers and see their achievements in person, that is currently not possible due to the health concerns caused by the coronavirus, which “caused many sudden changes over the past few weeks,” the archbishop said in the video.
“As archbishop, one of my most important jobs is to ensure the health and safety of those entrusted to the care of the church, most especially you, our young people,” he said.
He noted that changes were necessary to keep students safe, and “the decision to change to a more flexible classroom instruction model was made only after much prayer and careful planning.”
“I understand you may be anxious about what is happening in the world around you. It’s a difficult time for everyone; however, you needn’t be afraid,” Archbishop Perez said, encouraging the youth, “God is at your side now and always will be. He never abandons you and your church will never abandon either.”
Archbishop Perez further invited viewers to join him in prayer for the sick, suffering, caregivers and government and health officials.
“With God’s grace and blessing, we will prevail, together as a family of faith,” said the archbishop. “After all, we are people of hope.”
Archbishop Perez’s entire video message can be viewed here.
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