Ministries for moms from three archdiocesan parishes are coming together virtually to provide online fellowship and a digital Bible study for women while in-person gatherings are restricted due to COVID-19.
The group meets online Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. and they are currently exploring the mystery of Mary in sacred Scripture, using the video series “The Bible and the Virgin Mary.”
The group has met twice since beginning June 2. Forty people are signed up, with 20 to 25 participants at each meeting, according to organizer Sarah Albanese from St. Pius X Parish, Broomall.
New participants are signing up and can join the study at anytime, which is open to women of “all ages and stages,” said Albanese.
She observed the group’s varied backgrounds and wide age range, from 20s to at least 60s. Participation is also open to women with or without children, as all women are spiritual mothers.
“I think it’s really important for people to still feel connected when many of us are spending a lot more time at home than maybe we’re used to or than we would like to,” said Albanese.
Albanese runs a mom’s group at St. Pius X, which continued to meet via Zoom with guest speakers when the coronavirus limited in-person gatherings. After the Zoom meetings ended, many of the moms expressed a desire to keep meeting.
At that point, Albanese reached out to Amy Grace and Bernadette Morello who run similar groups for mothers at Nativity B.V.M. Parish in Media and Visitation B.V.M. Parish in Trooper, respectively. The Bible study was also promoted by the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization.
“Through that, we’ve been able to really expand out to basically any woman in any parish,” said Albanese.
The video program is on Formed.org, a Catholic media streaming service many parishes provide to parishioners free of charge. This made the study easily accessible to participants, said Albanese, and she can provide a password to participants who do not have access to the streaming service so they can watch the videos.
A number of women in the group are converts to Catholicism, and a few expressed a desire to learn more about how the Blessed Mother relates to Scripture and the faith. That prompted the use of “The Bible and the Virgin Mary” program, which is based on Scott Hahn’s book “Hail, Holy Queen.”
It is also timely as many participants have also been praying the nightly rosary for the end of the pandemic through the Office for the New Evangelization.
(Learn how to join in the nightly rosary here.)
Each video in the 12-part series is about 20 to 30 minutes. The women can watch the video at their leisure during the week then come together on Tuesdays to connect with one another.
Opening prayer sometimes includes intercessory prayer, which helps the women to get to know each other better. Many have never met in person, Albanese said.
After prayer, leaders briefly summarize the video, ask some questions and open the floor for discussion. There is a leaders’ guide with questions, but the meetings also flow with the group, as Albanese says they try not to make it so rigid that participants lose “the focus, which is that fellowship and that connection piece.”
Even if people don’t watch the video, Albanese still encourages them to come for the group meetings.
Additional “fun things” are planned, like participants sharing their favorite Marian image or apparition.
The group plans to continue to meet for the rest of the summer and may continue afterward if the interest continues. The hope is “to keep people spiritually fed during this time,” said Albanese.
Pandemic aside, “there can be a disconnect within the parish” if the only thing people are doing is going to Mass on Sunday, said Albanese. She believes things like moms’ groups or virtual Bible studies are “connecting the dots.”
Albanese also mentioned “encouraging women even in the midst of the craziness of being … a woman in today’s day and age … to not forget the power of still studying your faith.”
“What I think … is so amazing for many of us who are going through this program … is how much we’re learning. I think that’s what’s so incredible about being Catholic, is that you can live your whole life and read and read and study, and you still maybe only scratch the surface…. There’s just so much richness out there.”
Those interested in joining the Bible study can contact Sarah Albanese at email@example.com.
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