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These virtual classes increase adults’ access to sacrament prep


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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 12/11/21

There are a number of surprising benefits to hosting sacramental preparation sessions online.

Thanks to video conference technology, there’s been a recent rise in online sacramental preparation classes. The new format makes it easier for some adults to access sacramental preparation, especially for Confirmation. 

That was the case for Joan, whose story might sound familiar to you, as it’s like that of so many Catholic adults. Joan takes her kids to Mass on Sundays and volunteers at her parish, but she never received the Sacrament of Confirmation as a child or teen. 

Now, as an adult, she wants to be confirmed. But trying to fit sacramental prep classes into her jam-packed schedule as a working mother of several young children seemed like it would require a miracle.

That was until her diocese began offering an online class. Now, she’s delighted to say that she’s receiving Confirmation this month.

Joan’s not the only one to find that virtual classes are an unexpected blessing. Kathy McNicholas has served as a pastoral associate and director of faith formation for Incarnation Parish in Crestwood, IL, for over 17 years. For the past 15 years, she’s led in-person Adult Confirmation sessions for the local Vicariate. When the Adult Confirmation sessions transferred to a virtual format, she was unsure about the idea at first.

“To be honest, I had my doubts about the ability to transmit faith through a virtual platform,” McNicholas said in an interview with Aleteia. “A lot of the nuances of human interactions are lost. A lot of the real presence of Jesus that we encounter when meeting a fellow disciple face to face is missing.” 

But now, after having experienced both in-person Confirmation classes and virtual Confirmation classes, she’s been pleasantly surprised. “The power of the Holy Spirit to awaken hearts and change lives is not restricted by the computer screen,” she said. “We can trust that God will always find a way to reach those who are seeking Him.”

In fact, she’s found that there are real benefits to holding the classes online. In a big diocese like hers, online classes do a lot to make the sacrament of Confirmation more accessible for adults. 

The virtual format conserves catechist resources, which are stretched thin in so many places. In McNicholas’ archdiocese, 250 parishes are spread out over 1400 square miles. “Our 53 candidates come from one end of the Archdiocese to the other,” she said. Thanks to virtual classes, “Our small team of 5 facilitators were able to accompany all of them together at once.”

She also mentioned a few other surprising benefits:

  • Young adults in their 20s and 30s, who make up the majority of candidates, are often “more comfortable in an online environment than in person.” 
  • “We had much better attendance online,” she said, as there were no physical obstacles (things like traffic, weather, or time conflicts) to impede candidates’ participation.
  • “We could combine faith formation resources to journey with more candidates at once.”
  • “The candidates’ families were a greater part of the journey,” she said, mentioning that family members often listened in on the classes.

For dioceses or parishes transitioning sacramental prep classes to a virtual format, McNicholas offered a few helpful tips: 

  • Keep the content moving
  • Use 4-5 minute “perky” video clips to help illustrate ideas
  • Utilize the chat section for ice breakers and additional Q&A
  • Break into small groups to engage candidates in a more personal way
  • Send follow-up emails with additional content, like journal or reflection questions, for candidates to respond to during the week

In-person classes are ideal for so many occasions, but it’s good to know that virtual classes make sacramental preparation more accessible for some people. Virtual classes are a great option for many parishes and dioceses. Hopefully, increased use of the format will help more adults to become involved and active members of the Body of Christ.

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