By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
KEOKUK — Church of All Saints Parish takes a family-based approach to youth faith formation. “All catechesis is firmly rooted firstly in the Mass and secondly in the home,” said Trevor Pullinger, the parish’s pastoral associate and director of faith formation and youth ministry.
Knowing the added stress parents faced when schools closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the parish decided to take a “slow rollout approach” to moving youth and family ministries to a remote format. “Parents were newly adjusting to life as it is now, and we chose to ease into the schedule we made originally, just online,” said Pullinger, the father of five young children.
He wanted to offer support to parents. “Children and teens are very perceptive and are learning from how we respond to crisis. I want to be a resource to parents to help guide them in the sacred task of raising faithful children who are keen to rely upon Jesus and his grace.”
At the beginning of April, the parish hosted a “Parent Zoom meeting.” The meeting included an open conversation, a presentation and Q&A session from a local health expert, and a prayer and Bible study on understanding and teaching virtue. In the email invitation, Pullinger wrote, “background noise (children) is welcome, I’ll be zooming from home too!” The May 6 Zoom meeting focused on the Ten Commandments and again offered parents the chance to talk about how they are coping.
Families in the parish can go to the family page on the parish’s website, www.allsaintskeokuk.org, for lessons, activities, videos and other resources. During Holy Week, families accessed instructions for making unleavened bread and crafting palm crosses, among other activities. “My mission really is one of accompaniment through various formats and channels,” Pullinger said.
Still, he knows there are “blind spots” in this web-based approach, as it requires parents to be intentional about participating and sharing resources with their children at home. Some parents are uncomfortable doing so or don’t have the energy to pursue it. “I certainly believe that God supplies extraordinary grace in these harrowing times, but we must also be open to receive his grace.” He prays that families will be successful in relying upon Christ in this time, “ but I think we need to be intentional about how we reach out to families in friendship and mutual support.”
The parish’s youth mentors also offer support, calling and texting to check in with families and youths. Ministry for older youths in sixth through eighth grade moved online. The youths have been reading the Gospel of Mark on their own and in a Zoom gathering they talked about how they are feeling.
All of these endeavors have a common goal: helping parents and youths “continue to live the faith at home even in these trying times,” Pullinger said.
“My focus has really become one of resources and encouragement. …I am not perfect at it, but it’s something that I intend to continue working very hard on.”