Just as schools have faced pandemic-related challenges as they prepared to open for the 2020-21 school year, so too did religious education programs in the Diocese of Burlington. But thanks to support from diocesan staff and the work of pastors, religious educators and parents, programs are underway — some in-person, some online and others a hybrid.

“This is a challenging year to be sure. It is encouraging to see so many of our parish leaders step up to meet the challenge by adapting their programs,” said Michael Hagan, manager of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington.

Taking cues from the Vermont Department of Health and the Catholic schools, the Diocese released protocols in August for in-person religious education for the current school year. “Temperature checks, wearing masks and social distancing are key elements of keeping religious education a relatively safe environment for our children to learn about Jesus Christ together,” he said.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based religious education program, faces some additional challenges in keeping children separated and the atrium (classroom space) sanitized, but parishes are finding various solutions to these challenges, he explained.

Kathy Murphy, coordinator of faith formation at Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish in Bennington, has been communicating with each family to see what works best for them. In some cases, she will be meeting families individually in the atrium. “This is a beautiful example of the personalized approach our Church needs to have in walking alongside people on their path to Jesus Christ,” Hagan said.

Many parishes are doing online formation and hope to transition back to in-person formation later in the year if possible.

“The Diocese continues to support parish leaders and their programs,” Hagan said, noting that there was a religious-ed online “check in” for all catechetical leaders and catechists in October, which was an opportunity for parish religious educators to encourage one another, share ideas and pray together.

In addition, the Diocese will offer online catechist formation opportunities throughout the year.

Candidates who would have received the Sacrament of Confirmation in the spring were confirmed in regional confirmations in September and October. Candidates currently in seventh and eighth grade are beginning preparations to receive the sacrament in the spring. The Diocese still is transitioning to sixth-grade confirmation, which will begin next year.

“Many catechetical leaders have gone above and beyond in reaching out individually to families to make sure they know they are welcome and missed in their parish,” Hagan said. “That kind of one-on-one accompaniment with our young families is key to navigating our Church through this pandemic.”

Christ Our Hope Campaign Update

A portion of the funds raised through the Christ Our Hope: Building a Vibrant

Church campaign supports these types of ministries through the faith formation fund

established in the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation. This will ensure stable

income for vital faith formation ministries, especially in times of crisis. To learn more

about the campaign or make a gift online visit: www.christourhopevt.org.

20% as of October 28: $ 1,959,047 Goal: $10,000,000

—Originally published in the Nov. 7-13, 2020, issue of The Inland See.