The archdiocesan Office of Adult Faith Formation is now bringing the ChristLife online series through Zoom to the homes of Catholics looking to strengthen their relationship with God.
The ChristLife series is an evangelization process that equips Catholics to become missionary disciples. The series has three parts: Discovering Christ, Following Christ and Sharing Christ.
The ChristLife series, which originated in the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2009, has attracted more than 150,000 participants from 1,000 parishes in 40 states and several countries since then.
Holy Trinity parish in Poughkeepsie hosted the first conference in the archdiocese in 2011. In 2018, about 500 people participated in the final Discovering Christ meeting at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie.
“He’s calling us to share a relationship with Him and share our faith with others,” Elizabeth Guevara de Gonzalez, director of the archdiocesan office of adult faith formation, told CNY.
Ms. de Gonzalez said she recommended to organizers of ChristLife that they could test the online program in the archdiocese. In that vein, 17 parishioners completed the second part of the series two weeks ago and began the third part last week. With the positive feedback of participants, Ms. de Gonzalez decided to open the program to the archdiocese’s parishes.
In each session, participants view a video before sharing their thoughts in a discussion. A facilitator listens, shares and encourages everyone to participate.
Ms. de Gonzalez added it’s “extremely important” for people to have the opportunity to participate in the ChristLife series during the Covid-19 pandemic when people may be tempted to lose hope as they cope with the loss of a job or the death of a family member or friend due to the virus.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Where is God in all of this?’” she said. “The reality is God is always present and his love is always being poured out in different ways. If we seek and strengthen that relationship, we’re able to be better able to recognize his presence, better recognize the reason to still have hope, continue the journey and believe this will pass and things will turn around.
“Without a strong faith during this time, it’s very easy to let go. It’s actually healthier physically to have faith.”
Freddy Carlsson, 20, is a member of the leadership committee at St. Ann’s Parish ChristLife Program in Yonkers. St. Ann’s is the first parish to commit to participate in the online program.
“I was really excited when I went through the training seminar and I was really excited coming out of it because it made me feel we can make this happen,” he said. “It also encouraged me because we want to give parishioners and anyone looking for something to turn to in these tough times. We’re excited to give people the opportunity to be a part of something spiritual and faith-based while trying to interact with people in a safe way.”
Carlsson said his parish had about 50 people registered for the in-person ChristLife series before the pandemic canceled the program. The online version will give St. Ann’s program the chance to encounter participants from throughout the archdiocese.
St. Ann’s will begin its online ChristLife series with Discovering Christ Tuesday, July 21, and will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week through Aug. 18.
“I remember the very first time we did this as a pilot program in 2015,” he said about the in-person program. “By the time it was over, I was so taken aback how different I felt and how amazing that whole process from day one to finish, especially the retreat day. It impacted my whole life. It enriched me in so many ways that I never thought possible.”
The ChristLife series will return to in-person meetings when it is safe, but Ms. de Gonzalez is open to continuing the online series in the archdiocese, too.
“We’ll see what the desire and demand is to do it online,” she said. “There could be a group out there either because of their schedule or where they are in their faith journey, they may not be ready to step into the church to take part in something like this.
“We may continue the option online because we may be able to reach more people that way.”