These days, what I hear most often within various circles is: “Will we ever get back to normal?” or “I can’t wait for things to get back to normal” or even worse, “I’ll pick up from where I left off as soon as things get back to normal,” as if people have stopped needing God in the meantime.
My response, “Was the situation so perfect before the pandemic that we absolutely want to return to it?” As Pope Francis said, ” The pandemic shed light on the risks and consequences inherent in a way of life dominated by selfishness and a culture of waste, and it set before us a choice: either to continue on the road we have followed until now, or to set out on a new path. “1
Last year, I made a commitment to listen attentively to what young people, parents, my colleagues, our clergy, and our pastoral partners were experiencing. They shared their difficulties with me, their disappointments, their grief and suffering, their fears, their hopes and dreams for the future. I also discovered several settings where, in response to the constraints incurred by the pandemic, members adapted their methods of evangelization to better meet the needs of the community. I have attended series of webinars, and read articles on best practices with youth, families and communities in proposing Jesus Christ today.
Paving a Path of Hope for the Peripheries 2
Inspired by what I have heard and seen, I believe that people, more than ever, are thirsting to know God’s love and to discover that we can surrender ourselves confidently into the arms of our divine Father – that Christ has saved us, that He lives and wants us alive in Him, and that THE HOLY SPIRIT keeps this experience of salvation alive.3
Here are the three new mission areas that urgently need our attention:
1. Advocating for and fostering the well-being of people
It is evident that the pandemic has increased stress, anxiety, mental health issues, relationship strain, etc. for many people. We are called to be proactive in offering our availability, a listening ear, and our support, to give people the opportunity to experience a genuine connection to community and, through these actions, the love and closeness of God our Father.
2. Helping People Develop New Routines and Habits
The pandemic has disrupted our daily rhythm on many levels. Without routines or activities that anchor us to a regular schedule of appointments, outings, travel, etc., managing daily life has become blurred. For those who work from home, this disorienting effect is compounded by the lack of a distinct separation between work and home life, and less-defined work hours.
Our pre-pandemic lives, however, were often already overloaded. As a Church, we are called to help families resist this pressure to return to an unhealthy rhythm of life. In this post-pandemic world, we must invite people to explore new routines that contribute to the well-being of the home.
3. Welcoming Hybrid Lifestyles and Hybrid Christian Communities
The pandemic has triggered an accelerated need to develop our hybrid interactions, to better navigate our daily lives online and offline. We live a hybrid lifestyle in almost every aspect of our lives and I hope that that includes our spiritual lives as well. Our communities are also called to embrace the hybrid approach in an effort to better connect with people and meet them where they are.
What Does This Look Like?
New times, new needs and a new generation require a new approach to reveal Jesus Christ to young people and their families, and to accompany them in their personal and spiritual growth as disciples.
Hybrid models bring together two important values that expand the possibilities of accompanying people on their faith journey:
- the importance of personal relationships and formative experiences in Christian living, and
- the importance of our sensitivity to the complexity of people’s lives and their religious and spiritual needs.
This hybrid approach encompasses both a vision and mission-driven intentional practices that are more community-centered and focused on individuals, their needs, their availability, and the context in which they live. It is an increasingly personalized blend of a variety of learning methods and micro-experiences: group and individual, digital and virtual, and synchronous and asynchronous, all with the purpose of helping others grow in their faith.
A hybrid pastoral approach is a team effort. It relies on the talents of the members of a multi-disciplinary team to respond to, and accompany, the plurality of multicultural realities, needs and family-life situations.
Three Benefits of a Hybrid Approach:
1. A multi-dimensional hybrid pastoral approach allows us, as a Church, to better meet the social, cultural, spiritual and religious needs of young people. We now have the opportunity to develop a hybrid future for Church life and Christian life formation, which includes formation and accompaniment within:
- intergenerational faith communities,
- family-based communities,
- peer groups at various stages of life
- various affinity groups.
It enables children and teenagers to participate in faith community experiences together with all generations, and in foundational and formative family experiences that help them grow.
2. Virtual meetings allow us to “enter”, through our screens, into the homes of individuals, and to be enriched by this intimate experience of family life, of interculturality, and by their experience of God in daily life.
3. We can rediscover the importance and value of the Domestic Church, where parents respond to the call to share their faith at home, and engage in the practice of faith as the family. The role of the Christian community is to accompany and equip families in this mutual evangelization.
It is true that the pandemic has disrupted our regular practices and methods of evangelization. However, one thing remains unwavered: the love of God, Jesus our living Hope.
This is not the time to put the mission on hold, especially since there is, in many, an even deeper thirst to know the One who says to us:
“I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth,
do you not perceive it?”
Isaiah 43:19, NRSV
This requires a missionary conversion! We are not alone in this process. Together, we can transform the way we reach out to the peripheries. God goes before us, and meets us, every step of the way. Let us go with confidence and join Him on this journey, this “new normal.”
Director, Mission Jeunesse Youth Ministry
Inspired by the following sources:
- Christus Vivit
- The Joy of the Gospel
- The New Directory for Catechesis (2020)
- The Hybrid Approach – Isabel Correa (Mission Jeunesse)
- ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS ACCREDITED TO THE HOLY SEE