Online programming a blessing for Religious Education

Religious education programs in Parishes throughout the Diocese of Venice have been embracing the need for more online content. This content can be both exciting and accessible to a more modern generation of young learners.

When the COVID-19 Pandemic struck, causing religious education classes to be taught virtually, the Diocese of Venice was blessed to have temporary free access to, a product of the Augustine Institute which provides a trusted engaging entertainment alternative in support of a Catholic lifestyle so as to help users grow in understanding of their Faith. This is done through Catholic educational content, including Catholic movies, children’s programing, audio dramas and books. In addition, there are online Bible studies, sacramental prep materials, documentaries and talks from leading Catholic experts. All content is available through any electronic device, with much also available in Spanish.

Diocese of Venice Director of Religious Education Anne Chrzan explained that many Parishes already had subscriptions to the content, while others were excited about the new access.

“Many people view Formed as a Catholic “Netflix,” but it really is a lot more than an on-demand movie service,” Chrzan added. “Formed provides educational content for children and adults. The material can be used by Catholic schools and Religious Education programs, youth, parent or senior education groups.  It is relatively easy to watch or learn using your smartphone or computer.”

Liliana Ronderos, Director Religious Education at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton, began using in April. “It was a God given opportunity that allowed us to continue to reach out to the families and parishioners, despite of the closing.”

Ronderos said the description of what Formed is and access/log in information was shared with parishioners through catechists. “As we were able to get familiarized with the content, we began to incorporate specific Formed materials into our programs.”

By June 2020, St. Joseph Parish was using the programming across the board in some way shape or form. The consistent positive feedback made the decision easy to get a permanent subscription.

The Augustine Institute made an offer to the Diocese to provide, at a discount, for continuing or renewed subscriptions. It was eventually negotiated that Parishes would receive a 50 percent reduction in cost for an annual subscription. This discount not only applied to a maximum of 20 Parishes with new subscriptions but offered a discount for those already registered.

“We were able to continue to enjoy Formed without interruption because of that,” Ronderos said. “We even have a fund towards next year’s subscription. “

At St. Joseph, the Formed content has been used to enhance existing religious education classes in a way that is fun and exciting for everyone. New classes for parishioners are being added. For example, in the coming weeks, the Parish will present an Advent series for adults and more content for children going through sacramental preparations.

One of the few challenges is helping older parishioners navigate the sign-in process and using the website to find desired content, Ronderos explained. Early in 2021, the Parish will be offering greater support for the seniors with the assistance of students in Confirmation classes.

Chrzan said the Diocese of Venice was blessed to come to this important agreement with the Augustine Institute for the benefit of all Parishes. Parishioners need only check with their home Parish to learn how to register and gain immediate access to the programming.

“In light of the Pandemic, this opportunity came about at a critical time, when the faithful needed to have continued, reliable access, to content about the Catholic Faith, all in a way that is safe for everyone,” Chrzan added.