Kristin DiStefano has high praise for the Diocese’s weekly catechetical resource, Faith At Home.

Not only does she find the virtual platform helpful in teaching her three daughters about the faith, she utilizes it in her parish religious education program.

“I like the program because it helps children to understand what is going on during the Masses and what the Readings are actually about each week,” said DiStefano, of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Keyport.

Faith At Home is a weekly downloadable pdf with links to various Catholic websites; activities for those in all stages of life; each Sunday’s Gospel Readings and discussion questions on how to delve deeper into each liturgy, and more. It is available in English and Spanish.

“As a teacher by occupation, I think the format is appropriate and conducive to use with children of all different abilities, levels and backgrounds,” she said, explaining that the short, high-interest articles are easier for children than long passages in a textbook.

Originally developed by the Diocese last April when church doors closed due to the pandemic, the program has since evolved.

“Faith At Home has grown from an attempt to assist families with preparation for the Sunday Mass to a valued tool used by parish leaders to assist with faith formation through the pandemic,” said Denise Contino, director of the diocesan Department of Catechesis.

Hearing that those of all ages wanted more material, “We are now offering families across the life cycle a way to prepare for Mass and grow in their relationship with the Lord,” said Contino, who developed Faith At Home along with the diocesan Departments of Youth and Young Adult Ministries and Evangelization and Family Life.  

“Faith At Home will continue as a resource for the near future to assist families throughout the lifecycle to prepare for the liturgy and grow in their relationship with Jesus,” she said.

For example, Faith At Home is expected to include resources associated with the Year of the Family that was proclaimed by Pope Francis.

“Faith At Home is broadening the vision and scope of the family, not only supporting the family with young children but also families at every phase of life,” said Josue Arriola, Evangelization and Family Life director.

He explained those phases as: young adults; newly married; families with young or school-aged children; families with adolescents; single/married adults and those in their golden years.

In Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Anne Biagianti, who currently oversees a virtual religious education program for 200 students, said Faith At Home has become “a key part of our spiritual resource not only because it is bilingual but it covers all age groups.”

“I believe Faith At Home is a great intergenerational tool,” she said, adding that she communicates with many grandparents and parents who “think this is a great way to start a topic discussion at family meals.”

As a catechist who uses the Gospel weeklies to create lessons, DiStefano said, “Where virtual learning is very difficult for many kids, I feel the program is user-friendly and engaging.”

She noted that many of the activities and readings can be used as a springboard for more serious discussions on topics such as moral behavior, Catholic living, social justice and community outreach.

As an example, DiStefano cited the online Family Giving Jar, which suggests making a list of small acts of giving that children can perform; encouraging children to keep track of their acts of giving; having children add a coin to the giving jar for every act of giving, and more.

Overall, she continued, the pandemic has posed a lot of challenges “to our conventional way of doing things.” Which is why, she said, “I am thankful that there is Faith At Home to provide some consistency for children in a non-overwhelming manner.

“Now more than ever, we need hope in our world, and helping our children learn about God helps them increase faith – and faith is where we find this hope.”