Saint Michael Parish in Greenville is known for providing life-long faith formation activities to the rural community it serves. The parish of over 1,250 families includes students from a local college, nursing home residents, students and families from Saint Michael School and the parish faith formation program. Finding a way to keep in touch with everyone and provide Catholic faith resources to groups all at different stages of their faith life was challenging.
When Sue Lauffer and Sandy Ohl, parish ministry volunteers, applied to the Catholic Foundation for an Education Grant in 2019 to purchase a subscription to an online communication and faith formation resource called Flocknote/Word on Fire ENGAGE, little did they know what a blessing it would become.
The original plan was to promote the use of these tools as a way for busy families to stay connected to their faith. Roll-out was scheduled for the Advent season of 2019. “We were hoping to have about thirty percent of our parishioners register for the programs in the first six months, and then increase that to fifty percent within the first year,” says Lauffer.
Then Covid-19 hit and they knew that Flocknote was going to be critical in helping them maintain communications with their parishioners. And the parishioners agreed. By December of 2020, seventy-three percent of the parish families enrolled and were receiving bimonthly newsletters. Prayer requests and “Caring Correspondence” which included birthday cards and Christmas cards were sent by members to those that were subscribed to those groups. It was also used to identify parishioners needing masks and food pantry assistance.
The Word on Fire/ENGAGE program helped provide spiritual development and connection. Reflections for Lent, Easter and Advent were pushed out to all parishioners. Others registered for faith formation sessions which included access to study materials and videos.
“We were so pleased to have Flocknote/Word on Fire ENGAGE in place prior to the pandemic.” Lauffer continues, “It opened and provided a way to connect with our parishioners during extraordinary circumstances and evangelize in ways not present before.”
As plans to return to Mass unfold, Saint Michael Parish finds itself pivoting back to their original plans for the online platform. The bimonthly newsletter will continue, and Fr. Christopher Barnes will utilize the Word on Fire digital library to send timely reflections. Faith Formation groups will provide hybrid models for in-person, video capable and independent study groups. Parish ministries plan to communicate with members more frequently. Everyone is looking forward to continued and expanded ways to utilize Flocknote/Word on Fire ENGAGE to continue their mission to provide life-long faith formation.
“We were so pleased to have Flocknote/Word on Fire ENGAGE in place prior to the pandemic. It opened and provided a way to connect with our parishioners during extraordinary circumstances and evangelize in ways not present before.”