Ministry Formation Changes in the Time of COVID
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
September 3, 2020
ROCKFORD—Kristina Riedelsperger, administrative assistant for Ministry Formation, says that the department created a Virtual Orientation Day presentation, “since we have too many people to meet the 50-or-less requirement for an in person meeting.” 
Around 100 people are part of the Ministry Formation class of 2021 and are entering their second year of study. The orientation video was available online to students beginning on Aug. 22.
“I’m excited that we’re starting year two,” John Jelinek said in his opening remarks. “We have an incredible set of instructors. In fact I think it’s probably some of the best instructors ever in our program.
“I just can’t tell you how wonderful a year it’s going to be and what a wonderful experience to be together as a group or to (participate virtually) and to be able to grow with these wonderful presenters.”
Jelinek, director of Ministry Formation for the Rockford Diocese, noted that safety for participants and instructors alike is a huge priority this year. 
“We have a time now that definitely is difficult,” he said, “but God is still wanting souls to be saved. The Gospel still needs to be preached, and God is still calling you to that ministry.
“That commission from Jesus is still true for us today,” he said.
With safety procedures in place, in-person classes are being held in the usual four program locations: Aurora, McHenry, Rockford and Stockton. 
Students this year may opt for only-online classes. In his orientation presentation, Jelinek listed three reasons they might choose that option: 
– if they become sick, 
– if they are in a high risk group for COVID-19, or 
– if they are uncomfortable about meeting in person. 
Online-only students will have two weeks to watch the password-protected video presentations and are expected to complete all the assignments.
“What we don’t want to see happen,” Jelinek said, is for someone to say, “I don’t feel like going tonight,” and indulging that whim. “Ministry,” he added, “is an interpersonal activity (and) we want to maintain that.”
Assignments this year will all be submitted electronically, and Riedelsperger said she thinks that will be the norm going forward even after the virus is no longer a concern. 
Students are asked to print their own copies of what otherwise would have been classroom handouts, or to bring their own devices to access the material digitally in class.
During the course of the year should someone test positive for the COVID-19 virus, Jelinek said it will be “confidential COVID reporting. We will notify the class that … a person who attended this class has tested positive,” without identifying that person.
At least three students are ready to get going.
Students enthused
“I am excited to start Ministry Formation classes again,” said Kelly Puls, whose parish is St. Mary in East Dubuque.
“I’m grateful for the accommodations the Ministry Formation team has made for all of us. COVID-19 has presented us with many challenges. The Ministry Formation team rose to the challenge and continues to inspire us to grow and dive deeper into our beautiful Catholic faith. 
“I’m excited to see what the Holy Spirit will inspire in all of us this year,” she said.
Her thoughts are echoed by Maribeth Wuensch who attends St. Margaret Mary Parish in Algonquin.
“Ministry Formation is truly a gift, especially during this time where so many feel anxious and uncertain,” she said. 
“I am so grateful, especially now, for this incredible process that deepens my understanding of our amazing faith, of my true self and of how I am called to serve within our Catholic Church right now and for years to come. 
“I look forward to attending the classes in person at the McHenry location,” Wuensch adds.
Holly Bennett of St. John Neumann Parish in St. Charles is enthused for her second year also.
“Right now Ministry Formation Year 2 could not come soon enough for me,” she said. “The virtual orientation for year two was amazing, very detailed, organized and following all of the CDC guidelines. 
“I had my first ‘in person’ class and felt very safe,” she continues. “We had lots of open space with room for others. ... I am excited to start another year and see where the Holy Spirit leads me.”
In his opening prayer in the orientation video, Father Kenneth Wasilewski, diocesan ethicist and director of the Permanent Diaconate Program, provided a sense of why all the extra efforts of staff and students will be worth it.
Speaking of the “incredible potential” that Jesus must have seen in the Gospel story of the rich young man who could not give up his possessions at that time to follow Jesus, the priest reminded students of their own goals.
“We feel at times like we’re being asked an awful lot,” he said. “Each of us will at times have to face the prospect of letting go of something in order to grow or to gain something even more, to unlock some potential within us. 
“Ministry will always challenge us to let go of something ... to step outside of where we’re comfortable to unlock some other great potential within,” Father Wasilewski added.
“Do you want to be more? Do you want to be perfect? Go, use what you’ve been given and allow yourself to be the person, and the Christian, and the servant that you have the potential to be,” he said.


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