CWOC Fall Kick-Offs in the Time of COVID

By: Nancy Belmont, Director of Faith Formation

I write to you with my feet in two worlds. One is immersed in online learning, email communication, and planning via Facebook Messenger. The other is dipping its toes into in-person interactions. I’m currently writing this as I sit on a park bench, mask on, at my son’s football practice. We are all trying to figure out the “new normal.” The hardest part? Acknowledging and respecting that everyone isn’t reacting the same way to things opening up, and giving them space to figure out how they will navigate their “new normal.”

What does this look like for our CWOC groups? 

This may mean a group that has met in the mornings for many years switches to evenings in response to members’ managing their children’s online educations during the day. Some women, burnt out by additional workplace and household demands, may reject a rigorous academic study in favor of simple faith sharing and encouragement. Instead of meeting at the chapel, women may gather in small, in-person neighborhood groups. Some women are eager for interactions past the four walls of their homes while others remain patiently cocooned. 

How to handle the chaos and confusion

Honestly? I don’t like this dissonance. I wish we didn’t have to navigate this continued uncertainty and what seems like (on the surface) disunity. Recently, I read something from Pope Francis that challenged me and encouraged me to be open to our reality. It was from a 2014 address to Italian teachers and students in which the pontiff talked about his great love for school. His words that resonated with me follow:

“I love school because it is synonymous with openness to reality. At least it should be! Yet it does not always manage to be so, and so that means that the structure needs to be adapted a little. Going to school means opening one’s mind and heart to reality, in the wealth of its aspects, of its dimensions. And we do not have the right to be afraid of reality! School teaches us to understand reality. Going to school means opening one’s mind and heart to reality, in the wealth of its aspects, of its dimensions. And this is so very beautiful!”

The reality is, this year is weird. This year is uncomfortable. I wish I could pull the covers up over my head and sleep through its different-ness. However, I must accept the uncomfortable realities of this year. I must see it as it is and open myself up to the lessons it can teach me, which includes different ways to minister and reach out to the ladies in my community. 

What do the women in your community need? 

Have you taken the time to ask them? I created a Google form to assess the needs, wants, and comfort level of the women in my chapel group. I discovered answers as diverse as the questions I asked. I hope by asking the questions and presenting the answers to the board of my chapel group, I’ve opened them up to the variety of ways we can minister to women during this time. 

Some women crave service opportunities, safe social gatherings, traditional studies, or simple faith sharing. Can we be okay with our chapel groups looking different this year? Can our ministries become more deliberate and targeted? Smaller, more intimate groups may facilitate real intimacy and Christian sisterhood. Can we think outside the box, welcoming people into our backyards for socially-distanced interaction or to an evening study when before, there was none? 

Most importantly, we should stress person-to-person connections at this time. 

Check-in with your chapel women. Has anyone in their families been sick? Have they had a baby during this stressful time? Are they craving some one-on-one connection and reassurance? 

If we’re open to it, this year can be a “school” that refocuses us on what’s essential in our ministry: connecting, uniting, and inspiring women. While how may look different, it’s essential that this important work is done. This month, take some time to assess your own comfort level, gifts, and needs and pray for the confidence and holy perseverance to conduct your ministry in new ways. 

Quoted from: Pope Francis, “Address of Pope Francis to Students and Teachers from Schools Across Italy.” St. Peter’s Square, 10 May 2014,