The adventure continues in a COVID19 world for FNE Explorer Youth and their Leaders
Life, as we know it throughout the world, has changed forever with the unexpected onset of COVID19. It has ravaged our way of life in ways that one would never have considered or contemplated even as late as early March of 2020.
Governments around the world (just like here in North America) took unprecedented steps to flatten the curve with varying degrees of success. Families took shelter at home, schools closed, and FNE groups ceased all in-person activities and camps.
We took to heart the 8th Explorer law that states, “An explorer smiles and whistles under all difficulties“. Early in the pandemic process with closed schools and all activities cancelled—even Holy Mass—children’s social interaction outside of their immediate family came to a grinding halt. The fear and boredom factor increased for families who struggled to maintain some normalcy in the lives of their children. Governments banned any gatherings of three or more people, so all in-person meetings were forbidden. Many groups reverted to a virtual camp where the youth shared songs, stories, and games from the safety of their backyard or living room.
As a loving family, FNE reached out to their members offering a series of online virtual gatherings to allow for continued connection, laughter, challenge and routine. It was particularly important to provide activities that would engage all youth participants while also appealing to their sense of creativity, adventure and imagination. Some FNE units reported youth participation rates of better than 95% every week with online sessions lasting anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours in length.
Some Troops and Dens held the occasional joint virtual meeting with their brothers or sisters across the border or in a different province or state. Our youth loved to see each other while learning to listen to each other on the web-based, meeting platform.
One could not help but read about the widespread high death rate in nursing and retirement homes. Encouraged by FNE leaders, many youth and their families stepped up to help these vulnerable people in our communities. We made cards, prayed for, played music for (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1175906076134714), and even composed prayers online for them (https://youtu.be/oUXAqP1AywQ).FNE, like our brothers and sisters in Europe, is consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Acting on our faith and seeking the Lord’s intercession for protection, courage, and holiness is paramount to our very existence. We needed to find a way to strengthen the faith of our youth, especially with all public Masses closed and Confession hard to find.
We had over 100 participants for special prayers for the Lord’s intercession live with Pope Francis, praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on the Feast Day of Divine Mercy and again on the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Many youth and leaders participated online as we together reached out to our Lord to worship Him, seek His love and ask for forgiveness.
One group came together to pray the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy every evening for 120 consecutive days with the intention of interceding for those asking for prayers.
As COVID19 began to recede and numbers of active cases were smaller, in North America some government restrictions began to ease which allowed us to move away from virtual gatherings and return to outdoor activities. These meetings were held with most care, keeping necessary preventative actions such as the wearing of face masks. The photos speak for themselves.
During some outdoor activities, we invited a Priest to come and hear the Confessions of our youth and their leaders. This opportunity was readily accepted by all participants who returned home that evening extraordinarily happy and at ease. Confession took place regardless of rain or shine.
The battle with COVID19 is far from over. We need to be prepared and revert to whatever program form we can deliver. Health regulations will change and evolve alongside the battle against COVID19.
In closing: we view this as a good time to strive to recruit additional youth and leaders into our movement as other youth programs become less available.
By Paul Ritchi, General Commissioner and Founder of the Federation of North American Explorers