By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
During hard times, it can be difficult to feel God’s love, said Catholic author, speaker and podcaster Katie Prejean McGrady. “We want things to go well, to be easy, to feel good. It’s hard to cling to the belief that God’s love endures forever when I can’t endure what’s in front of me.”
She offered this insight during the final segment of the diocesan Office of Faith Formation’s online Hold On to Love series on April 10. She also offered reassurance that God’s love is most present in times of struggle. “We must hold on to the belief that God’s love is present, perhaps even more so when we are carrying our crosses. God himself carried a cross, was nailed to a cross and died on a cross, but not so that we could magically snap our fingers” and have our struggles go away. “The love of God is not a fading thing, but a constant and steady thing.”
The Faith Formation office hosted the monthly, four-part series on Facebook, featuring nationally known speakers, prayer time and local worship leaders. Hold On To Love aimed “to be present to young people and their parents as they navigated life in the pandemic,” said Don Boucher, the office’s director. Organizers sought to “provide some hope and inspiration to them that we will get through this, that God — who is love — is right there with them, and to hold on to him.”
Song lyrics from Jesse Manibusan, “Hold on to Love where hope is found, where joy abounds, where grace and mercy’s overflowing,” inspired the title for the series. Manibusan served as the first guest speaker, focusing on the theme “Love Breaks Through.”
In February, featured speaker Carrie Ann Ford spoke on “Love Sustains.” In March, guest Doug Tooke spoke on “Love Calls.” Each segment featured local worship leaders, including Mitch Narvasa, Annie Thompson-Almeida, Chuck and Alicia Brock, and Boucher and his wife, Candy.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula participated in the events by offering prayer and commentary on the month’s topic. Three co-emcees interacted with guests in the comment section and ensured the broadcasts moved along smoothly: Candy Boucher; Brett Adams, coordinator of evangelization and youth ministry for Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf; and Quinn Frese, a student at Assumption High School in Davenport.
In the final event, Prejean McGrady talked about the complexities of human love compared to God’s love. “Often when we think about love, we describe it and explain it in terms of practical ways we can point to it in our life. I can say, ‘I love my kids, I love my husband… I love Chick-Fil-A.’” God’s love is “sacrificial, giving, selfless, perfect love that is enduring and persevering.” It stands up against the chaos, noise and frustration of the world that takes people “farther away from the hope of God’s promise.”
“Love is an emotion, but for us even bigger than that it is an act of will,” Bishop Zinkula said in his reflection in the final segment. “We choose to love each other even when we might not like them all that much.”
Throughout the talks and worship sessions, guests on Facebook wrote prayer requests into the comment section. The co-emcees responded to the requests. Adams told guests, “One of the beautiful things about the Christian faith is that our suffering is not meaningless. It has a purpose and we can be loved through our suffering as we continue to trust in God. We can hold on to something bigger than the pain, and that’s a hopeful thing.”
Don Boucher believes the series accomplished its mission of inviting guests to refresh, re-energize and be reminded that God is always there walking with them, no matter what they are going through. It is difficult to gauge how many people tuned in and the demographics of those reached, he said.
“A family could have been watching on one device; some people share the live stream on their parish Facebook page, and we have no way of knowing how many ‘views’ that feed had.” A couple of parishes used the recording of the live stream with their young people in their own Zoom session.
“Our sense from the information we could gather is that the live stream might have had more older adults than we anticipated. The one thing I am certain of, however, is that those who did tune in appreciated the program, and found hope and inspiration in its monthly message.”
To watch video recordings of the Hold On to Love sessions, go to the Diocese of Davenport Youth and Young Adult Ministry’s Facebook page.