The Office for the Protection of Children and Young People (OPCYP) has received a number of questions concerning the ending of live virtual VIRTUS sessions. As you know, the pandemic necessitated that OPCYP provide training in a manner consistent with what was allowed by the Commonwealth of Virginia Governor’s Emergency Executive Orders (EEO). These orders restricted the gatherings of groups in public and private buildings. Additionally, the Bishop and his Executive Team worked within those EEOs to provide safe and prudential training.
As of June 30, 2021, the Commonwealth lifted the state of emergency and with it the requirement of social distancing. As a result, the Diocese of Arlington restored its liturgies and activities. Since then, OPCYP has been phasing out the live virtual VIRTUS sessions. The in-person VIRTUS sessions widely attended and have been met with great approval. The last Live virtual session was held Saturday, August 24, 2021.
One may ask, “Why not continue the virtual sessions?” This is a sensitive question since we know that many may still struggle with reintegrating into group settings after a year of quarantining. From a facilitator’s perspective, the last year has been difficult for them as well. OPCYP overcame the challenge that only five of the twenty-three facilitators were comfortable to lead a session online. In addition, sessions were capped at 30-35 and therefore, a significant number of sessions were added while only 55 percent of the open slots were used.
Facilitators also had great difficulty getting attendees to participate in a virtual environment. VIRTUS is a didactic program that requires a dialogue for the facilitator to assess whether or not an individual has processed and integrated the information being presented. It was also unfortunate that many participants either did not want to turn their cameras on or left the cameras on and walked away, which required OPCYP to dismiss them from the session. It is also our experience that due to this particular subject matter; online learning is far less effective than in-person live training.
To assist those who are still wary, facilitators have been instructed to provide a small section of the presentation room to be set aside for those who would like to remain socially distant.
OPCYP does not have any plans to add future live virtual online sessions.