I recently gave a catechist retreat/In-Service to a group of catechists at a parish in the Archdiocese.  One of the things I shared with them is the importance of them bringing everything together.  It is not the textbook, the DVD, the music, the pictures or the great use of the powerpoint/smartboard you used that helped make your class a fruitful one.  Although helpful and very important in passing on the faith in a suitable manner to young people in the Third Millennium, nothing replaces the person of the catechist.  The catechist is the person who unites, organizes and links all the great tools available together in order that our Catholic Faith can be made known in the lives of their students.  Our Faith is full of life and has the potential to draw students into the life and mission of the Church.  It is the person of the catechist who is the linchpin, the crux, and central to helping students encounter Christ and the Gospel Message.

The National Directory of Catechesis says: “No number of attractive personal qualities, no amount of skill and training, and no level of scholarship of erudition can replace the power of God’s word communicated through a life lived in the Spirit (pg. 243).” A person who desires to grow in holiness and proclaim in word and deed a life rooted in Christ is irreplaceable in the ministry of Catechesis.

Come Holy Spirit lead us as catechists to radiate you through our teaching, and through our very being!  And students will be saying…Ahh see how they love Jesus…I want that too”.


goalsYour Religious Education/Faith Formation Program begins soon.  What can Catechists do to assist their young parishioners to grow in their faith lives this year?  Here are three goals to consider:

 

1)   Be God’s Instrument

  1. Your faithfulness to your prayer life and weekly Mass spills over into your catechesis.
  2. Your time of preparation for each class will ensure greater fruit while in class.
  3. Your joy and enthusiasm of God will make an impact and inspire your students.

2)   Engage

Engage your students in “The Story” of God’s plan for humanity and for them.  Use various learning styles to draw them in: Audio, Visual and Kinesthetic.  We don’t want them to just know about God but we want them have an encounter that draws them deeper into their friendship with God. They have a hunger for wanting to know and love God. 

3) Build Community

Help your students see that their class is a part of the parish community.  Help them form a bond so that they understand that together we are the body of Christ and we profess a common faith and we are part of the People of God.    A real sense of community unites them more firmly within the parish community, a place where they know they belong. 

 

These are 3 things I shared with my catechist as the year begins.  I believe they can have a real impact on the students in their classroom.

How about you what goals to you have this year?


For years I’ve understood that the textbook was just a tool and not the end-all of the catechetical lesson.  One of the challenges today is to equip volunteer catechists to go beyond the textbook, i.e., not relying on the textbook as a crutch which they have to teach from in order to convey the content of the chapter.  Although I have some ideas on what we need to do about that, I want to share a few things that seem to be essential in this Ministry of the Word and the Proclamation of the Good News of Christ and His Church today. This are some things needed for Catechesis in the Third Millennium:

 

1. We need a holistic approach to catechesis.

As many have been saying, we need to do more than pass on content – we need to see our catechesis as initiating people into the Christian Life.  Much has been said about this, especially in the last number of years. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that it’s not a victory to get through the 30 chapters of the textbook.  It’s a victory if over the course of a year we have helped those we catechize be inspired, grow in hunger for being in communion with Jesus Christ and desire to continue that friendship they have with Him.

2. We need to help Catechists see that what they are transmitting is something that is unified.

Textbooks, among other resources, can have a tendency to compartmentalize the content of the Faith.  At times for the sake of order this is understandable and necessary.  However, too often we struggle to catechize seeing that the faith is unified not just a set of various truths.  For example, in the 3 part of the Catechism in the second paragraph of that section it expresses this truth I’m speaking of beautifully:

The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”2 “partakers of the divine nature.”3 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”4 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer. (Paragraph 1692)

Even in the 3 part of the Catechism it has not “moved on” from the first two parts to now cover the 3 part (although it does cover the Christian Life lived out and what we believe about that).  But it does so in a unified manner helping the believer see that the faith in intricately woven together as a unified whole.  Catechesis today needs to keep this in mind and make positive strides in helping others see the unity of the Catholic Faith.

3. We need to root our Catechesis in the Holy Trinity.

Yes, I’m sure we all have heard that the Trinity is the central mystery of the faith and how as the Catechism says: “It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them” (#234).

If what we are teaching does not relate to one of the persons of the Trinity then we should not be teaching it.  As stated above regarding the unity of the faith we have to show those we catechize that God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is revealing Himself to us and inviting us to community with Him.  When you have a moment take a look at Ephesians 1:3-14 which conveys beautifully the Trinities Mission.  Our catechesis should always be linked with the Trinity.

4. We need to present the faith today as a compelling story — of God’s loving plan.

The Good News is a story to be told, a story to be celebrated, a story to be lived and a story to be in communion with.  It is not romanticizing to say that it is a love story because it truly is, but it is a love story that has tragedy, hope, love and joy which are all a part of the human condition.  We have a tendency in catechesis to present the faith as a lot of great truths but can struggle to help those we catechize see that it’s more a story we are a part of than a number of great truths that happened in the past.  The more we can show others that what we are proclaiming and teaching is all part of a beautiful story of God’s plan and purpose for creation then we help others see just how compelling God and his ways are.

5. We need to put people in contact with Jesus (in relationship with Him).

If we begin and end each catechetical session with a brief prayer lasting no more than 30 seconds then it is not likely that we are able to allow for the proper setting to help those we catechize come into contact with Jesus.  We need to have more prayer in our catechesis, more time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, more time of silence and reflection (as challenging as all this can be).  I recently heard a story about how two priests had devoted much time to being present to the First Communion class by stopping by the classes to talk with the 2nd graders and how they also were present at the parent meetings.  Even so, after First Communion none of the parents brought their children to Mass.  One of the things the priests discovered is that they never took to time to take them to the church and have direct contact with Jesus.  They did not take them into the church to show them how this is where the Christian community gathers to celebrate, proclaim and encounter God.  Therefore, helping find more opportunities of putting people in contact with Jesus Christ is essential for fruitful discipleship.

6. The Catechism needs to be better utilized in elementary catechesis

When Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of the Catechism as a reference text he did not intend for it to merely be something we use as one among many resources.  Textbook publishers have a tendency to site the Catechism as a reference or a way to show that the teaching in a particular chapter is linked to a teaching in the Catechism.  Although this is a great first step to what we had 20 years ago it lacks something significant.  The Catechism is the essential Deposit of Faith which the Church guards as a most important and vital treasure to the universal Church. The Catechism helps articulate the beauty of the Faith.  The Catechism shows how the Faith is organic and unified.  The Catechism threads the faith together in a way that we can see just how unified and simple the faith is.  When I say simple, I mean that at the heart of the Deposit of Faith we see the simple Gospel Message that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we may not perish but have eternal life (Cf. John 3:16).  The Catechism conveys the simplicity of God’s plan accomplished through Creation, through His relationship with us, through sending His Son to redeem us and sending the Holy Spirit to sanctify the world and prepare us for the world to come.  Therefore, the Catechism needs to be used more fully in equipping catechists in their ministry of catechesis.

These are 6 things I see as vital to Catechesis in the 21st Century.  May God our heavenly and gracious Father direct us and lead us to greater renewal and communion with Himself.

What do you see as things that are needed for Catechesis in the 21st Century?


girl pointingI had the wonderful opportunity the last 5 days to attend the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.  There were many blessings and a lot I want to share in future posts about catechesis today in the Church.  Today, I want to share with you a very inspiring story told by a Salesian of Don Bosco who spoke at the conference, Fr. Louis Molinelli, SDB.  He shared the following:

One day I had a meeting with other presidents of schools and had to go to a place I had not been to before.  After driving around for what felt like ages I found a building that I thought was the place (not realizing there were two Sacred Heart Schools).  As I went into the school I saw loads of children and had no idea where to go.  A young girl about 5 years old came up to me and said, hello, can I help you?  I said, yes you can; would you please take me to the one in charge?  The girl said, yes, come with me and she took my hand and lead me down a long hallway past many classrooms until finally we entered a room where she pointed to the front and said their, He’s in charge: she was pointing to Jesus in the tabernacle.

This is a touching story which drew my thoughts to how important it is to point to Jesus in our catechesis and lead others to Him.  Not only are we showing them the one who is in charge but we are helping others grow spiritually.

3 Ways

Here are 3 things to consider in leading others to Jesus Christ:

1. Are you praying each time you prepare to lead catechetical sessions for the Holy Spirit to use you and to speak to the hearts of those you are catechizing?

2. Are you trying to cover the topic at the cost of drawing them into a deeper relationship with Jesus?  Our catechesis can too often be informational without being transformational.

3. Are you helping those you catechize to grow in prayer and helping them be in friendship with God.  Each of us need to use our God given gifts to help others grow in their spiritual lives.

The Big Question

Can you take me to the one in charge?


Are we focused on training catechists or forming catechists?  The National Directory for Catechesis says:

“Catechesis aims to bring about in the believer an ever more mature faith in Jesus Christ, a deeper knowledge and love of his person and message, and a firm commitment to follow him.” (No. 19A)

I wonder if our training/formation of catechists put a greater emphasis on developing skills but often lack the heart of what catechists need: spiritual formation.

Recently I was listening to a presentation about recruiting, training and forming volunteers.  The presenter, Bill Keimig, made some great points about the need to distinguish between catechist training and catechist formation.  He shared some interesting insights regarding the importance of leading catechists to being spiritually formed, i.e., our spiritual lives.  It is imperative that catechists have a foundation in the spiritual life if they are going to help make saints in the classroom.  Seeking to help students be saints is seeking to bring them to what Bill Keimig calls, “The joy of relationship”.  First and foremost the catechist must have a desire to grow in relationship with Christ.  It is also the aim of the catechist to foster a desire in students for this joy of relationship with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   The more we focus on it in our own lives the more students and those around us will see Christ working in and through us.  Granted it is the parents primary role to instill this desire in their children, but DRE’s and catechists must also foster this.

Please do not misunderstand, catechist training is very important.  Knowledge of the faith enables us to draw the students into the mystery of Christ and God’s plan of salvation.  Catechists who are seeking to grow in their spiritual lives and seeking to be formed in their spiritual lives are going to succeed more than those who have great skills and tricks of the trade to make their classes fun and interactive.  The more we can engage students the better, however at the heart and center of our mission as catechists is drawing our students into that joy and love of relationship with Christ.

As you prepare to get ready for this upcoming catechetical year year let us together resolve as St. Maria Mazarello did to “make up our minds to become saints”.  Together with God’s grace and life in us we can do great things this year!  May God be with each one of you!

Originally posted on http://www.amazingcatechists.com


end of the yearMany programs are finishing up for the year in the next few weeks.  For those who still have a few weeks to go I wanted to share 3 things to consider to make sure you end this year on a high note:

1) Sometimes the catechist can feel discouraged by how distracted the kids seem to be during this time of year.  Keep up the great work and remember God still wants to use you to share the Gospel with your students.  You may be the only one they are hearing the “Good News” from in their lives.

2) Find the opportunities to share your words of wisdom and for your students to see that you love Christ and desire for them to also grow in their relationship with Him.

3) Continue to pray for your students and let them know that you will be keeping them in prayer.  Consider writing each student a note of encouragement that you give out on the last day of class.

 

What are you planning to help encourage and inspire your students as the year concludes?


what is goodMy friend Dr. Farey (head of Catechetical Formation, Course Director B.Div, and Course Director License in Catechetics at the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England) has a wonderful quote that is so pertinent to catechesis today:

“How is the heart ever going to know what is good if we don’t use our mind to inform the heart? Don’t let anyone say to you, ‘don’t worry about all that study, all you need is to get your heart united to Christ’. Yes, we need our hearts plunged in Christ… be led by Christ but let your mind be led by Christ through the Church so that your heart can follow what is actually good, and not just what is an awful lot of opinions of what must be good… The Catechism is there to help us.”

I often speak of formation in Christ (not merely information) needing to be at the heart of catechesis.  However, I could not agree more with the importance of assuring that in our catechesis in the Third Millennium needs to incorporate both the heart and the mind when passing on the deposit of faith.

Too often today people struggle to have their hearts follow what is actually good. At the risk of sounding judgemental, it appears that individuals allow the messages and ideas given by society to shape their understanding of life, liberty and even in the pursuit of Jesus.  Teaching the truths of the faith, especially the deposit of faith articulated in the Catechism, will help others see how these truths that are Godly and that are point to the good (which is from God).  Too often our society desires to revise what is good or form ones idea of God based on a more modern application of what is seen as good (because they believe that “they see it more clearly” then what the Bible says or what the Church would say).

catechismThe Catechism is such a gift to help us see the beauty and the unity of the faith articulated and drawing the reader toward the ture and ultimate good – God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

What do you think about Dr. Farey’s quote? I’d enjoy your insights and thoughts.


Pope Emaritus Benedict spoke back in 2010 to the Italian Bishops conference in Assisi about the translation of the Roman Missal in the context of liturgical reform.  He said that “all true reformers are, in fact, obedient to the faith.” He explained:

“They do not move arbitrarily, they do not claim any discretional jurisdiction over rites. They are not masters but custodians of the treasure that was instituted by the Lord and entrusted to us. The entire Church is present in each liturgical act, and adhering to its form is a condition for the authenticity of the celebration.”

The “reformers” he is speaking of are all the bishops, priests and liturgists who will be implementing the new translation of the Roman Missal.  I think the Pope’s message also applies to the work of catechesis when passing on the Deposit of Faith.  We cannot teach personal opinions or only the truths that “we think” are more relevant.  There is a temptation to side-step the more challenging teachings of the Gospel and the Church. The Lord has entrusted to His Church the full Deposit of Faith and we, in the ministry of catechesis, must never see ourselves as the “masters but custodians of the treasure(s) that was instituted by the Lord and entrusted to us.”

3 Ways we can do this in our Religious Education Programs:

1) Make sure and talk to your DRE about what are the fundamental truths of the Faith, e.g., Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Paschal Mystery, the Sacraments, the doctrine of sin, etc.

2) Be faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Church in your own life. As we allow comfort or lukewarmness to infect our own Faith lives, it becomes contagious and spreads to the programs we lead and the teachings we pass on.  The teachings of the Church are life-giving and inspire one to go deeper and grow in a relationship with God.

3.    Be sure to find small teachable moments to pass on to the parents as well.  It is becoming increasingly more challenging to encourage parents to attend any presentations about the faith.  Look to newsletters, emails, and small assignments in which students and parents can work together, so that parents can deepen their understanding of the blessings and joy of knowing the teachings of the Church and desire more fervently to live them in their lives.

Come Holy Spirit!


Lisa Mladinich came to the Land of Oz this past Sunday and Monday to share how to not only be an amazing catechist but to help catechists and their students love Christ and His Church more fully and with great joy!  She spoke at two different parishes (mine being one of them) during their catechist in-service to begin the year.  She also spoke at a third parish about how to be an amazing catechist through sacramental preparation.

Her In-Service was broken up into two main parts.  The first 45 minutes was an exciting presentation about numerous aspects of being a faith-filled and empowered catechist.  During the second part of the in-service she was not only very practical but very engaging.  She had 60 catechists on their feet learning about ways to involve their students and engage their minds and hearts.

Lisa’s enthusiasm, excitement about the faith and her experience of engaging students as a catechist herself throughout the years captivated and motivated so many of my catechists.  A number of them came to me afterwards or over the next few days sharing that they really “got a lot” out of the in-service and they hoped to see her again in the future.

 


Today we just completed our annual two week summer intensive School of Religion Program.  We had 198 students register for it this year.  It was a good two weeks full of activity and learning.  This program has been going on for about 8 years now.  Originally our parish offered School of Religion classes on Tuesday and Wednesday nights for 1st – 6th grade.  Once we began to offer the summer program (we do not offer 2nd grade in the summer)  we no longer offered Tuesday night classes.  Many parents really like the summer option because their kids are so busy during the school year that it is challenging to get them to class on a weekly basis.  There are pro’s and con’s to a summer intensive verses once a week for 9 months, but both meet the growing needs of parents and students.

Our Theme This Summer was Faith: Love it, Learn it, Live it! I copied the logo and put up sheets like this all around the building with different ways to apply the Live it, Love it and Learn it theme.

I want to share a few personal challenges I have during these two weeks:

1) The Parents: They are, as we always say: The primary teachers of their child’s faith.  Most parents however feel more comfortable having someone else teach them the basic tenants of the faith (more about that in a future post).  I worked really hard this year communicating with the parents and seeking feedback from them throughout the two weeks (mostly through email).  Each day I emailed the parents announcements and what their child would be learning (by grade level).  I also tried to include helpful tips for the parents, helpful parent websites on faith formation and valuable articles on helping their children grow in their faith.  One email program software we have will report how many emails were opened (some days were better than others).  I so desire to reach out to the parents and get them engaged so they can be empowered and enriched.  It is not easy.  I think some parents really did like the emails (which did take me about 2 hours to put together each day) but others were just too busy to look at them.  We need to find ways to equip parents who so often received poor faith formation themselves growing up.

2) Another challenge I have during our two week program is connecting with the catechists and aides in such a short period of time.  It’s great to work with and around them for the two weeks, but I just wish I had more time to process and see all that they are doing. They have great ideas and they bring so much to the table to share.  I also took the time each day to email them about important announcements for the next day as well as give them teaching ideas and inspirational quotes from saints, the Catechism and catechetical documents.  It is so important to help with their ongoing formation.

Sending these two emails each day took up my whole afternoon and took a lot of energy.  From an administrative point of view I’m glad the two weeks are over, but I’m sad because I wish there was more time to assist our students in their academic and most especially spiritual formation.

I will pray for our parents that they will continue to help their children grow in their faith and remember that these two weeks are only the beginning of what they should be doing now for the rest of the year until next summer (and throughout their child’s life).  I will also pray for the students that the Holy Spirit continues to speak to their hearts and minds.

Students just having a Q&A Session with our pastor.


Are there any key themes that should be a part of any classroom regardless of the topic of the day?  In 1973, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops in their document “Basic Teachings For Catholic Religious Education” spoke of three themes which should “carry through all religious education” (pg. 3).  I would like to write more about this in the future but this is definitely a good start of what should be a part of one’s lesson during each class.

1. The Importance of Prayer

“This teaching will take place through experiences of prayer, through the examples of prayer, and through the learning of common prayers(pg. 3).”  Consider focusing on the following:
a. The example of prayer (how do you model prayer and draw your students into prayer as a catechist?)
b. learning common prayers (by memorization)
c. Experiences of prayer (opening and closing each session in prayer, praying with the Scriptures, prayer services, intercessory prayer, etc)

2. Participating in the Liturgy

The Bishops documents states, “Liturgy itself educates.  It teaches, it forms community, it forms the individual.  It makes possible worship of God and a social apostolate to men.  The Mass, the Church’s “great prayer,” is the highest, most noble form of the Church’s liturgy.  Effective instruction will therefore help every Christian participate actively in the Eucharistic celebration of his own witnessing faith community (pg. 4).”   Without  connecting students and adults to the liturgy we will struggle to draw people into participation and the very life of the Church.

3. Familiarity with the Holy Bible

At the heart of passing on the Faith is the use of the Scriptures.  The document goes on to say, “The Word of God is life giving.  It nourishes and inspires strengthens and sustains.  It is the primary source, with Tradition, of the Church teaching.”…The words of St. Paul should describe the Catholic students of religion: “From your infancy you have known the Sacred Scriptures, the sources of the wisdom which, through faith in Jesus Christ, leads to salvation (2 Tim. 3:15) (pg. 4-5).”  Using Scripture in the classroom to allow the students to become familiar with the Bible as well as showing them how God reveals His plan to us cannot be underestimated.

What themes would you add to this list?


“Catechesis aims to bring about in the believer an ever more mature faith in Jesus Christ, a deeper knowledge and love of his person and message, and a firm commitment to follow him.” (National Directory for Catechesis No. 19A)

I remember last year listening to a presentation about recruiting, training and forming volunteers.  The presenter, Bill Keimig, made some great points about the need to distinguish between catechist training and catechist formation.  He shared some interesting insights regarding the importance of leading catechists to being spiritually formed, i.e., our spiritual lives.  It is imperative that catechists have a foundation in the spiritual life if they are going to help make saints in the classroom.  Seeking to help students be saints is seeking to bring them to what Bill Keimig calls, “The joy of relationship”.  First and foremost the catechist must have a desire to grow in relationship with Christ.  It is also the aim of the catechist to foster a desire in students for this joy of relationship with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   The more we focus on it in our own lives the more students and those around us will see Christ working in and through us.  Granted it is the parents primary role to instill this desire in their children, but DRE’s and catechists must also foster this.

Please do not misunderstand, catechist training is very important.  Knowledge of the faith enables us to draw the students into the mystery of Christ and God’s plan of salvation.  Catechists who are seeking to grow in their spiritual lives and seeking to be formed in their spiritual lives are going to succeed more than those who have great skills and tricks of the trade to make their classes fun and interactive.  The more we can engage students the better, however at the heart and center of our mission as catechists is drawing our students into that joy and love of relationship with Christ.

As we think about what we can do with our catechists this summer to help prepare them for teaching in the Fall.  Let us resolve as St. Maria Mazarello did to “make up our minds to become saints”.  Together with God’s grace and life in us we can do great things!  May God be with each one of you!

What do you do to train and form your volunteers?


Where do we find God in our everyday lives as Catholics?  There are so many examples we could give on where we find God.  Loyola Press is even having a video contest to encourage Catholic Identity and Community building on where we find God in our lives.

The question of where do we find God brings me to an additional question:  What does God reveal about where to find Him?  Here are a few things the Catechism says:

~The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God”.10 ” (CCC #34)

~ “Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God’s existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.” (CCC #35)

~ “God, who creates and conserves all things by his Word, provides men with constant evidence of himself in created realities”  (CCC #54)

~ “Sacred Scripture and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” (DV 10), in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.  (CCC #97).

~“Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church:197 in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,”199 in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned,199 in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species.” (CCC 1373).   

When we ask our students questions like Where do you find God?, or Where to you experience Jesus in your daily life?, may we always remember that we want to link them back to what God has revealed.  We always want to connect them to some aspect Christian doctrine which is not stale and static but life giving and spirit filled.  God’s revelation and truth set us free (cf. Jn. 8:32) and gives us life (cf. Jn. 10:10).


Immaculate Mary, your praises we sing;
Who reignest in splendor with Jesus our King.
Ave, ave, ave, Maria! Ave, ave, Maria!

Last night our Family Formation students had class and discussed everything Marian.

My wife taught the 6th grade class and this is what she did for class:

1) She broke the kids up into 5 groups and they rotated to 5 different stations about Mary.

2) The 5 Stations explored the following:

1. Original Sin

2. What we as Catholics believe about Mary

3. Why wear a Scapular or Miraculous Medal

4. Developing a devotion to Mary in the Rosary

5. Marian Apparitions

3) After students spent time at each station they took a quiz reviewing what they learned at each station.

4) My wife shared that this not only helped them learn about Mary but it engaged them to a far greater degree than if they would have just talked about it with students sitting at their desks.

This brings me to a larger point regarding teaching on Mary.  I truly believe that by helping foster a devotion to Mary to your students it will draw them into their faith and increase their love for God and neighbor.  Mary is truly our model in faith and she draws us closer to Jesus.  It not only sounds good but it is true.  How many times have you heard people talk about their devotion to Mary as a way that had helped them grow in their faith?

Here are a few ways to help your students grow in their devotion to Mary thus leading them closer to Jesus:

 

1) Pray a decade of the Rosary as you begin or end class.  Consider picking one of the mysteries of the day (for example if you meet on Sundays or Wednesdays then choose one of the Glorious Mysteries to pray). Try to connect it to the lesson of the day or a way to ask Mary to bless your class.  I also pray at the end and offer it to Mary at the foot of the cross.

2) Point to Mary often in your teaching as a model of faith and response to God’s ways.  For example if you are talking about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit – point out how Mary shows us how to live them.

3) Pray a Marian Litany (two examples below)

Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Litany to Mary of Nazareth

May today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception be a reminder of Mary’s Holiness and our call to help our students grow in their faith and model her!


I posted this last year, but I think it’s worthwhile to re-post.  On appleseeds.org I found some great teaching tips by Richard Leblanc, Ph.D. from York University.  Although it is not directly about faith formation I think there are some real gems in what Dr. Leblanc says.

1. GOOD TEACHING is as much about passion as it is about reason. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. It’s about caring for your craft, having a passion for it, and conveying that passion to everyone, most importantly to your students.

2. GOOD TEACHING is about substance and training students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field, reading sources, inside and outside of your areas of expertise, and being at the leading edge as often as possible. But knowledge is not confined to scholarly journals. Good teaching is also about bridging the gap between theory and practice. It’s about leaving the ivory tower and immersing oneself in the field, talking to, consulting with, and assisting practitioners, and liaising with their communities.

3. GOOD TEACHING is about listening, questioning, being responsive, and remembering that each student and class is different. It’s about eliciting responses and developing the oral communication skills of the quiet students. It’s about pushing students to excel; at the same time, it’s about being human, respecting others, and being professional at all times.

4. GOOD TEACHING is about not always having a fixed agenda and being rigid, but being flexible, fluid, experimenting, and having the confidence to react and adjust to changing circumstances. It’s about getting only 10 percent of what you wanted to do in a class done and still feeling good. It’s about deviating from the course syllabus or lecture schedule easily when there is more and better learning elsewhere. Good teaching is about the creative balance between being an authoritarian dictator on the one hand and a pushover on the other. Good teachers migrate between these poles at all times, depending on the circumstances. They know where they need to be and when.

5. GOOD TEACHING is also about style. Should good teaching be entertaining? You bet! Does this mean that it lacks in substance? Not a chance! Effective teaching is not about being locked with both hands glued to a podium or having your eyes fixated on a slide projector while you drone on. Good teachers work the room and every student in it. They realize that they are conductors and the class is their orchestra. All students play different instruments and at varying proficiencies. A teacher’s job is to develop skills and make these instruments come to life as a coherent whole to make music.

6. GOOD TEACHING is about humor. This is very important. It’s about being self-deprecating and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s often about making innocuous jokes, mostly at your own expense, so that the ice breaks and students learn in a more relaxed atmosphere where you, like them, are human with your own share of faults and shortcomings.

7. GOOD TEACHING is about caring, nurturing, and developing minds and talents. It’s about devoting time, often invisible, to every student. It’s also about the thankless hours of grading, designing or redesigning courses, and preparing materials to further enhance instruction.

8. GOOD TEACHING is supported by strong and visionary leadership, and very tangible instructional support resources, personnel, and funds. Good teaching is continually reinforced by an overarching vision that transcends the entire organization from full professors to part-time instructors and is reflected in what is said, but more importantly by what is done.

9. GOOD TEACHING is about mentoring between senior and junior faculty, teamwork, and being recognized and promoted by one’s peers. Effective teaching should also be rewarded, and poor teaching needs to be remediated through training and development programs.

10. AT THE END OF THE DAY, good teaching is about having fun, experiencing pleasure and intrinsic rewards…like locking eyes with a student in the back row and seeing the synapses and neurons connecting, thoughts being formed, the person becoming better, and a smile cracking across a face as learning all of a sudden happens. It’s about the former student who says your course changed her life. It’s about another telling you that your course was the best one he’s ever taken. Good teachers practice their craft not for the money or because they have to, but because they truly enjoy it and because they want to. Good teachers couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

THE CORE
Association for Experiential Education
Schools & Colleges Professional Group Newsletter
Spring 1999, Vol. 2, # 1 (Electronic Version)

http://www.aee.org/prof&sig/core9921.html

Editor’s note: In 1998, professor Leblanc was awarded the Seymous Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence. His top ten requirements for good teaching was originally published in The Teaching Professor, Vol. 12, # 6, 1998.

What would you say are key teaching requirements?


Advent is upon us.  One of the images I love to reflect upon is how this is a season where it gets dark earlier and the sun rises later.  This season of expectation helps us remember how the world was in darkness and the light of the world, Jesus Christ, came to fill the world with the light and truth of God’s revelation of Himself.    Here are some ways to give students a glimpse of this:

1. Turn out the lights for a few moments and light the candle(s) of the Advent Wreath and share how the days have gotten shorter and how there is less less light outside and more darkness.  Help them see that the closer we get to Christmas the more light there is in the Advent Wreath.  The light from the advent wreath remind us of the light of Christ.  Light in the darkness of the night gives us direction.  Share with your students how their kindness, their generosity and their time spent in prayer this Advent are helping us be light and bring hope to a world that is often lost in darkness and a world longing for what we as followers of Christ can share with them.

2. Another way to help make this concrete for students is to share with them how most people put lights up at the beginning of Advent – outside & inside their houses.  Christmas lights are a constant reminder this time of year of the light of Christ.  Challenge your students to offer a small prayer when they see these various kinds of light…Jesus, thank you for being the light of the world; Jesus, bless Grandma with your light and hope in her time of sickness; Jesus, help those who don’t know you find you; or Jesus, be my light in all the decisions I make today.

3. Here are a few great Scripture verses on light: John 1:4-9; John 8:12; Jn. 1:6; Mt. 5:14-16 & 1 John 1:5-7 that you could use during opening and closing prayer.


For many years, especially after the Second Vatican Council, there was a sense that doctrine doesn’t really matter but what matters is making sure everyone knows the love of Jesus.  While it is very true that we want to proclaim the wonderful news of God’s grace, love and mercy to the world we must also keep in mind that our doctrine in rooted in this very reality that God is love and sent His beloved Son to save us from sin and eternal separation from God.

I found a really good article that speaks of how doctrine does matter.  I hope you enjoy it.

Doctrine Matters

DAVID G. BONAGURA, JR.

Critics never seem to tire of pitting the doctrines of the Catholic Church against her works of charity, as if the two were somehow mutually exclusive or even opposed.

A recent column in the Sunday New York Times rehashed this worn cliché: the author asserted that in his global travels he has encountered “two Catholic Churches.” One is “obsessed with dogma and rules and distracted from social justice;” the other is made of unheralded acts of charity and selflessness by religious missionaries and relief organizations. For this author the second church is clearly the right one; after all, “Jesus himself focused on the needy rather than dogma.”

This false dichotomy is at root an attack against faith, and it is nothing new. The Roman emperor Julian the Apostate despised Christianity and created his own religion as a rival; to win support from those impressed by genuine Christian charity he required his own priests to aid the poor. Thomas Jefferson, skeptical of religious mysteries, crafted his own version of the New Testament, which omitted all mention of miracles while showcasing Jesus’ good deeds. The New York Times‘ charge has the same objective: by alleging that dogma impedes charity, it offers subtle encouragement to see aid to the poor as the only kind of religion needful – for secularists.

Sacred Scripture proclaims that God is love, and Jesus specifically left one commandment: love one another. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI calls love “God’s greatest gift to humanity,” and he places love at the center of the Church’s mission. Why not, then, dispense with all the doctrines of divine mysteries – and those rules about behavior and morality – and just love and do good works as each one sees fit?

To begin with, we had some experience of radically secular experiments in the twentieth century, and they weren’t pretty.

And besides, Jesus did not focus on the needy to the neglect of dogma. The opposite is the case: Jesus focused on the needy precisely because He was the true and living embodiment of dogma, which is nothing other than teachings about God. Jesus, called rabbi – teacher – from the beginning of His ministry through His resurrection from the dead, became man to teach that God is love of His very essence, and that we are to love in order to participate in God’s inner life. Doctrine (Church teachings) and dogma (definitive explanations of the content of revelation) are not dead letters that sap vitality from believers; rather they are intelligible formulations that express real, living mysteries. Doctrine breathes life into the Church and the souls of believers by articulating the many dimensions of the one reason for our being – God. Through its solid teaching about God, doctrine gives powerful impetus to good works.

Thus in the Christian tradition helping the needy is not done for its own sake, but propter Deum, for God’s sake; this is the ultimate motivation for the heroic work of those missionaries who so impressed the Times‘ columnist. Had Jesus not taught so, love would have no direction, and aid for the poor might have never crossed tribal lines. To take just one example, the modern belief of universal equality of all human beings regardless of sex or ethnicity – now espoused by secularists and believers alike – leans heavily on St. Paul: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3: 28).

Jesus did not focus on the needy to the neglect of dogma.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that dogma and the spiritual life have a symbiotic relationship. “Dogmas are lights along the path of faith; they illuminate it and make it secure. Conversely, if our life is upright, our intellect and heart will be open to welcome the light shed by the dogmas of faith.” Without the teaching of the Church, works of charity – the fruits of the spiritual life – lose the security of truth; in the words of Benedict, they degenerate into “sentimentality,” and actually risk harming those in need of help. By the same token meditation on the living mysteries explained through dogmas can inspire us to greater heights of charity.

In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Benedict explained that “Christian charity is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,” and so on. What distinguishes Christian charity from ordinary social work is the additional communication of what Benedict calls “humanity” and “heartfelt concern,” a response to the spiritual needs of the poor. In order to provide this, charity workers require a “formation of the heart” that stems from “that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others.” Their love of neighbor then becomes “a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love.”

Pope John Paul II compared faith and reason to “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” The same can be said of doctrine and works of charity: they are two wings on which the soul comes to know and communicate the love of God. Dogma and rules do not distract the Church from social justice; they allow social justice to flourish by pointing it towards its proper and ultimate end.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

David G. Bonagura, Jr. “Doctrine Matters.” The Catholic Thing (September 10, 2010).

THE AUTHOR

David G. Bonagura, Jr. is an associate editor of The University Bookman.

Copyright © 2010 The Catholic Thing


Ever have one of those days where you need to be reminded of those sources of life that draw us toward Christ and help us be open to all that God has for us in the spiritual life?  The Evangelical Catholic, a website that focuses on ministering to college students, lists these 10 sources.  I believe the following sources are also worth keeping in mind for anyone doing ministry in the Church and very much in the ministry of catechesis.  My comments are in brackets.

Interior Conversion

Interior Conversion occurs each time we turn from self-will to God’s will. Initial conversion is when one surrenders to God for the first time. Catholic theologians often refer to this as making “the fundamental option.” [The General Directory for Catechesis refers to it as the initial conversion.  Conversion, however, should be ongoing and occur daily.]

Christian Discipleship

To follow Jesus in true discipleship is a costly endeavor, involving self-denial in the deepest level of one’s being.  [I like the way George Weigel said it: "Because it is in Mary's fiat --"Be it done unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) - that we discover the pattern or form of all Christian discipleship".]

Devotion to the Scriptures

“It is especially necessary that listening to the word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina, which draws from the Biblical text the living word which questions, directs, and shapes our lives” (Novo Millennio Ineunte).  [Scripture is at the heart of catechesis - when we echo Christ in His person and His message it should be rooted in Scripture.]

Obedience to Christ through the Church

The various evangelical movements of the Church’s history have a shared experience of testing and trial at the hands of Church authorities. An evangelical Catholic finds God’s presence and guidance in such trials. [The Church exists to proclaim the Gospel whole and entire by guarding the deposit of faith and being faithful to it.  Obedience to the Church is obedience to Christ.]

Communion of the Saints

We are part of the Body of Christ, which extends back to Christ and the apostles. Together, in heaven and on Earth, we are working for the healing and salvation of the world.  [The saints show us how holiness and perfect charity is possible.  They also show us how to live for Christ and do His will.]

A Sacramental Life

While all the Sacraments are there for us at key moments in our journey, the Eucharistic celebration is the source and summit of an evangelical Catholic life. [The sacraments give us God's very life.  They are "moments in our journey" but they are also far more significant than that alone.  Nothing is more significant than tapping into God's very life in order to live as one who is sufficient only in Christ and not in oneself.  The Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist are ways we can continually grow in grace and holiness as well as tapping into the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.]

A Prayerful Life

God speaks to us in his Word; we speak to him in prayer. To be Christ’s disciple means to follow his example of seeking his Father in prayer. This dialogue of word and prayer is at the heart of a relationship with God.  [The 4th section of the Catechism is prayer and this testifies to the significance of prayer being key to the Christian life.  One cannot grow without prayer.]

A Spirit-Filled Life

The Holy Spirit is the great gift of the Father, made possible to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The presence of the Holy Spirit within us is so remarkable that Jesus said it was better that he go so that the Spirit could come.  [Without the Holy Spirit we could not be faithful to the commandments and living life in God's grace.]

An Ascetic Life

Asceticism is the practice of self-denial — the training by which our spirit gains mastery over our body and our union with God increases.  [Jesus and the saints show us the importance of our walk in discipleship.  It needs to be cultivated through practices of self-denial (penance).]

A Disciplined Life

To facilitate living the type of spirituality we have outlined, it is helpful to follow a guide, or commitment, for daily living — a practice that has a long and honored place in Catholic spirituality.  [Consider the daily Mass readings as a guide for daily living or meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary of the day, going to daily Mass or a certain amount of personal prayer time to be a guide/commitment for daily living).]

I think each of these “sources” can be “wellsprings of grace” in the life of a disciple.  These sources lead us to that abundant life promised by Christ.

Would you add anything that you believe would be considered sources of abundant life?


 

 

 

 

Lisa Mladnich has a blog on patheos.com called Be An Amazing Catechist that I highly recommend.  It has great articles especially for catechist who are teaching the faith in a classroom setting.  I encourage you to check out this great resources that will encourage, inspire and empower you!  She just came out with a new resource on sacramental preparation that I will be reviewing soon (when I get a chance).


Here is another methodology to consider.  I use this method in 1st – 6th grade class lessons.  Catechists find the outlines I’ve created and connected with this method very helpful.

The goal of a method is to replicate or imitate the way God teaches us.

A. He reveals gradually and in stages
B. He reveals and seeks our response, He reveals more and we respond again, etc.

The Method: Gather, Proclaim, Break and Send
A. It is a way to replicate God’s way of teaching

B. It helps bring structure to an hour and fifteen minutes or an hour and a half class period.

C. It helps catechists clearly articulate the topic of the lesson and bring life application to it.

D. It helps the catechist recap and “send” students out to go ponder and live their faith.

III. The Specifics

A.Gather
1. The suggestions given are aimed at helping the student be open to what will be discussed.  It seeks to get students “docile” to what is about to be taught.
2. Prayer should always be an important part of the opening section. However, it is more than merely an opening prayer.

B. Proclaim
1. This is the heart of your message (the nuts and bolts) – sharing the truths of the faith. The info provided to you under the proclaim section are the “key points” regarding the topic at hand.
2. It is important that this section hands on authentic Catholic teaching.  This is the Church’s teaching we are passing on, not our “personal ideas” or “opinions”.
3. It is recommended that you look up the Catechism reference so you as a catechist can understand the topic better and more fully. You are not expected to read to the students out of the Catechism.
4. Note: Some of the textbook chapters simply try to cover too much material.  There is a conscience effort in the outlines to keep the topic at hand more focused than the book sometimes does.

C. Break
1. This section is the “Practical Application” or “Life Application” component.
2. Be creative.  Feel free to add your own ideas.
3. The goal is to “make it real” to your students the content just discussed in the proclaim section.

D. Send
1. This section is aimed at bringing closure to the day’s lesson.
2. It helps summarize/recap what has been discussed.
3. It should encourage and challenge students to go and live their faith.
4. Always close in prayer, even if it is brief. If you run out of time to cover the majority of the “send” part, please seek to end your class with a brief prayer.

I have taken all the lessons grades 1st – 6th and formatted each lesson according to this method.  Catechists really appreciate it.  It is empowering to them and gives them the focus and clarity they are looking for.  This method I believe is very similar to the Ecclesial Method and is equal to it.  It just covers it in one less step or stage.  As I mentioned in a previous post, LIFE TEEN, a international Youth Ministry organization, uses this method in their model of interacting with Junior High and High School Youth in a gathering model (as compared to a classroom model).  The Gather, Proclaim, Break, Send is the 4 parts of the Mass.   I believe very strongly in this method and believe it helps accomplish God’s way of teaching us.

What method have you used that helps replicate God’s Pedagogy?  In the near future I will post some thoughts on why all methods are not equal in successfully passing on the faith.


LIFE TEEN has done a great job helping teens understand some of the Mass changes.  Check out the following videos. I think you’ll find these a very valuable resource.

Word for Word [Teens] from Life Teen on Vimeo.

Here is a video LIFE TEEN put out for youth ministers:

New Roman Missal for Youth Ministers – Word for Word by Life Teen from Life Teen on Vimeo.


St. Robert Bellarmine developed 15 marks of the Catholic Church.  He was not only a great catechist and one of the patron saints of catechists but he is also a Doctor of the Church.  He lived from 1542 to 1621.  His Feast Day is September 17th.  These 15 marks are worth considering for all catechists who pass on the treasures of our Catholic Faith.  Maybe for older grades they could be taught as the 15 Marks but I was thinking that if catechists just keeping these concepts in mind it would help students see the wonder and depth of our Catholic Faith.

1. The Church’s Name, Catholic, universal, and world wide, and not confined to any particular nation or people.

2. Antiquity, in tracing her ancestry directly to Jesus Christ.

3. Constant Duration, in lasting substantially unchanged for so many centuries.

4. Extensiveness, in the number of her loyal members.

5. Episcopla Succession, of her Bishops from the first Apostles at the Last Supper to the present hierarchy.

6. Doctrinal Agreement, of her doctrine with the teaching of the ancient Church.

7. Union, of her members among themselves, and with their visible head, the Roman Pontiff.

8. Holiness, of doctrine in reflecting the sanctity of GOD.

9. Efficacy, of doctrine in its power to sanctify believers, and inspire them to great moral achievement.

10. Holiness of Life, of the Church’s representative writers and defenders.

11. The glory of Miracles, worked in the Church and under the Church’s auspices.

12. The gift of Prophesy found among the Church’s saints and spokesmen.

13. The Opposition that the Church arouses among those who attack her on the very grounds that Christ was opposed by His enemies.

14. The Unhappy End, of those who fight against her.

15. The Temporal Peace and Earthly Happiness of those who live by the Church’s teaching and defend her interests.


One method that has proven to be successful in authentically passing on the Faith is the Ecclesial method put forth my Msgr. Francis Kelly in his book, The Mystery We Proclaim: Catechesis for the Third Millennium.  Instead of recreating the explanation of the method, I thought the explanation of each step from www.catecheticsonline.com was good.  Here is a detailed explanation of the method which seeks to replicate God’s pedagogy.  In teaching the Faith, it is appropriate to imitate God’s way of drawing us to Himself. When God reveals something to us in the Scriptures, through a presentation or lesson or in prayer, He showers us with actual grace so that we can understand. He then waits for us to make a response of faith. When we respond, He reveals more. God repeats the process with each person, over and over again, so that we come to know Him always more intimately.  The Ecclesial Method is a effective means of accomplishing this desired goal of drawing students into a deeper knowledge and relationship with Christ.

Step 1: Preparation

“This step suggests that the catechist must help create the conditions for the possibility of deepening God’s Word in the hearts of those being served. This is no easy task in the setting of modern, hectic life in the Western world, where the individual is daily subjected to a barrage of stimuli from the media of communication, advertising, competing ideologies, etc.” (Kelly, 138)

How can you accomplish a setting in the room that you will teach that will let your students know there is something different, something entirely unique about what they are about to experience? That what they will learn in your classroom will affect their lives in a deeper way than they experience in the rest of their life. The first part of preparation is the setting of the room. The room should be a place set apart. This can be difficult to accomplish in some instances. Feel free to use our forums to ask other catechists for ideas. But consider, for instance, a sacred space. A place in your classroom, such as a small table, with liturgical colors, a crucifix, a Bible open to a passage you will teach from that day. Use your sacred space to teach your students. If you are teaching about the Prodigal Son, use the famous painting of the Prodigal Son to teach them about the Father’s love for them, even when they stray in sin. We include more ideas about the physical settings under other portions of the catechetics material available on this website. Whenever you can, teach from the liturgy, and lead them to the liturgy, where true worship takes place.

The preparation also means how you begin the day. If you are in a youth group, consider beginning the evening with praise music and prayer. Lift their hearts up to the Lord, allow them to leave the cares of the world, and the million other things they have to accomplish. Get them away from their thoughts and cares and focused on what you will have to tell them.

Step 2: Proclamation

“It is this aspect that from the start gave us the word catechesis – coming from the Greek word meaning to reecho, to resound the Word of God.” (Kelly, 141).

Catechists know that students will not remember everything that they will set out to teach them. In fact if we can get them to remember, even one fact, one important lesson from the day, a teacher has been successful. The second step of the ecclesial method is to proclaim the Word of God to your students. The proclamation should be rooted in the truths of the faith. It should be simple, and encompass the whole of your teaching. Let’s say you are teaching an RCIA group about the Eucharist. What is most important? What do you want them to leave knowing, if nothing else? “The Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus, the Father’s ultimate gift of love. We must eat his flesh and drink his blood if we are to live forever.” Lead up to and draw back to your proclamation. Never leave it entirely. Repeat it, write it on the board, see if your students can say it back to you. Advertisers try to get the name of their product into a commercial no less than 7 times. See if you can accomplish the same for your students.

Step 3: Explanation

“In the third step, in a certain sense, the catechists’ personal creativity is now more challenged and evoked so that they may help participants come to a deeper personal understanding and assimilation of the message of faith. This explanation that will be made will, of course, be always in the light of the Church’s understanding of the Word, but the catechist is challenged to find appropriate ways to “inculturate” this message so that it can be adapted to diverse groups to whom it is addressed.” (Kelly, 143)

This is the step of the ecclesial method for direct systematic delivery, and yet, as we focused on before, organic delivery. The explanation should always come back to God. What does my doctrine have to do with Jesus is a good question to ask. Prepare for this step, which can be the longest step, but doesn’t have to be, by looking up all relevant scriptural and catechism texts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the “sure norm” for teaching the faith, use it. Know it as well as you know scripture (assuming of course that you know scripture well, and if you don’t, well, what is stopping you?). Consider the key terms that your students may not know yet and be sure to explain them. Don’t ever let your delivery of doctrine simply be a lecture. Teach to various intelligences. Employ the use of visual aids (movies, art), audio aids (music), and other material (get them to move around) as often as you can when teaching. The more outrageous it is, the more memorable it is, but don’t take that too far of course. Consider St. John Bosco to be your guide in this (resource: The Educational Philosophy of St. John Bosco). Put together a presentation that will capture the attention of your students, and teach them about the doctrine, while giving them an opportunity for a change of heart in their own lives.

Step 4: Application

“In biblical and ecclesial terms, what is hoped for as a result of catechesis is a life of “witness” and service.” In the fourth step of catechesis , as I envision it, the focus is on having the truth and knowledge acquired in the prior steps now bear fruit. This involves a deeper level of conversion in the person being catechized and a commitment to expressing this conversion in his or her lifestyle.” (Kelly 145)

Why are your students in your classroom? The answer should have something with their conversion. This step in the process of the ecclesial method should give them that opportunity, and can come in a variety of ways. In RCIA it could be small group time where they can share questions and answer some presented to them about their journey to the Catholic faith. In a high school setting, it could mean personal reflection and journaling time set to quite music. Use creativity to find an appropriate application. Some people have used ‘mock’ confessions to help prepare students for first confession. Some people have used the stations of the cross with pictures of the Passion of the Christ to teach about His mercy. The ideas are endless.

Step 5: Celebration

“If the catechetical process begins, as I have suggested, in prayerful attentiveness and openness to the Word of God, I believe that it must also end in a prayerful gratitude and praise to God.” (Kelly, 146)

If you begin with a liturgy of the Word, end with a song of praise. If you begin with a song, end with a prayer. Read scripture together. What you can employ here, now that you have given your students the opportunity for conversion in your application step, will allow them to turn again back to God. It will help make this a concrete time set apart for God. Visit our forums and discuss other ways to end in a place of gratitude depending on who you are teaching.

“The cross should be one of the major symbols we use in our catechetical celebrations: ‘May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Gal 6:14).” (Kelly 147)

May what we bring to our students be Jesus. May they dwell in Jesus. May they learn to love Jesus even more. May they call on the name of Jesus. May they find a Savior, King, Lord, Brother, and God in Him. May they learn to decrease as He increases in their lives. May Jesus Christ live in our students, in you, and in me. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This is a method that can be used in Religious Education Programs that meet for an hour or an hour and a half as well as RICA programs.  It provides a great way to truly hand on the faith and make it meaningful for individuals as well as fostering conversion.  I highly recommend it!

What Method have you found fruitful?


Do you like to develop skills and habits that foster good experiences for students in your classroom?  I stumbled on a website that quoted from Joe Paprocki, Author of The Catechist’s Toolbox, who came up with 7 habits for highly effective catechists.  These 7 great habits should be developed and maintained by every catechist.

1. Ongoing Formation – they never stop learning about and growing in their faith.

2. Planning and Preparation – they prepare their lessons thoroughly and prayerfully.

3. Creating a Learning Environment – they create a learning space that is conducive to faith formation.

4. Using Engaging Activities – they know how to make their learners active, not passive.

5. Maintaining Discipline – they know how to keep order.

6. Leading Prayer – they not only include prayer in their lessons but create a climate of prayer that pervades their lessons.

7. Positive Presence – they utilize skills that command attention and encourage participation.

Visit Joe’s catechists blog: www.catechistsjourney.com

Maria Rivera also wrote an article on effective habits of catechists:

Any Habits you’d like to share?


Recently I had a great conversation with Fr. Erbin Fernandez, a priest in the Diocese of Singapore who has had a great impact on the catechetical renewal going on in his diocese.  It sounds very exciting!  I really like the way Fr. Erbin has outlined a method of passing on the faith.  I had the opportunity to share it at my catechist in-service last night.  It goes like so (also see chart below):

We want to approach passing on the faith with a lens that goes deeper than what we find in a typical school classroom environment.   Our goal is initiating others into Christ.  We have to make our meeting spaces more than a “classroom” and draw those we catechize into prayer.  Having a prayer space is very important.  It helps cultivate a distinct environment in a classroom or meeting room.  The prayer space or sacred space should not merely be off to the side but should be more central and at the center of where you as a catechist are presenting and gathering your students.  Next we see in a typical classroom teaching situation students have a “teacher”.  When initiating into Christ, the catechist is more than a teacher but a “steward” of the mysteries of faith.  In addition, in a typical school setting you have “students”.  In Catechesis we want to initiate “seekers”.  Cultivating an environment where those you are passing the faith onto are seeking more and wanting to grow in faith is essential to truly drawing them into a relationship with Christ and His Church.  Next, we see that imparting “knowledge” to others is important but not sufficient in a faith environment – “faith” must be fostered and renewed.  The books that are used in classes to help students in a regular school know that subject are a good tool but the most important of books is the Bible.  The Bible is God’s living Word which speaks of his loving plan which He has revealed to us.  It also goes without saying that we are also passing on the Apostolic Tradition that was not written down but handed on through the preaching of the apostles and their successors.  Next, the “instruction” given in a typical school is necessary, but we as catechists are doing more than instructing, we are initiating seekers into Christ.  What is vital for initiating others into Christ is an initiation into the mystery of Christ and all that that entails.  We desire nothing greater than to initiate and draw others into a way of life and a way of being.  Finally, in a school setting the way students learn is through various “subjects”.  In a catechetical setting we cover different topics from week to week which should be in the context of the “liturgical year”.  The story of our salvation and how God has love, moved, worked and acted is remembered and celebrated though the liturgical year.   Here is what Fr. Erbin from the Diocese of Singapore sent me regarding how we should approach our catechesis.

The more we “initiate” those we catechize the more they are not only drawn into a greater love of their faith but also able to encounter faith, encounter joy, encounter friendship, grace, love and mercy from the one who is our all in all: Jesus Christ.  What a gift we have to share and what a joy it is to witness and celebrate it!

What do you think?  I would love to hear your thoughts!


On Monday I wrote a post regarding Pope Benedict’s address to the Bishops of India regarding sound catechesis.  He also spoke to these bishops about transformation and how it is at the heart of our proclamation of the Faith.  He said:

“Christian revelation, when accepted in freedom and by the working of God’s grace, transforms men and women from within and establishes a wonderful, redemptive relationship with God our heavenly Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit.  This is the heart of the message we teach, this is the great gift we offer in charity to our neighbour: a share in the very life of God. “
 

3 practical ways to communicate it

Here are 3 ways to communicate the life-transformation of Christian living and teaching.

1. Lead Catechists spiritually.  Encourage their spiritual growth.  Many times we merely want to empower our catechists intellectually or focus on strengthening their skills, but struggle to make the time to help them grow spiritually.  Find ways through the times you gather with them or the emails and letters you may send to them helping them grow and develop spiritually so they in turn will be better able to help those they are serving.

2.  Show catechists how they are not only to pass on the wonderful and rich content of the lesson plan but also how they can help their students/audience see the spiritual truths within the lesson – especially those spiritual truths that assist them to encounter Jesus.

3. Pray for your catechists, have catechists pray for their students/those they are catechizing.  Prayer is powerful!

After all our aim is to help others have “a share in the very life of God”.


Who Is Your Hero?

Glimpses of heroism are exciting aren’t they?  They help motivate us to keep going and to remember that we can do it!  Lisa Mladnich recently wrote an article entitled: Humble Heroes: Teaching Children the Value of Suffering which discuss how children can be inspired by the many heroes of faith we can tap into as Catholics.  We all desire the example of heroes of the Faith to inspire and encourage us.  There are many heroes in our Catholic tradition but the saints are the ones who inspire me most.  The things they endured for the love of God never cease to amaze me.

10 Ways

Here are some ways Lisa suggests parents and catechists can do to inspire children toward a heroic faith:

  1. Pray for them and their families. Make sacrifices for them at least one day a week: fast from junk food, gossip, or procrastination; offer up your chores or exercise.
  2. Remind them of the value of suffering. Read the story of Christ’s passion and explain that in His holy sacrifice Jesus endowed suffering with redemptive power. Help them offer up their sufferings for others and thereby engage them in helping to save souls.
  3. Point out the quiet heroism of those who care for the sick, the elderly, and the disabled. Ask them for examples in their own lives.
  4. Introduce them to the lives of biblical heroes and Catholic saints throughout the liturgical year. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “By keeping the memorials of the saints . . . the Church on earth shows that she is connected with the liturgy of heaven” (1195). See here.
  5. Ask for the intercession of these heavenly allies and tell your students their stories of faith. Presented vividly, their lives are captivating and thrilling to children. They’ll love you for sharing them. See here and here.
  6. Share your own faith walk with them. In brief, appropriate doses, there’s nothing like the power of a personal witness. Listen to their responses and respect their experiences. The Holy Spirit works in marvelous and mysterious ways.
  7. Remember that you are the face of the Church to some of your students, since many are not taken to Mass on a regular basis. Teach them with great kindness and enthusiasm. While maintaining a calm and loving discipline, be affectionate in your attitude toward them, even if they seem disinterested. As a wonderful catechist said to me recently, “They often remember you and how you made them feel more than they remember the lesson.”
  8. Remind them that our heroes are broken, like we are. This is a great topic to bring up with children of all ages, especially in preparation for First Reconciliation. With the notable exceptions of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus Christ, all of our heroes were/are sinners like us. And God still treasures us and uses us to accomplish great things! Consider offering the graces of your confessions for young people, as they are led to humbly seek God’s will and discover the hero in themselves.
  9. Check out this beautiful article by Sarah Reinhard, about Our Lady’s willingness to suffer in faithfulness to her Son.
  10. Order Barbara Falk’s excellent CD: “Fostering Heroism in Your Children”

 

What ways have you found helpful in inspiring children to a heroic faith?


I was reading a great blog post from rciablog.com speaking about how telling the story of salvation has been a common part of passing on the faith. Children from a young age ought to be taught the story (at their age level). Here are some things to keep in mind when telling the story that I found from the website mentioned above:

* The eternal life of the Blessed Trinity – an eternal exchange of love
* The creation of the angels – some chose to rebel
* The creation of humanity out of love to share in God’s own Trinitarian life
* Our temptation by Satin and our fall from grace through Original Sin
* God’s promise of a redeemer and plan of salvation
* God’s gradual gathering of a people (Israel) through successive covenants
* A brief history of Israel
* The promises and prophecies of the prophets
* Mary’s “yes” to angel Gabriel
* The Incarnation – which should be given great emphasis!
* The life of Jesus Christ
* Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead
* The giving of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Catholic Church at Pentecost
* The Church as the Family and Kingdom of God – the Body of Christ
* A brief history of the Church – saints are in constant supply
* Today, we are living in the midst of this Story
* The sure promise and hope that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead

Granted this is too much for say a 2nd or 3rd grader, but I believe each grade can be taught aspects of this story. Children love stories as do adults. All the more reason to make sure we are tell this story…it is our story and through Baptism we become a part of the story of salvation history.

Now that is Good News!!!


Misunderstandings

Why does the Sacrament of Confirmation seem to be so misunderstood?  My pastor was speaking to a group of people about how the understanding of the Sacrament of Confirmation has been misunderstood.  Over the last  40 years it has been emphasized as a Sacrament of commitment, a sacrament of adulthood and a sacrament to personally make the decision to live one’s Catholic Faith.  Even though this is not all wrong, these do not communicate or give the central meaning of the Sacrament.  First and foremost the Sacrament of Confirmation is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as gift, just as it was at Pentecost.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost”(Para. # 1302).

Gift of the Holy Spirit

A Sacrament is a free gift of God’s very life.  The Sacrament of Confirmation is primarily a gift of God’s grace and life to the those who receive it.  The Catechism speaks of this gift in the follow paragraphs:

1288 “From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.”99

1289 Very early, the better to signify the gift of the Holy Spirit, an anointing with perfumed oil (chrism) was added to the laying on of hands. This anointing highlights the name “Christian,” which means “anointed” and derives from that of Christ himself whom God “anointed with the Holy Spirit.”100 This rite of anointing has continued ever since, in both East and West. For this reason the Eastern Churches call this sacrament Chrismation, anointing with chrism, or myron which means “chrism.” In the West, the term Confirmation suggests that this sacrament both confirms and strengthens baptismal grace.

How To Rediscover It

How do we help those preparing for this sacrament, especially those receiving it in middle school or high school?  I would like to suggest the following ways to focus on the gift of Confirmation through a catechetical renewal of sorts.

1. Put greater emphasis on God’s action of the gift of the Spirit being poured out into their lives.  It’s more about what God is giving than what we are going to do to respond (as important as that is).

2. When speaking about being witnesses for Christ and living out The Faith do this within the context of communicating the fruit of God’s life and love poured out to us.  Scripture speaks about how the apostles were compelled to respond to the great love and grace God had poured out (see Acts 2 and following).  Encouraging young people to “live out” their faith is a natural response to God’s generosity.   Repeating and emphasizing this is vital to an authentic renewal and rediscovery of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

3. During Confirmation preparation period speak of Confirmation not being a completion of their time in religious education but a beginning to the next step in their lives.  Confirmation is so much more about new beginnings than it is a graduation or completion of something.

4. Find ways to involve students long after the Confirmation Mass is over.

How have you succeeded at your parish in helping students continue to grow and be involved after Confirmation?


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What are the Sources?

I read an article by Dr. Petroc Willey,editor of the Sower Magazine and deputy director of the Maryvale Institute. In the article entitled: Renewing Catechist Formation at the Sources, he speaks of the sources used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as vital to forming catechists. The Sacred Scriptures should be the foundation of all catechesis. The Councils of the Church and the teachings of the Popes are also very important when forming catechists and offering catechist and adult formation in the parish. Other important sources to use when training catechists is the writings of the saints, especially the doctors of the Church. The last source that needs to be mentioned, and certainly not the least in the sources is the Divine Liturgy which is the source and the summit of the life of a Catholic Christian.

From the Heart of the Church

I believe this is very important to use the sources that the Church uses. Secondary sources like helpful handbooks or creative teaching ideas are good, but good only in reference to the primary sources that are ecclesial.  I find that there is a temptation to be so kid friendly in religious education programs that we only present secondary sources.  Granted it is not always easy to quote the Saints and quote sections of the Catechism, but that does not mean catechist should not be using those primary sources as they preparing to pass on the faith to their studnets.  

Dr. Willey said the following in this article I read from the Sower:  

Those leading catechetical formation are not themselves the sources. They know that they are instruments, guiding others to the living sources of the faith. Above all, they know that they are disciples – literally, learners – whose value lies in exemplifying the joy of learning and drinking from the wellspring of the sources. Their role is to grow less in order that those being formed can ‘grow in all things towards him, who is the Head, Christ’ (Eph 4:15). Catechetical growth which is renewed at the sources is always ecclesial, rather than narrowly personality-led; it is a matter of initiating others into the great Tradition of the Church where they can receive the deposit of grace and the deposit of faith.”

A Couple Questions

Do you find that the textbook your program uses actually quotes from the sources? 

How do you use the “living sources of the faith” in your catechesis?

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