Classroom



student smilingLast night I had the privilege of teaching my son’s 2nd grade class.  It was our first night and we began with introductions/announcements in the church from the DRE.  Then we had about a half hour with the children and parents in class.  This is what I did:

I. Set the chairs up in a circle so we could do an ice-breaker/get to know you game. I used one of those beach balls that have various questions on it.  The kids, especially the boys, like it (but they were a little rambunctious).

II. Then we shared with them how excited we were to have them in class this year.

III.  I invited everyone over the the sacred space area where we stood around it and read a passage from the Gospel and then I related it to them preparing for their First Reconciliation.  We prayed together and had a few moments of silence so they could think of one thing that wanted to change this week (obeying Mom and Dad, being kind to brother/sister, not complaining, etc.).

IV. Then we shared with parents the joy it is for us to be able to partner with them in their child’s faith formation.

It’s going to be a great year and I’m excited to be back in the classroom.  Being a DRE myself and always on the administrative end I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to be a classroom catechist!

What did you do on your first day of class?


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?


thinking

My friend Marc Cardaronella over at Evangelizing Catechesis said something recently that I keep reflecting on:

We may not be doing anything for our student’s salvation by merely teaching them the facts of the Faith. If we’re not teaching them in a way that moves them to love God and respond to him in faith, they may not be saved at all.

What have you found fruitful to “move your students to love God and want to respond to Him”?  It would be great to hear what you have found beneficial!

 


A number is years ago I attended a presentation on the General Directory of Catechesis (GDC) by Fr. Alfred McBride.  Here are a few key points regarding important points that are needed in the work of catechesis today.

1. Catechesis needs a greater appreciation of the Catechumenal Process. The GDC encourages the catechumenal model as the ideal model for catechesis.

2. Catechesis must connect Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. These three categories go together when teaching the Catholic Faith.

3. Catechesis on Jesus Christ must emphasize both the humanity and divinity of Christ. One aspect cannot be taught at the expense of the other.

4. Catechesis needs to bring forth the realities of grace and sin. Over the last 40 years the reality of sin is too often brushed over and only grace is emphasized.

5. The link between catechesis and liturgy is vital to drawing others into communion with Christ and the Christian life.

6. Catechetical methods need to focus on God’s pedagogy. Too often experience is used at the cost of authentic content. Using experience to draw people into the faith is at the service of what is true. Not truth at the service of experience.


31 days to becoming a better religious educatorJared Dees has just written a book entitled: 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator.  I had the opportunity to review it and enjoyed it very much.  He has been generous and given a glimpse below from his book.  Enjoy!

How and Why We Pray for Our Students

 

Be honest, how often do you pray for your individual students as a religious educator? I don’t mean a general intention like, “Lord, bless my class.” I mean, how often do you offer the specific needs, dreams, and desires of individual students to God during prayer? I know I don’t do this enough, but it is a hugely important practice to incorporate into your daily or weekly prayer life.

 

As religious educators, we’re called not only to be leaders for our students, but more importantly, we’re called to be their servants. One way in which we can serve our students is to pray for them. It is all about the way we think about our role. If we look at ourselves like kings expecting our students to listen and obey our every bidding, then we will fail. Pope Benedict XVI described Jesus’ role as king in this way:

 

“As king he is servant, and as servant of God he is king” (Introduction to Christianity, 220).

 

We’re called to be servants. So even when the kids drive you crazy, remember we’re supposed to pray for everyone, even our enemies. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:45).

 

How to Pray for Our Students

 

So, how should we pray for our students with a servant’s heart? Try the following approaches:

 

1. Pray for students individually. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Pray for each student one person at a time. Go deeper into prayer for them. Think quality not quantity.

 

2. Use a seating chart or an attendance sheet. It is hard to naturally remember each student in prayer. Try using a seating chart or attendance sheet and check off the names as you pray.

 

3. Spread students out over a one-week or a one-month period. Pray for them all, but try praying for each person in groups of three or four students at a time and rotate through the list.

 

4. Ask them about their needs. When they offer something during in-class prayer intentions, take note of it. Repeat the prayer in your personal prayer time. Or ask them in a conversation what they have going on in their lives right now. It is a great way to get to know the students better and to know what God can do for them in their lives.

 

5. Get help from the saints. Turn to the saints and Mary to intercede on their behalf. Do you know any patron saints that connect with their needs? Ask for their prayers. By default, turn to Mary, Christ’s first teacher, to intercede on behalf of your students.

 

6. Close with an Our Father. We are united in this prayer as one family. He is the Father for you, me, and all of our students. That is why we pray for each other. We’re in a family together and we need each other’s help.

 

This article is adapted from “Day 13: Pray for Your Students” in 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator now available at Amazon.com and AveMariaPress.com

 

Jared Dees is the creator of The Religion Teacher, a website sharing practical resources and teaching strategies for religious educators, and the author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator


Pope Francis IHistoric Day

Today, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Pope Francis was inaugurated as the 265 Pope to continue the same mission that Christ gave St. Peter.  Pope Francis has made a huge impression on the world in just a week.  Although, I think all of his gestures and witness are not opposite of Pope Benedict who is a wonderful humble and holy man.  The media is making it look like this Pope is so different than Pope Benedict.  Yes, all are different/unique, but each Pope brings with him rays of the spirit of Christ and seeks to shine it to the world.

Why all the buzz about Pope Francis?  It has been wonderful to see the secular media so interested in what is going on with the Church over the last month.  Pope Francis I’s humility, frequent mention of the poor, his message of carrying one’s cross as a disciple of the Lord and much more all have contributed to the great attention and affection toward the Pope from all around the world.

What is His Secret?

His secret is Christ and it has clearly “gotten out”.  What a gift the Church is experiencing at this moment.  It’s the New Evangelization before our eyes.  Thanks be to God for all the blessings that we are encountering in this Year of Faith!!!

Catechetical Moments

Pope Francis is witnessing more by his actions than even by his inspiring words regarding Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church.  What can we take away from this and convey to others (inside and outside our classrooms)?  I want to share 3 things:

1. We should encourage a greater simplicity in our own lives.  Pope Francis I is not choosing the modern convenience that he has the privilege to experience but he is modeling simplicity.  We should reflect on this in our own lives as well as encourage our students to reflect on being more simple and less focused on material things or personal recognition.

2. I think the message Pope Francis gave to the Cardinals the day after his election speaks also to each of us who are disciples of the Lord Jesus.  He said:

“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly.”

He added, “We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord.”

This message is worth our consideration as well.  We who are members of Christ Body through Baptism and have been made new creatures in Christ must not walk the way of the world (although we live in the world) but we must be first disciples of the Lord which implies that we all have crosses to carry and sacrifices we can make to more fully be, as St. Paul said, “conformed to his death” (Phil.3:10).  It’s important to share this message that following Jesus involves enduring challenges and making sacrifices.

3. Pope Francis said: “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”  I’m not exactly sure what he was thinking when we said he “would like a poor Church”, but suspect among other thoughts it’s a Church that approaches the Lord in a spirit of poverty not with pride or arrogance of “rights” deserving this or that.  This goes for bishops, priests, Deacons, and the laity.  All are to come with a spirit of poverty.  Also, the constant mention of the poor in our world that we need to serve and to help.  This means giving greater focus in our classrooms to how we can fulfill our mission to take care of the poor, to assist them, to be a source of support for them.  Operation Rice Bowl, Serving at a homeless shelter, giving up some of our clothes (those that are not worn but in good condition) to help those less fortunate have a nice shirt, coat or pair of shoes for themselves.  These are examples of things we could promote in our classrooms.

Pope Francis has certainly made a great impression on us all and he is a living witness of Christ.  Let us continue to pray for Him and for the Church!

I want to share the following comments that Basalian Fr. Rosica made the day after Pope Francis’ election.

And I close my eyes, and we shouldn’t make comparisons right away, but I couldn’t help but feel the presence of John XXIII, the smile of John Paul I, that courage and firmness of John Paul II and the solid-rootedness in Jesus Christ of Benedict XVI.

So what I found last night, and I thought about a long time when I finally got home at three o’clock this morning, is that the story continues: we have a pope and we have a shepherd and he’s going to build it on a solid foundation.St. Peter


art

We are in an exciting time in the life of the Church.  The ministry of Catechesis over the last 40 years has born much fruit.  Something however that I find a little troubling is that sometimes the 4 dimensions of the Christian life are not seen as an integrated whole or an organic unity in regards to the faith, but more as “individual” components or dimensions.

What are the 4 Dimensions?

St. Luke speaks about them in the Acts of the Apostles 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the communal life, to the breaking of the break and prayers.”  These 4 dimensions have constantly been rooted in the teaching and practice of the Christian Life.  The General Directory for Catechesis paragraph 122 speaks of them this way: 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is structured around four fundamental dimensions of the Christian life: the profession of faith; the celebration of the liturgy; the morality of the Gospel; and prayer. These four dimensions spring from a single source, the Christian mystery. This is:

– the object of the faith (Part One);

– celebrated and communicated in liturgical actions (Part Two);

– present to enlighten and sustain the children of God in their actions (Part Three);

– the basis of our prayer, whose supreme expression is the Our Father, and the object of our supplication, praise and intercession (Part Four); (425)

Integrating the 4 Dimensions into your Catechetical Setting

The presentation of the faith is meant to be seen as a unified whole.  Catechesis to adults and children can accomplish this with some thought to being intentional in integrating these 4 dimensions in your catechetical settings.  Take for example the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Specifically, it is from the 2nd dimension (the Celebration of the Christian Mysteries), but all four dimensions should be integrated into this lesson.  Here is an brief example of how the 4 dimensions should be included in ones catechesis on the subject:

~ Open in prayer using appropriate Scripture’s regarding God’s forgiveness and mercy.  Also, praying the Our Father or taking a moment to reflect and praying the Confeitor could be a good way to begin.  (This incorporates the 4th dimension)

~ Proclaiming God’s call to repentance and His Gift of mercy.  Then explaining what Christ and His Church have continually taught about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  (The 1st & 2nd dimensions are covered)

~ Helping the hearers to respond to what has been proclaimed and explained through discussion, reflection, examination of conscience and/or an activity.  (The  3rd and possibly the 4th dimension)

~ Concluding by encouraging and challenging the hearers to live out what they have heard and encountered.  Also, offering up through prayer and thanksgiving that which they have experienced. (each of the 4 dimensions are referred to)

Our Faith is a Symphony

The example above shows how when we catechize we can help others see that our faith as unified and whole not merely a lot of parts that somehow fit together or related to God.  A Symphony has 4 parts but it is a unified whole.  The 4 fundamental dimensions of the Christian Life are to be seen as a “Symphony of Faith” (Fidei Depositum).  Blessed John Paul II goes on to say in the previous mentioned Apostolic Exhortation that the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides for the Church a great exposition of the faith “showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the Catholic faith.”

It is therefore essential to catechize with the goal of bringing about an awareness of the faith being an organic unity which expresses the faith as a whole rather than mere parts.  One of the authors of Catechetical Foundations stated this well when saying:

The Organic Unity of the Faith is a principle that ensures that whatever aspect of the Faith is being presented by a catechist, that it is taught in relationship to the entire Deposit of Faith. In other words each article of faith is always seen within the organic whole in which it exists. No truth of the faith is an island. Lastly, the entire organic unity of the faith is Christocentric. Regardless of what is being taught (the Old Covenant, the Fall, Redemption, The Mass and Sacraments, the Church, etc.) everything finds its source and meaning in the Person of Christ.

Keep these 4 Dimensions in mind always as you catechize.  Doing so will ensure that the faith is seen in all it’s beauty and wonder as coming to know, love and serve God who has revealed Himself to us and seeks to unit Himself more fully “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13); and “so that He may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

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