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?


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 and


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


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).

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?

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).

Do you ever teach and/or draw your students in by using the texts from the liturgy?  Liturgical texts are an invaluable way to help your students encounter Christ.

For example, Sunday March 11th’s opening prayer was:

Collect: O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


Ways you could teach from this:

The 3 traditional practices of Lent are a way to “remedy” sin in our lives.  We don’t do it just to be good Catholics or because we’ve always done something for Lent, but we practices fasting, prayer and almsgiving in order to rid our lives of sinful tendencies and behaviors so that we can become more united to Christ, more open to His ways, more available to doing God’s will.


Also, teaching students that when we examine our conscience and identify the sin or sins that need to be gotten rid of as well as forgiven we should remember that God’s mercy lifts us up (we don’t have to stay down or stuck in our sin, but God’s mercy lifts/raises us to a life that is renewed in Christ.  We indeed can begin again.


Another Example

The Liturgy of the Hours provides many great bite size teaching points that are invaluable.  Take for example the Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah for morning prayer on Palm Sunday: “With palms let us welcome the Lord as he comes, with songs and hymns let us run to meet him, as we offer him our joyful worship and sing: Blessed be the Lord!”

~ Before praying the canticle with your students or audience one could reflect upon this antiphon.  Sharing with them that our palms are a way to concretely welcome the Lord as He comes — and doing it with songs and hymns.  Music is central the the life of the Church and to drawing our minds and our hearts toward God.  Also, proclaiming that we are being summoned to “run to meet him (Christ) as we we offer him our joyful worship”. This worship isn’t just Mass but the worship of our lives of prayer and offering our very selves to Christ from day to day as an act of worship.

~ Additional ideas that come to mind: 1) using music in ones opening prayer.  2) For elementary age students skits could be a possibility or a reenactment of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  3) Reflection:  Asking the students to reflect if we are walking or running to meet Christ (makes me think of the Father who ran out to meet his prodigal son).  Our worship should be joyful even if that joy is experienced more from our attitude than what we see around us at Mass (Palm Sunday Mass tends to be more somber when remembering the event than joyful (especially since we know this is the beginning of his Passion).


Consider teaching by using text from either the Liturgy of the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours.  There is great depth to draw from and to expound upon.

How have you used texts from the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours to pass on the faith?

textbooks-imageIn my experience of over 14 years in parish ministry, I find that catechetical textbooks are relied on too much by catechists and as a result limiting their effectiveness in the classroom.  Textbooks can be a valuable resource but they are a tool not the heart of the lesson.  It is the catechist who should use it as a tool.  Since most religious education classes meet for an hour and a half or less it is difficult to cover what the catechist manual recommends. In addition, I find that the concepts in chapters are often too scattered trying to cover too much.

What has your religious education program done in order to help better equip catechists to not only teach the lessons laid out in each chapter, but to help them have clarity and focus in each lesson?

Something I’ve done in in the last two parishes I’ve worked at is to help give catechists a clear focus to their lessons. I use a version of the ecclesial method (you can find it in Msgr. Francis Kelly’s book, The Mystery We Proclaim to help replicate God’s pedagogy – trying to give the students an understanding of what God has revealed and how to respond to it).  I outlined the chapters bringing a more focused understanding of what should be covered (noting the most important points). I also provide ideas and additional activities that support the content that is being covered.

I would love to hear from anyone that is seeking ways to help catechists better use their textbook.

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 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.

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

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?

This video is very inspirational!  Consider showing it to your class regarding the following topics:

Hope, Courage, living a joy-filled life, perseverance, redemptive suffering, loving like Jesus.  These are just a few themes you could use this video to further your teaching objectives. Our 7th graders just watched this regarding the sanctity of life. This guy really gets peoples attention. Enjoy!

So Far So Good

Almost 2 months have passed since our Year I Confirmation students have been encountering a new curriculum on the major events of Salvation History.  This curriculum that we have created seeks to not only convey the major events of Salvation History, especially through the 6 major covenants, but also aims to engage 7th graders in a fresh way.  Students rotate classes approximately every 30 minutes.

Today’s Topic

During the first 30 to 40  minutes students review the lesson from the week before and then the current lesson not only shares about that particular covenant we are talking about but it also answers the homework questions that were given to them the week before. The hope is that they will have read and reflected on the Scripture that speaks about the covenant we will be focusing on that particular class period.

Practical Application

Next students build on what they are learning by going to 30 minutes of what we call “practical application”.  For example, last night each class (we have 6 Year I classes) discussed God’s covenant with Abraham, His Call, and his journey.  After about 35 minutes discussing this covenant students switched classes and went to “practical application” where they discussed how we are “maxed out” in our lives and so busy with noise and activity that we don’t hear God.  The question they explored is does God still speak to His people like He spoke to Abraham?  Students were broken up into groups and given a skit they had to perform.  Skit #1 was entitled: “Constant noise – never even noticing God”, skit #2 was entitled: “No time – too many important things to do – doesn’t stop for, recognize, or make time for God”.  Skit #3 was entitled: “We do all the talking – Too busy talking to every listen”. These skits were followed up by some questions.


During the last 30 minutes students switched to spotlight and encountered a great video about Abraham and Isaac.  The video was 17 minutes and very powerful.  There were also discussion questions that followed the video.

At the end of each class we encourage catechist to do a brief review and go over what their assignment is for next week’s class.  Finally, we ask the catechists to close in prayer.

What We Are Hearing

We are getting great feedback about this format and how students are engaged and really talking and interacting.  Catechists are really enjoying this format and there is a great vibe from them about how things are going.  Praise God for these blessings!

P.S. We have 6 classes and each class has a “team class” which means when it’s time to switch the students for example in Class 1 go to their team class, 2 and class 2 goes to into class 1.  So when one group is covering practical application the other is covering spotlight and then after 30 minutes they switch and experience the section they have not covered yet.  I hope that makes sense.  I thought it might sound a little confusing if I articulated it up above.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.  This feast day was originally called the Feast of Our Lady of Victory.  I love the title of Our Lady of Victory.  St. Therese constantly mentioned this title of Our Lady in Story of a Soul.  Pope Clement XI changed the feast day to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, because it was in fact the power of praying the Rosary that the Christians won the battle over the mighty Turkish Army.

Our Lady has continually shared with the faithful to pray the Rosary for penance and conversion.  In addition Pope’s and holy men and women have not only encouraged devotion to Mary through the Rosary but also testified to its power.

Empowering Students

As Catechists we cannot underestimate the value to praying the Rosary and passing this devotion onto the next generation.  Here are some ways to help students foster devotion to the Holy Rosary:

1) Open your class by praying a decade of the Rosary.  Or pray it at the end of class by offering up the petitions of the students as well as offering up that particular days lesson asking Mary to draw us closer to Jesus helping each of the students live out their faith.

2) Instead of taking time to do a craft or watching a video that takes up 20 minutes of class time, pray the Rosary.  Helping students learn how to meditate on the beautiful mysteries of the Rosary is an invaluable lesson.

3) Give examples of how students can pray the Rosary throughout their lives (e.g., on their way to and from school, before they begin doing their homework, at the end of the day, while traveling on a trip, etc.).  The Rosary is a source of strength and consolation in times of worry and struggle as well as times of thanksgiving and praise to God for His many blessings.

Contemplating the Face of Christ

I want to close with something Blessed John Paul II said during the recitation of the Angelus in 2002:

The Rosary is a way of contemplating the face of Christ seeing him – we may say – with the eyes of Mary. For this reason, it is a prayer that drawing upon the core of the Gospel is in full accord with the inspiration of the Second Vatican Council and very much in keeping with the direction I gave in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte: the Church has to launch out “into the deep” in the new millennium beginning with the contemplation of the face of Christ.

Therefore, I wish to suggest the recitation of the Rosary to individuals, families and Christian communities. To give force to this invitation, I am preparing a document which will help to rediscover the beauty and depth of this prayer.

I wish once again to entrust the great cause of peace to the praying of the Rosary. We are facing an international situation that is full of tensions, at times threatening to explode. In some parts of the world, where the confrontation is harsher – I think particularly of the suffering land of Christ – we can realize that, even though they are necessary, political efforts are worth little if one remains exacerbated in his mind and no one cares to demonstrate a new disposition of heart in the hope of reviving the struggle and effort of dialogue. 

Who but God alone can infuse such sentiments? It is more necessary than ever that from every part of the earth prayer for peace be made to Him. In this perspective, the Rosary turns out to be the form of prayer most needed. It builds peace because, while it appeals to the grace of God, it sows in the one praying it the seed of good from which we can expect the fruit of justice and solidarity for personal and community life.

I am thinking of nations and also of families. How much peace would flow into family relationships if the family would begin again to pray the Rosary.

How do you promote and foster devotion?

How else would you encourage students to pray the Rosary?  How do you foster devotion to the Holy Rosary?



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!

So many want to either leave God out of everyday life or put him in a box and take him out only when it is appropriate.  Check out this video.

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 stumbled across a really neat website by Cory Heimann who produced this great video clip about Easter. Check it out. It would be a great clip to show in a 5th – 8th grade class.

At the end of the year our classes from 1st grade – 8th grade take an end of the year assessment. The purpose of this is to see how they are understanding the faith as it is being passed onto them in the classroom and through home study.

Some are not keen on the idea of giving a test in a religious education program, because it may turn kids off to the faith or because it is a way of assessing knowledge through a written test and not all students are good at test taking. Finally, some think that it should not come down to an assessment at the end of the year.

It is not about a student passing or failing. The purpose of assessments are twofold: 1) It is a solid means of helping a religious education program asses how well or poorly they are passing on the faith. In addition, it helps inform parents what their children know or do not know. Religious education programs need to strive to pass on the faith whole and entire. How are we to know how well we are doing if we have no instrument to help measure (as imperfect as it is) our progress or lack of it? It is very difficult to judge the success of a program merely on how many students like coming to class verses how many do not. Finally, an assessment in each grade helps attain goals. A program that does not have goals and seek to fulfill them lacks the focus it needs to move forward toward growth.

May Christ, the divine teacher, lead and guide us always to transmit the Gospel to the students in our Religious Education Programs.

What have the fruits been in your own parish in regards to giving an end of the year assessment?

christus_pantocrator_smAfter listening to a presentation given by Fr. Alfred McBride about the General Directory of Catechesis I derived a few key points regarding important components that are needed in the work of catechesis today. See the following 6 points.

1. Catechesis needs a greater appreciation of the Catechumenal Process. The GDC speaks of 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.

At my parish, our pastor, gave a homily on the 4th Sunday of Advent mostly about St. Joseph, but with some interesting insights.  What caught my attention was a recent study he had come across about how our society is more and more tolerant towards others.  The positive aspect is that we, as a culture, are not as judgmental with others as maybe we once were.  However, the study also revealed that we are less empathetic and compassionate of a culture than we once were.  This is troubling news.  We are struggling more as a culture to “suffer with” others (the meaning of the word compassion).  In addition we are not as empathetic (Wikipedia defines empathy as “the capacity to share the sadness or happiness of another… Empathy develops the ability to have compassion towards other beings.”  How can we in the ministry of catechesis make sure we grow ourselves and also help others grow in compassion?

3 ways to teach compassion/empathy in the classroom:

1) Show how Jesus and the saints were models of compassion and empathy. He had great compassion for those He encountered.  He sought to be with others in their struggle all the while pointing them to the truth.  Here are a few Scripture verses:

  • Jesus was moved with compassion Mt. 9:36; Mk. 1:41; Lk. 7:13.
  • The hungry Mk. 8:1-10
  • A certain Samaritan had compassion on him (Lk. 10:33)

2) Take those “teachable moments” in the classroom to show your students compassion.  Maybe a student is having a hard day or another who has a sick grandmother in their family.  The opposite of compassion is indifference.  We need be Christ to our students in order to show them how to live compassion in their own lives.

3) The Power of Prayer: Ask Christ and the saints to inspire you to be compassionate toward others. Pray for the grace to be Christ-like in your actions.

The solution to this crises of a lack of compassion begins with you and me.   My pastor spoke of how Joseph was probably not a tolerant man (that is why he was going to divorce Mary after discovering she was pregnant with a child that he knew was not his).  But then we see Joseph’s compassion because he was going to do it quietly so as not to expose Mary to what he originally thought was her shame/sin (before he had the dream).   We also can imagine St. Joseph’s compassion during the trip he took with Mary to Bethlehem and all the times he was patient and understanding at the challenges of the trip.

May you be filled with the love and compassion of Christ Jesus during this 4th week of Advent!

A few months ago Jared Dees of The Religion Teacher, wrote about 10 Teaching Strategies for Class Discussions. They are all great ideas for engaging students in the topic at hand.  Jared writes from his experience when he was a full time teacher in a school (so some of this is harder for a religious education setting, but most of his suggestions are also great for a Religious Education classroom).

• Popsicle Sticks and Note Cards – Use popsicle sticks or note cards with the students’ names on them to call on students randomly. This will keep students listening to the questions if they know they might be called on to answer. You can also use these to make sure all of the student have participated in a certain day.

• Ball Toss – To add a little fun and excitement, use a soft ball (or rolled up sock) to designate the single person that is able to speak. When another person wants to participate, they can raise their hand and wait for the ball to be passed to them. The teachers should also request the ball to speak.

• Think-Pair-Share – Give the students some time to formulate their answers to questions by working on them individually (“think”), then discussing their responses with a partner (“pair”), and finally sharing with the class what they discussed (“share”).

• Chalktalk – Write a word or phrase on the board. Give a few students markers (chalk) to write words or responses that they associate with the word or phrase. Once they have finished, they can give the markers to another student. Warn the them that there is no talking during the activity, only writing. Have the students without markers copy what students write on the board and write their personal thoughts to ensure that it stays quiet.

• Devil’s Advocate/Provacation – As the teacher/catechist, try to defend a statement that is outrageous or controversial. Make the students really believe that you mean what you say and they will be much more likely to discuss and debate. Rehash the discussion aftwards.

• Talking Chips – Distribute poker chips or tickets that can be used to participate in class. This will make sure that certain students do not dominate the discussions.

• Fishbowl Discussion – Select a group of students to sit in the front of the room in chairs arranged in a half-circle facing the class (shaped like a bowl). Pose questions to the students in the front of the room and allow them to discuss. The rest of the students in the audience may raise their hands to pose a question or take the place of a student “in the fishbowl” but they may not speak or engage in the discussion while at their desks. Note that this often requires that the students have learned/researched a lot about a topic before they can have a meaningful discussion such as this.

• Class Grid – This comes in handy for larger classes. Divide your seating chart into four quadrants (you don’t necessarily need a chart) by drawing two lines diving the paper up. Make check marks or dashes each time you call on a student in that part of the room. This will ensure that you are calling on students in each part of the room and not just the front (or side).

• Class Discussion Checklist – Print out a list of students in a table with days of the week on top of the table (or use your gradebook). Place a checkmark on the day next to the name of each student that participates in class. Note: it can be difficult to recall who participated afterward so make sure you check people off while they speak. This is challenging when you wish to be engaged in the discussion yourself.

• Discussion Rubric – When I graded class discussions my rubrics typically looked something like this:

A – Paraphrases, acknowledges, or refutes information related to the topic, reading, lecture, etc.
B – Showed comprehension of topic, reading, lecture, etc. Make good comments/arguments that may not be related to the reading/lecture.
C – Participates by actively paying attention by listening, watching, and/or taking notes.
D – Does not participate and shows minimum attentiveness to discussion
F – Shows unwillingness to participate and disrupts the discussion

The classic classroom model for Religious Education Class begins as follows: A brief prayer (Hail Mary or an Our Father) then the catechist often dives into the content given in the textbook and then activities are carried out to help kids apply something that was covered relating it to their real life.

The above description may not be what every catechist does or what all the textbooks suggest, but there does seem to be something true to the above description.  In my years of experience in the classroom there seems to be something lacking in how the faith is systematically and organically taught to students. I find there is a temptation for catechists to read too much from the textbook and talk about what they have just read. Although this does have value, students in the Third Millennium do not learn best through this approach to teaching the Faith.

What is a method that works well for you? Is there anyone reading this that can take one method and use it for just about any situation or age group? I have discovered two methods that accomplish just that: 1) The Ecclesial Method laid out by Msgr. Francis Kelly in his book: “The Mystery We Proclaim”.  It is a five step method: Preparation, Proclamation, Explanation, Application and Celebration. 2) The second method is the one I use consistently which is modeled after the four phases or primary parts of the Mass: Gather, Proclaim, Break and Send. This is the model in the Youth Ministry Organization called LIFE TEEN.  I believe these two methods replicate God’s Pedagogy (they way He has taught us/revealed Himself to us).

The methods mentioned above can be used in a classroom of 2nd graders, a classroom of 10 graders or a presentation to adults. Provided there is approximately 60 minutes to cover a given topic these two methods accomplish just about every possible topic of the Catholic Faith.

In future posts I will further explain the details of these methods and how they model the divine methodology mentioned in the General Directory for Catechesis and the National Directory for Catechesis.  But in a nuteshell our goal in passing on the faith effectively needs to replicate the way God revealed Himself to us – revelation and response.  God revealed Himself gradually and in stages.  This is what we do from week to week – we reveal a chapter which covers an aspect of the faith and each week we give our students a chance to respond immediately but also encourage them to respond throughout the week and beyond.

What method do you use and find helpful to authentically pass on the Catholic Faith?

1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you… The Holy Spirit is our interior teacher and our constant guide as we pass on the faith to others.  It is the Holy Spirit who uses us, our words, our actions, our joy, our love for God to inspire those we teach.

2. Prepare and Review your lesson – Preparation is 70% is the success of your lesson.  If you take the time and prepare you are in a position to have a very successful class.  Don’t forget to review your lesson before you walk into your classroom.  That way, you’ll be ready to execute from the start with no wasted time (especially since the average religious education class is only between 1 hour and 1.5 hours.)

3. Have materials ready – Be ready before arriving at class with the materials you will need to carry out your lesson.  That way, you won’t need to go after something in the middle of class or you won’t need to take any time in front of your students doing last minute prep work.

4. Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of your students – We should not only pray that the Holy Spirit works through us but also that the Holy Spirit speaks to the hearts of our students.  It is the Holy Spirit who is drawing them closer to Himself.  We must beg God for His help so that they will be touched, so that they will encounter Christ more fully through each lesson we cover.

Joe Paprocki from the Catechist Journey shared the following 11 tips for lesson planning from his book The Catechist Toolbox.  I have added my thoughts in blue.  Enjoy!

Planning and preparation are key to the success of any catechist. Here are 11 tips to help you with your lesson planning:

  1. Long-Range Planning—The lesson you are planning is only part of a larger plan for the whole year. Make sure you get a picture of the whole calendar year and see how much time you have to carry out what you hope to accomplish. Get a good “feel” for how this lesson can build off of the previous one and lay the foundation for the next.  The publisher has a scope and sequence of how the lessons are laid out so be sure to take a look at it.
  2. Get to Know Your Text and Your Participants—Get to know your textbook’s philosophy, strategies, approaches, strengths, and weaknesses. Get a sense of the whole book and then zero in on a set of chapters or a unit to see how each lesson fits in with the whole. At the same time, get to know the participants in your group and how capable they are of handling the text as it is written. Make adjustments as needed.  It is worth talking with your DRE about how you can get the most out of your textbook.  It is important to keep in mind that the textbook is only a tool – you as the catechist are the most important in regards to transmitting the faith and helping your students come to know and love Christ more.
  3. Examine the Teacher Notes in the Catechist Manual—A catechist manual is often a catechist’s best friend. Most catechetical texts today have excellent catechist manuals that lay out the lesson much like a blueprint and offer step-by-step instructions. The more you familiarize yourself with the teacher notes, the better you will be able to implement your lesson and still leave room for spontaneity.  Be sure to look up the paragraphs to the Catechism that the catechist manual lists.  The Catechism is a great reference resource and gives the heart of what we believe as Catholics.
  4. Visually Imagine Yourself Teaching the Lesson—Use your imagination to visualize the lesson you are about to teach. Imagine every possible scenario and how you would react. Picture how much time each segment of your lesson is going to take. Keep a notepad nearby to jot down important thoughts or ideas that can now become part of your lesson. Write down a list of materials that you will need for certain situations. Imagine problems that might arise and visualize how you may best handle them. With this visualization complete, you will feel as though you’ve already taught this lesson once and are now building upon it.  These are great tips to keep in mind when planning your lesson.  Consider planning a number of days before teaching it so you have some time to think about the lesson before actually teaching it.
  5. Make Adjustments to Fit the Needs of Your Participants—No lesson plan is ironclad and unchangeable. Once you’ve picked up the main focus of the lesson, think of your participants and their unique needs and make any necessary adjustments. You may have participants that are not very talkative, but the lesson calls for discussion. Perhaps you will need to make an adjustment and allow for some nonverbal form of expression. Whatever the case, the better you know your participants, the better you’ll be able to make adjustments so that the lesson will be as effective as possible.  This does not happen all at once but as the year goes on you’ll continue to improve and become an even stronger catechist.
  6. Know Your Learning Outcomes (Objectives)—Know what your participants are supposed to be able to know and/or do as a result of this lesson. Don’t settle for the old “my objective is to cover chapter four” routine. Learning outcomes (sometimes referred to as “objectives”) are statements found in your lesson plan that state concretely and in measurable terms what it is that your participants should be able to know and do when the session is complete. Without these stated learning outcomes, you would never have any hope of knowing whether you’ve accomplished what you had set out to do.  If your textbook has not already done this you should write out: by the end of the lesson students will be able to…
  7. Follow a Catechetical Process—Think of your lesson as a movement: you want to move your learners from where they are to where Jesus wants them to be. St. Ignatius of Loyola described this as entering through their door but leaving through your door. This movement, called the catechetical process, involves four steps:
    • Engaging the life experience of the participant
    • Exploring the concepts to be taught (Scripture and Tradition
    • Reflecting and integrating the concepts with the lived experience
    • Responding with a new way of living
    • It is important to not focus on experience at the expense of what God has revealed.  I’ve seen at times that an emphasis on experience can be at the expense of what the Church teaches – just be sensitive to that.  At the heart of what we as catechists are doing is helping our students to come to know what God has revealed to us through the Scriptures and the Church (Apostolic Tradition) so they can love and encounter Christ more fully.
  8. Get Your Materials Ready—Be sure that you have all the materials you will need to complete the lesson properly. There’s nothing worse than reaching a point in the lesson when you tell participants to cut pictures out of magazines only to find out that you don’t have scissors (or magazines). Visualizing the lesson ahead of time will help you to see what materials you will need that perhaps were not listed in the instructor manual.  This is one of the reasons looking ahead is so important.  Maybe your parish has a resource you can check out in order to prepare for next weeks lesson.
  9. Have Plan B Ready—By visualizing the lesson ahead of time, you may discover that what you’re hoping to accomplish may not work. Always have an option ready in case something falls flat or just isn’t working the way you had hoped.  This can be challenging because you only have so much time to plan to begin with, but consider some simple plan B’s: If the skits you had planned don’t seem like they’ll work and you planned 20 minutes for them what will you do? Maybe have the students answer some questions in small groups and then report to the group at large or maybe they just need to take a little time to pray – pray a decade or two of the Rosary to go to the church for a brief period of time to pray.  Consider having a question box that when things are not going great you pull a few questions out and answer them.
  10. Overplan—When serving dinner, it is always better to have more food than not enough. Likewise, when it comes to your lessons, it is always better to prepare more than you think you’ll need. Until you learn how to effectively gauge your time, it is quite possible that what you think will comprise an entire session will only cover half of the allotted time. When this happens, panic tends to set in. On the other hand, if you have more material than you need, you can relax and decide how to adjust your next session to make room for what you didn’t accomplish in this session.  The textbook gives so many suggestions that it’s difficult to discuss all the possible details and ideas the textbook gives or your DRE shares with you.  Consider what you might do if you have time.  Also, see what the saint of the day is and share about that saint if you have time.
  11. Pray—Before you sit down to plan a lesson, take some time to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Do your planning and preparation in a prayerful environment. Light a candle. Put on some instrumental music. Place a Bible on the table next to you. Dim the lights. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide you and to give you the help you need to be focused, loving, and creative.  Here is a great prayer, but simple to the Holy Spirit: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy Faithful; and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.”

Our Sunday Visitor is coming out with a book in August called Be an Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children by Lisa Mladinich.  I had the honor of receiving it early from Lisa.  I am very much looking forward to reading it.  I love the title of her introducation: “A Quiet Revolution”… a catechist has the potential to lead “a quiet revolution” in their ministry.  When catechists passionately teach the faith and hand it on to their students in all its fullness they make a real difference in the lives of their students.  When catechists share their love for Christ and His Church wholeheartedly it cateches fire and bears much fruit.  Lisa calls the most important part of this revolution for catechists is “to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ in His Church.  Through prayer and [the] sacramental life, you will find strength and encouragement – you will receive the graces needed to be an amazing catechist”.

I strongly recommend this book for DRE’s and catechists.

The conclusion of our School of Religion program today marks the halfway point for our students.  This week was full of growth in their knowledge of the faith as well as opportunities to deepen their relationship with Jesus through prayer experiences, participation in Stations of the Cross and a church tour.  Students also grew in their knowledge of prayers (each grade has prayers they are asked to learn), crafts activities and time to prepare for their end of the year (last day) class presentations.  It was a blessed week!  Many parents feel like their children learn more during these two weeks than they would during the year (mostly because it is the only thing they are doing related to classroom learning).  I’m thankful for the catechists and all the volunteers that make these two weeks so successful.  I’m also grateful that most of the behind the scenes things went smoothly.  But I am ready for a little rest (as much as possible with a 3,2 and 1 year old at home) this weekend. 🙂

Our First Day of Summer Session went well – praise God!  We have a theme for our program this year – Light of the World based on Matthew 5:14-16.  Catechists have done a great job implementing the theme already into their classrooms.  One class has a picture of a candle cut out with the names of students on each candle.  Another class has the scripture verse written out on poster board and displayed for everyone to remember.  Catechists also have been encouraged to thread this theme – of Christ who is the light of the world and how He calls us to be light – throughout their lessons.  I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing the things the catechists will do over these next two weeks regarding our theme.

I just want to thank Jesus for shinning His light on our first day of summer session.  God you are good…all the time!

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