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!

 


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


Lent1

Lent is the perfect catechetical season.  A catechist as well as a parent can find a plethora of ideas about how to practice and live out Lent.  I would like to share ideas in 3 categories (be aware that some ideas will overlap): Family Ideas, Classroom Ideas and Personal Ideas.  I hope the following links will help assist you as a parent or a catechist in assisting your students to grow closer to Christ this Lent.

Family Ideas:

Prayer

~ Pray the Rosary and/or Divine Mercy Chaplet regularly as a family – on the way to/from school, or right after dinner.

~ Read the Bible/pray with your kids before bedtime during Lent.

~ Pray the Station of the Cross at 7pm each Friday at Ascension or at home: http://catholicicing.com/2011/03/printable-stations-of-cross-for/

Fasting

~ Have a day where the TV Stays off (Maybe Fridays during Lent)
~ Fast from Cell phone use, internet, video games from after dinner until bedtime.
~ Fast from going out to eat. Give the extra money to the poor.
~ Fast from gossip or negative thoughts.
~ Fast from eating between meals.
~ Fast from dessert a few times a week.
~ Fast from being lazy (that attitude that says: someone else will do it.
~Listen to Christian Music 97.3 FM or Catholic Radio 1090AM in your car during all of Lent.

Almsgiving

~Sign up for Holy Hero’s daily Lenten email: http://www.holyheroes.com/Holy-Heroes-Lenten-Adventure-s/37.htm

~ Lenten Calendar: http://catholicicing.com/2011/02/printable-lenten-calendar-for-kids/

~ Give money as a family to the poor: Operation Rice Bowl.

~ Spend more time with family.

~ Be positive (maybe charge .25 cents for every negative comment at home and then give the money to a charity).

~ Family Chart:  http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1018 

~ Lenten Sacrifice Beans: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=295

 

Classroom Ideas

~ Prayer Service: http://www.rtjscreativecatechist.com/articles/activities/seasonal/2012/02-28/lenten-prayer-service

~Puppet Show Scripts: http://catholicmom.com/kids/puppet-ministry/

~ Ideas from Our Sunday Visitor: https://www.osvparish.com/ResourceLibrary/FaithatHome/TeachingCatholicKids.aspx

~ Some Lenten Lesson Plans: http://www.catholicmom.com/2007_lesson_plans/Lent.pdf

~ Stations of the Cross Bingo: http://www.catholicmom.com/2007_lesson_plans/stations_bingo.pdf

~ Lent Lapbooks: http://catholicblogger1.blogspot.com/2010/02/lent-lapbooks.html

~ Printable Lenten Calendar: http://catholicicing.com/2011/02/printable-lenten-calendar-for-kids/

~ NOW Cross: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=1019

Personal Ideas:

~ 7 Great Book Recommendations: http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2013/02/06/deeper-in-prayer-during-lent

~ Take time to pray at lunchtime instead of going out with friends or surfing the internet.
~ Read a Psalm each day during Lent.
~ At 3:00pm each day pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet or take a moment to pause in prayer remember the hour that Christ died.
~ Pray the Seven Penitential Psalms – maybe one each day of the week throughout Lent (Psalm 6, 31, 50, 101, 129 and 142).

~ Go out of your way to do one kind deed each day.

~ Do things for people each week without them knowing.

~ Be positive and reflect joy during Lent.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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).


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.


The Gift of Prayer

Prayer is the life of the soul!  How are we drawing adults, parents, kids and youth into a life of prayer?  The Catechism is rich in what it says about prayer.

In paragraph 2560 it says:

“The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there Christ comes to meet every human being.  It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink.  Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us.  Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.  God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”

Prayer and Catechesis

In many ministry settings prayer is seen too often as something to get out of the way (an attitude of “I know I should pray so let’s say a quick prayer and get on with the lesson of the day) instead of something that draws people into the mystery of Christ and a greater intimacy with Him.  It is essential in our catechetical settings to create an attitude of prayer that opens hearts.  Helping create an environment that draws souls into that relationship with Jesus is key if we are to lead adults and children into being truly disciples of Christ.

Not only is it important to lead people into prayer, but it will only occur if we ourselves are people of prayer; people who take time to foster a spiritual life and time for mental prayer.  Yes, it is great to pray at all times and make your whole day a prayer, but this is not sufficient.  We must be people who take time away from the busyness of jobs, social media that we are exposed to 24-7 and all our family responsibilities and be silent before God.  Taking time to pray and making prayer it a priority is necessary for our relationship with Christ as well as our success in ministry.  Catechists are then able to better engage and lead others into prayer if they themselves are people of prayer.

Practical Recommendations

I recently read a great article by Marianne Cuthbertson and Dr. Caroline Farey that gives wonderful recommendations for leading others into prayer in our catechetical settings.  Their numerous recommendations are exactly what we need to consider to allow our catechetical session to be times of grace and session soaked in prayer.

How do you help engage others in prayer in your catechetical sessions?  Let us be drawn into and help draw others into the “wonder of prayer”.


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?


Last week I hosted a number of DRE’s at my parish to discuss how to use technology and media within ones religious education program.  Many of the participants wanted to know where to find resources to use in the classroom and how I go about choosing certain media clips that I found on the internet.  We had some good conversation about using technology in the classroom as a tool.  I stressed that it is only a tool and that the catechist is the linchpin and the heart of transmitting the Gospel.  The textbook, the video, music, art, etc each are tools and instruments but it is the catechist who pulls it all together and helps their students be engaged and drawn to a relationship with God.  Nothing is more important than the catechist — even in the third millennium.

Also, I provided the DRE’s with some resources I’ve used in the classroom: Website Resources for DRE Mtg Feb. 2012.  Some of them are video links and others are good places to go for information on catechesis.  Overall it was a really good meeting and many of the DRE’s were grateful for the discussion on the topic.

Does anyone have some good video clips you use for younger children?  How about other resources that you’ve found helpful?  Please share!


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.


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?


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.

Spotlight

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.


Like Change?

Change is not easy for people.  Even in a world that is in a constant state of change it is difficult to experience, especially when we have become so accustom to the way things are.  Are you looking forward, indifferent or are hesitant to the new changes of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal?

Seeing the Mass with New Eyes

Almost all diocese across the country have had numerous workshops to discuss the changes which are bringing a sense of renewal in general to the Liturgy.  Hopefully the faithful everywhere have come to a greater awareness of the beauty and the depth of the Mass.  I just recently gave a talk to parents about the Mass in general and hope that it brought a greater sense of all that is going on at Mass and how we are truly engaging in something heavenly and supernatural at Mass.  My talk was not so much about the upcoming changes as it was to focus on the wonder of the Mass and how it makes present the events of Calvary. Participating in the Mass is the closest we come to heaven this side of it.

Helping Your Students

What are you doing in your Religious Education, Youth Ministry and Adult Faith Formation to help individuals prepare for the changes?  Many resources have been printed and made available to help various age groups understand the changes and be ready for them in Advent.  Here are a few ideas for the various age groups to consider:

Adults:

~ A series of presentations on the changes for the parish.

~ Resources published in the Bulletin and made available on your parish website.

Elementary and Youth:

~ 30 minute lessons on the specific changes that will happen (I’m especially doing this with 4th – 6th graders).

~ Taking lesson plans and connecting them with the changes.  For example when the lesson plan mentions the Creed take that opportunity to discuss the changes in wording. Or when you do a lesson on Reconciliation take that opportunity to discuss why the changes in the penitential rite.

~ Learning Stations:  We recently had an enrichment session at our parish for 1st – 6th graders about the changes.  We set up 6 learning stations where students and parents spent 10 minutes at each station focusing on some aspect of the Mass (4 stations related to the changes and the other two were intended to give a greater appreciation of the Mass)  They walked away with something from each station.

~ Aim to mention the Mass and how it is central to our life and worship as Catholic Christians.  What a great opportunity to dive more deeply into the Mass and why it is so important to us as Catholics.  St. Bernard said “you will gain more from one single Mass than you would from distributing all your goods to the poor or making pilgrimages to all the most holy shrines in Christendom.”

Opportunity Knocks

Don’t miss this opportunity to talk about something ever ancient yet ever new.  I’ll repeat what has been said by many for the last 2 years about these changes: It gives us a great opportunity, a unique moment to really emphasize and help those we catechize not only become aware of why the changes but how the Mass continues to be our strength, life and source of life giving grace for the faithful.


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?

 

 


I found the following filed away and I just pulled it out and thought it would be worth sharing.

Top Ten “To-Do’s” with Primaries

By Kelly Renz

  1. Show great reverence for the Bible, the church space, God’s name, etc.
  2. Use images kids can identify with to understand faith terms.
  3. use the senses and employ multi-sensory teaching.
  4. Get kids – and yourself- moving.
  5. Ask lots of questions; lead them to think, consider, analyze, compare.
  6. Talk frequently about emotions; it helps them apply their own experience.
  7. Be inclusive; draw in every student, even the most shy.
  8. Be joyful and enthusiastic about your faith; it will be contagious!
  9. Recognize good behavior often; never shame or belittle.
  10. Never assume they know how to pray; expose them over and over to all forms of prayer.

The one caveat I would say is number 6.  It is great to apply things to their own experiences but primary age kids love hard and fast rules and facts so be sure to tap them into what is true and what God wants them to know about Himself.

Would you add anything to the list?


 

 

 

 

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).


 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Curriculum

Last night we had our 7th grade catechists gather for our In-Service.  We rolled out a new vision and curriculum.  There was great excitement about it all. 

Toward the end of last year’s religious education program we decided we needed our middle school program to look different from what religious education students were use to going to from K-6 grade.  By middle school we want to avoid a mentality of “this is the same old thing every year”.  Yes, we want them to continue to grow in their knowledge of faith, but more importantly we want them to be formed in their faith and able to witness to it in their everyday lives.  Not to mention the need to do it in a way that engages them and keeps them guessing what is going to happen next.  While, we are not professional entertainers nor experts in engaging middle schoolers, we wanted to create a curriculum that draws them into the Scriptures as well as how it relates to their current lives.


Nuts and Bolts

Our curriculum aims to cover the key aspects of Salvation History through the 6 major covenants (5 in the Old Testament and 1 in the New).  We will be covering the key aspects through the following method:

1) We will spend between 30 to 45 minutes each week cover the topic of the day.

2) Students then will switch classes (each class has what we call a “team class”) and cover either “practical application” or “spotlight”.  After 25 to 30 minutes of that they switch again and cover whatever they did not cover in the previous 25-30 minutes.  Practical Application seeks to make application of the topic and help them respond to it.  Spotlight aims to highlight something via a video, a testimony or activity that assists students in further applying and understanding how the topic affects and relates to them.

3) At times we will not have them switch but we will gather all the students together (e.g. gather in the church for a prayer/blessing or watch a video as a whole group.  

Engaging Middle Schoolers 

We are very excited about this new program and last night our catechists and aides responded very positively and with enthusiasm about this new curriculum.  We currently have 4 lessons created and are working on developing the other lessons.  It’s a time-consuming process since there does not really exist a program out their that covers salvation history for middle schoolers and engages them.  There are textbooks that cover the Bible but not in a way that is less classroom presentation style.  We are looking to be less textbook driven and more engaging as our students gather.  There will be a component of presenting material while not relying on a textbook.

Please say a pray for our endeavor and let me know if you’d like me to share more.   


The Need for Sufficient Content

Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington wrote a great article about the importance of content and discipline in catechesis today.  He began the article by saying:

“Almost no one in the Church would claim today that we have done a good job of handing on the faith to our children. Depending on how we reckon it we have lost two or three generations to an ignorance and inability to articulate the  faith. Even the most basic teachings are unknown to the young.”    You can find the complete article/blog entry by clicking here: http://blog.adw.org/2010/03/critical-keys-for-catholic-catechesis-discipline-and-content/

He makes many great points about the importance of repetition, memorization, time, accountability and resourcefulness to not only convey content well but to make sure discipline is also a part of learning.

3 Important Points by Blessed John Paul II

This also makes me think of Pope John Paul II who speaks of the importance of content in ” On Catechesis in Our Time” paragraph 30:

“With regard to the content of catechesis, three important points deserve special attention today.
The first point concerns the integrity of the content. In order that the sacrificial offering of his or her faith(75) should be perfect, the person who becomes a disciple of Christ has the right to receive “the word of faith”(76) not in mutilated, falsified or diminished form but whole and entire, in all its rigor and vigor. Unfaithfulness on some point to the integrity of the message means a dangerous weakening of catechesis and putting at risk the results that Christ and the ecclesial community have a right to expect from it. It is certainly not by chance that the final command of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel bears the mark of a certain entireness: “All authority…has been given to me…make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all…I am with you always.” This is why, when a person first becomes aware of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus,”(77) whom he has encountered by faith, and has the perhaps unconscious desire to know Him more extensively and better,” hearing about Him and being taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus,(78) there is no valid pretext for refusing Him any part whatever of that knowledge. What kind of catechesis would it be that failed to give their full place to man’s creation and sin; to God’s plan of redemption and its long, loving preparation and realization; to the incarnation of the Son of God; to Mary, the Immaculate One, the Mother of God, ever Virgin, raised body and soul to the glory of heaven, and to her role in the mystery of salvation; to the mystery of lawlessness at work in our lives(79) and the power of God freeing us from it; to the need for penance and asceticism; to the sacramental and liturgical actions; to the reality of the Eucharistic Presence; to participation in divine life here and hereafter, and so on? Thus, no true catechist can lawfully, on his own initiative, make a selection of what he considers important in the deposit of faith as opposed to what he considers unimportant, so as to teach the one and reject the other.”

In a day and age that is preoccupied with making the faith attractive to students (which is important), content can get lost along the way or at least be diminished.  It is vital that we do both.  Therein lies the challenge.

How do you make your classes engaging and convey sound content?


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?


Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and man, in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered…It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church. Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with their fellowmen and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people. (GRAVISSIMUM EDUCATIONIS, Paragraph #3).

Recently, I had the opportunity to check out a great family program in Ham Lake, Minnesota where Religious Education is as it should always be – first carried out within the family and secondarily fostered by the parish community.  The Church of St. Paul has over 500 families enrolled in their religious education program called “Family Formation”.  Many home school, Catholic school and public school families participate in this dynamic program.  Here is a brief overview:  Parents and children gather once a month at the parish for about an hour and a half.  Students attend their grade level class and parents stay and attend a parent gathering learning about the same topic their children are learning about in class as well as receiving tips and insights regarding the 3 home lessons that are given for families to do at home over the next 3 weeks.  This program truly puts faith formation back into the hands of the parents.  It also fosters scripture reading, growing in prayer and making faith a normal part of everyday family life.  Check it out at http://familyformation.net.

I’m going to begin it at my parish in the Fall and according to an initial survey and what I’m hearing I think I’ll have about 30 families signing up for Family Formation.  Come Holy Spirit!!!

How do you include families in your Religious Education Program?  I’d love to hear about what you and/or your parish does.

“The family is fundamental because it is the first place where people learn the meaning of life”              ~Pope Benedict XVI


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.


Lent is approaching Fast.  Bishop Keven Vann wrote an article in the North Texas Catholic Newspaper that speaks about the 3 Sundays leading up to Lent.  I found the following couple sentences very interesting:

“[F]or centuries the Sunday Liturgies in this time had the Sundays which were called “Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima” Sundays before Ash Wednesday to help prepare for Lent. My l962 Missal says that, “The three Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday are called SEPTUAGESIMA, SEXAGESIMA and QUINQUAGESIMA, which mean, respectively, the seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth day, that is, before Easter. They are mere names to correspond with the name of Lent (Quadragesima in Latin: ‘fortieth.’)”

I think this clearly shows the importance of preparing in advance for the Season of Lent.  I gave the following ideas: Lenten Classroom Ideas and more2011 gathered from various places to my catechists last week.  All our School of Religion classes this past Wednesday did a Lesson on Lent in order to help students prepare for the upcoming Liturgical Season.  Also, the Sunday Middle School classes will do the same.  I think it’s important to make sure students are thinking about how they are going to grow this Lent before Ash Wednesday is upon them, just as the Church has done for centuries.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful.  I’d love to hear from you and what ideas you are using in your classroom.


The Catechism says:

“Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart: “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.”1 But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration (Para. #2697)”.

Seek to take time as class begins and as you conclude class to draw your students into prayer.  I shared in a previous teaching tip that this could mean going into the church and being quiet and still, sometimes its gathering them around your a prayer space in your classroom and at other times it’s having everyone stand to take time for prayer and each person sharing a petition or two.

It is also very important to use Scripture as you pray since it is God’s very Word to us. For example, recently I was teaching on Baptism to 6th Graders and before class started I asked 3 students to read a specific Scripture verse during our opening prayer.  They read those 3 Scriptures (which spoke of Baptism) and then I prayed a spontaneous prayer building on what they read.

How are you building a habit of prayer into your lessons? How are you helping students know how to pray and listen to God?


Bring in a guest speaker or presenter to your class.  Here are some benefits:

1) A new voice echoing the Faith: Whether they come to give a 10 minute testimony or teach a portion of the class it provides a great avenue to have another faith-filled person reinforce the truths of our Faith.

2) It adds variety:  Students like a change of pace.  Even though you are a great catechist, having someone else present allows your students to experience someone different than usual.

3) Keeps kids engaged: A new voice and unfamiliarity with that person will allow for a renewed focus from your students.  Students are more attentive around an adult that is new to them verses that same two catechists each week.

Providing opportunities for your students to encounter other individuals is a good way to Being a catechist is a challenging and rewarding ministry all at the same time.


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!


Over the last number of years publishers have been “on the move” to get approval from the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for their particular textbook series.  Many publishers have made improvements to their previous lack of solid doctrinal content and outdated focus on “feelings” and “experience is what matters”, however there is still a long way to go.

In my 10+ years being in charge of choosing textbooks, there is still a gap that needs to be bridged. Here are 6 things textbooks need to do to improve meeting the needs (especially for students who go to a public school and meet only one time a week) of students in the Third Millennium.

1. Provide clear content. Many textbooks still lack a clarity of the faith. It presents what at times seems “Schizophrenic” because it’s a little of this and a little of that and not much of one clear idea followed through to the end.

2. Present a more unified method that authentically replicates God’s Pedagogy. It is important to teach as God has taught – gradually and in stages while always seeking our response. We need a method in textbooks that helps the catechists present solid teaching and practical application regarding the content given.  Our goal is for the students to respond to the content – who is Jesus Christ.

3. Less additional material throughout the lesson.  We like to give lots of choices but in this case less is more.  Less content allows students to be more focused and to grasp what is presented.

4. More help using technology. Weather this is how to use a certain video clip from a movie or how to use technology to draws students into the lesson.  Technology is becoming an essential and vital tool in ministry.

5. Less, step by step instruction on what to do next and more of a fluid presentation that lays out important content and useful ideas. It seems that the excessive “hand holding” keeps non-professional teachers (catechists) from transmitting the faith and more bound to the idea of “what do I do next”. This leads to a more dry presentation of the faith.

6. Involving parents. Publishers have assignments that students can do with their parents/families at home but we need to find ways to bring parents into the classroom more.

What are additional marks of a good textbook?  What are you finding is needed in the classroom today?


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.