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.