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Articles:
2008 - 2009
Evaluating the Year
Communicating with Parents
Growing as a Catechist
Helping Kids to Make a Difference
Making Prayer a Priority
Add a Dash of Creativity
Connecting with the Liturgical Year
Teaching the Saints
Getting to Know You: Building Community in the Classroom
Jump Starting the Year
“Let’s Get Fired Up! Swap and Share” Workshop—A Workshop for Catechists and Religion Teachers
The Learning Environment
How do Children Learn?
Celebrating and Proclaiming the Word of God
An Advent Evening of Reflection for Catechists
Advent Evening of Reflection: Prayer
Seeing with Eyes of Faith: A Lenten Evening of Reflection for Catechists
2007 - 2008
“Let’s Get Fired Up! Swap and Share” Workshop—A Workshop for Catechists and Religion Teachers
Creativity in Catechesis
Catechesis as a Transformative Process
The Heart of Prayer
Mary in the Church
The Tapestry of Faith: Teaching the Six Tasks of Catechesis
Finding Jesus
From Slavery to Freedom
The Journey to Moral Consciousness
The Ethics of Life and Death
The Paschal Mystery: God’s Blessing

Downloadable:
2008 - 2009
The Role of the Assembly page 1 | page 2
The Simple Message of Jesus page 1 | page 2
What is Liturgy? page 1 | page 2
Nurturing the Social Environment page 1 | page 2
Trust the Spirit Within page 1 | page 2
Constructing Knowledge with Your Learners page 1 | page 2
How Did the Bible Come to Be? page 1 | page 2
Thankful Heart page 1 | page 2
Swap Share Prayer
Swap Share Invite
Swap Share Flyer
Strategies for Asking Questions
Media Savvy Catechist
Eight Kinds of Smart
2007 -2008

“Swap and Share” Workshop—Save the Date Flyer (JPG)
“Swap and Share” Workshop—Invitation (JPG)
“Swap and Share” Workshop—Closing Prayer (PDF)
Strategies for Asking Questions(PDF)

Links:
Catechist Prayers
Catechist Formation


“Let’s Get Fired Up! Swap and Share” Workshop—A Workshop for Catechists and Religion Teachers

Session Plan (2 hours)

Theme: This workshop provides an opportunity for catechists/religion teachers to exchange with their peers creative ideas, tips, and activities that have helped them to be successful in sharing faith in the classroom.

Note: If both a parish religious education program and a Catholic school are part of the total parish catechetical effort, the “Swap and Share” workshop can serve as an opportunity to build community between the two groups. Schedule the workshop at a time when both groups can attend—in the evening or on a Saturday morning. Both Catholic school teachers and parish catechists may be able to obtain credits for certification for participating in the session. This is often an incentive for both catechists and school religion teachers to attend. Check with your diocesan office about how to arrange for participants to earn credit for this session.

Preparation Checklist:
Plan to schedule this workshop mid-year so that both veteran and new catechists can participate fully.
Two to three months before the workshop, complete the attached “Save the Date” flyer and distribute it to all catechists/religion teachers. The flyer alerts them to the specifics of the workshop and encourages them to begin preparing for it by thinking of a creative idea or tip they can share with others in areas such as arts and crafts, prayer, learning games, music, teaching doctrine, sharing Scripture, or seasonal activities.
Make a poster advertising the workshop and post it prominently in the religious education center or faculty lounge. In your weekly memos to the catechists/religion teachers, remind them of the upcoming workshop and encourage them to prepare by choosing an idea, activity, or tip for teaching religion that they want to share with others.
One month prior to the workshop, complete the attached Invitation flyer and distribute it to all catechists/religion teachers. The invitation gives specific information about the workshop and tells the participants how to prepare for the event. Note that the flyer instructs the staff to write out a description of their creative idea and to bring two copies of it to the workshop.
Some of the catechists/religion teachers may want to share more than one activity or tip at the workshop. In these cases, ask that the ideas they submit be in different areas of catechesis. Assure that in their eagerness to contribute they do not monopolize the session. Keep in mind that everyone on staff should have an opportunity to share ideas with the group.
Select experienced catechists/religion teachers to facilitate each of the three groupings of catechists/religion teachers (primary, intermediate, and junior high). Explain that their main role is to keep their group on task and to give all the participants in their group an opportunity to contribute ideas. Prior to the workshop, meet with the facilitators to go over the process for the session.
Arrange for two or three parent volunteers or junior high students to help throughout the workshop. They can assist in setting up the room, stocking the refreshment table, and duplicating the packet of ideas each participant will take home at the conclusion of the workshop.
If you have a very small staff, consider inviting the catechetical leader of a neighboring parish/school to join you in sponsoring the workshop. Having more participants will generate more ideas and activities for the catechists/religion teachers to share.

Set Up
Use a large, open room for the workshop. Arrange the tables and chairs into three groupings: one for primary grade catechist/religion teachers (K-grade 3); one for intermediate grade catechists/religion teachers (grades 4-6); and a third for junior high catechists/religion teachers (grades 7-8).
Create an attractive prayer area at the front of the room using colors and objects that reflect the appropriate season of the Church year.
Set aside an area for refreshments. Plan to serve food and beverages suitable to the time of day/evening when the workshop is being held.
Create an “Idea Wall” in the workshop area. Prepare three signs: Primary, Intermediate, and Junior High. Tape the signs on a long blank wall before the workshop begins. Leave enough space between each sign to tape the participants’ written instructions/descriptions for the activities and tips they bring to the workshop. During the workshop, direct your volunteers to photocopy the pages so that each participant will receive a packet for their level (primary, intermediate, and junior high) at the conclusion of the session.

Workshop Materials
• nametags
• tables and chairs
• masking tape
• refreshments
• a Bible
• a cassette or DVD of instrumental background music
• a DVD or tape player
• a copy of the Closing Prayer for each participant
• a large, lighted candle, placed on the prayer table
• small individual candles for each participant, placed on the prayer

Part 1 (10 minutes)
Greet the catechist/religion teachers as they arrive. Have them sign in and make nametags for themselves.
Begin on time. Direct the participants to be seated in their grade level area (primary, intermediate or junior high). If you have a large staff, you will want to have several tables to accommodate each level.
Welcome all participants and thank them for attending. Ask if they are all ready to get “fired up” with new tips and activities to energize their classes. Express your hope that the workshop will be an opportunity for creative sharing and community building.
Pray. Remind the group that the Holy Spirit has long been the inspiration of the Church. The Bible was written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guided the first Apostles and the first Christians in sharing the Good News and spreading the Gospel throughout the world. Today, the Holy Spirit guides us as we explain the teachings of the Catholic Church and help our students to celebrate their faith and live it in their daily lives. Encourage the catechists/religion teachers to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit as they listen and learn from one another’s ideas during the workshop. Together, pray aloud the Prayer to the Holy Spirit (found in the Catholic Prayers and Practices section of the Faith First Legacy Catechist/Teacher Guide). If the participants do not know this prayer by heart, pray it as an echo prayer, reciting one phrase at a time and inviting the group to repeat each phrase.

Part 2 (45 minutes)
Explain the Process. Begin by explaining that all participants will leave with a packet of one another’s ideas to take home. Collect the extra copy of instructions or descriptions of the activity, tip, or project the participants have brought with them. Have your volunteers post these in the appropriate area on the Idea Wall as the groups begin sharing their ideas.
Group Sharing. Have the facilitators invite volunteers to begin to share their ideas with the group. If the group is initially reluctant to share, facilitators can offer the first idea to get the ball rolling. After each activity or tip is offered, facilitators can stimulate discussion by making positive comments about it and inviting group members to do the same or by offering suggestions for adapting the ideas and tips for different grade levels. The facilitators should make every effort to give each participant an opportunity to contribute. Samples of completed arts and crafts projects can be displayed on the grade level tables for participants to examine during the break.
Play a DVD or tape of instrumental music as background during the group sharing.
Watch the clock. After approximately forty-five minutes, invite the participants to break for refreshments, to mingle, and to peruse the ideas posted on the Idea Wall. Before the break, assure those who have not yet shared that they will have the opportunity to do so after refreshments.

Break (15 minutes)

Part 3 (45 minutes)

Ask the participants to return to their grade level groups to continue sharing their activities and tips. Allow 30 minutes for each group to finish up. While the groups are sharing, have volunteers duplicate the participant’s written idea sheets and create a packet for each catechist/religion teacher to take home.
Call the entire group back together. Invite a few of the participants to share briefly with the large group an idea they heard that they are eager to try with their class. Point out the creativity and energy to share our faith that you have observed throughout the session.
Conclude by praying together the closing prayer service (attached). As the participants depart, have them collect their idea packets. Thank everyone for participating. Encourage the catechists/religion teachers to continue to share their successful tips, ideas, and activities with one another throughout the year.


Creativity in Catechesis
by Gretchen Hailer, RSHM

This title reminds me of the first part of the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. The opening poetic verses of that first account of creation describe what things were like before Someone brought creative energy to the universe. That Someone, of course, we know as our Creator God. In this colorful description of God’s creativity, we notice that before God acts, there is nothing—a void, a sort of chaos. Things needed to be put into action and God was right there, the Creative Spirit breathing light into a dark space and then saying with satisfaction, “It looks very good!”

It is a little like this with us catechists, especially when it is our first time sharing our faith with others, regardless of their age. There sometimes can seem to be a lot of chaos in our minds and hearts as we try to envision what our first catechetical session will be like. And there is a lot to be said about planning that first session and the many others that will follow our debut!

First of all, we need to realize that we are not alone in our planning. We have all sorts of aids to assist us. Our director or coordinator or mentor is there to help us. The catechist’s guide that accompanies the resource material that we will use in our sessions is chock full of great options. Our families, especially those members who are about the same age as those with whom we share faith, can provide us with wonderful ideas from their own experience.

That being said, however, we should be aware that our greatest asset is the creativity that resides within each of us. By reason of our Baptism, we can rejoice in the fact that we, by the power of God whose image we bear, are also capable of bringing light and color and song and stories and dance and meaningful activities into our catechetical sessions. Look back at that Genesis story. What do you see? The Creator God uses all kinds of people, places, sounds, and natural surroundings to unleash the wonder of such a marvelous environment.

We can mirror that same spirit. For each session that we prepare, we can generate meaningful designs that will enhance the time we spend from beginning to end. Sit down to prepare by praying the process. Think of all those with whom you will share the faith, conjure up their faces, imagine the sometimes chaotic home settings that many of them experience. Then pray for each of them by name. Do not forget to pray for yourself that you will be a worthy instrument of the Gospel.

Now read over the pages that the children, youth, or adults will be reading. What do you notice? What pictures or photos, Scripture quotes, or other text appears on each page? What activities are suggested? Next, look over the suggestions in your catechist’s guide on how to present the material. Now think of what kind of feeling you want to invoke in your session. Certainly, joy and enthusiasm should be at the top of your list. Sharing faith is not meant to be just another “classroom” experience. We are reminded in the General Directory for Catechesis, which in turn quotes Catechesi Tradendae, “The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but also in communion with Jesus Christ” (GDC 80, CT 5). If that is the aim, our sessions should be full of loving relationships which mirror the relationship that God in Jesus through the Spirit desires to have with each of us. If our model is the Trinity, then we should encourage unity in diversity.

The oneness of the session ought to reflect many diverse kinds of activities. Variety in presentation is called for—sometimes a story first, then some conversation about what it might tell us about being faith-filled disciples. A song might be next, and even though we do not consider ourselves the best singers, there is always a machine called a CD or cassette player that can enhance the song. Our participants might even be challenged to create an “Amen” or “Alleluia” that can be sung as part of the Eucharist or prayer service.

Art displayed with the session theme in mind can do much to center believers on a particular aspect of our life in God. And, of course, creating their own artwork allows personalized incorporation of the topic by participants. Prayer experiences, either with Scripture, gazing at some sacred object, or simply sitting quietly listening to God in our heart, can be object lessons that disciples of any age can take with them into the rest of their lives. Teaching about the life of Jesus and how he went around doing good to all he met can be broken open so that participants can be challenged to do likewise.

Whatever the creative design we generate for each of our catechetical sessions, let us remember our Creator God who looked at darkness and chaos and started something brand new!

For Reflection
• What do you think the barriers are that block creativity for many of us?
• What ideas did you gain from this article that you would like to try and incorporate into your catechetical sessions?

Gretchen Hailer, RSHM, a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Mary, is a seasoned catechist and media educator who designs print, audio, and video resources for faith formation for children and adults.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith Plus, Getting Started, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 2007.

 


Catechesis as a Transformative Process
by Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, STD

Catechesis is an integral dimension of the life of the Church. It is certainly a significant part of mine as a bishop. Good catechesis is always done in the context of the evangelizing mission of the Church. Whether it is catechesis by Catholic school teachers or parish religious educators working in classrooms, sacramental preparation, RCIA, or adult faith formation groups, all are aspects of evangelization.

The purpose of this evangelization is to bring about faith and conversion to Christ. Faith involves a profound change of mind and heart, a change of life. Such a change can only arise from deep within the interior of one’s being, where one faces the truly important questions about human life. Such a change, engendered by the action of the Holy Spirit, shows itself in the transformation of one’s life. One begins to live “in Christ” and is able to confess with Saint Paul, “[I]t is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The National Directory of Catechesis (NDC) encourages us to envision catechesis as the presentation of an invitation to this whole new order of life and way of being and thinking. It also recognizes that in the new evangelization the “Word” must be presented as transformative. The faith must engage both the person and the culture, bringing both to a new level of life in Christ.

We must be acutely aware of the circumstances in which we exercise our catechetical ministry. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults points out that American Catholics can be described as a “generation of seekers” (p. 6). Religious seekers in the United States live within a culture that, in important ways, provides support and belief in God but at the same time discourages and corrodes the faith in practice. Yet, many find the surrounding secularism unsatisfactory and search for deeper meaning in life. This search provides an entrée as we proclaim the person of Christ, an encounter that gives focus, direction, and meaning to our lives.

Conversion and Transformation
The task of catechesis today against the backdrop of our culture, then, must be transformative. We are God’s people; we are Christ’s Church, his new body. As such we have a life force—the Holy Spirit. We have a vision—the Gospel. We also have a way to transform ourselves in oneness with Christ and, therefore, with one another—the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Conversion into Christ is a lifelong task. We are caught up in it at every stage of our lives. It is also totally dependent on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Prayer plays a vital part in personal conversion, and, for this reason, it must be incorporated in an integral way into our catechetical process.

Conversion, however, is not simply individual reconciliation with God. The great commandment is to love the Lord God, Jesus tells us, and then to love our neighbor. The NDC points out that our catechetical effort should be to inspire individuals and communities in such a way that life in Christ becomes the vital principle of all their activities. Catechesis as a transforming force sees the action of God’s Spirit at work at a number of levels simultaneously. First is the grafting of the person to the life of the vine that is Christ while at the same time seeing the branch bear good fruit in a life of discipleship reflective of the Gospels and rich in the works of justice and charity.

Truth Leads to Life
We turn to Jesus and therefore to his Church in order that we might hear, accept, and live the words of spirit and truth—the words of everlasting life. Catechesis is all about introducing people into a higher level of life and a new way of living. We live in the transforming power of the Spirit, and we are enabled to do so because we walk in the truth of God’s revelation. The truth and the life are intimately related because entrance into new life, a supernatural reality that transcends the parameters of this human life, takes place precisely to the extent that we hear and receive the truth that opens us to this spiritual transformation.

For Reflection
• How could you make prayer a more integral part of your catechetical process?
• In what ways does your catechesis challenge others to take up the work of the Gospel and live lives of Christian discipleship?

Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, STD is the bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington DC.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith Plus, Adult Faith Formation, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 2007.


The Heart of Prayer
by Jo McClure Rotunno

Saint John Damascene called prayer “a raising of the mind and heart to God.” Saint Therese of Lisieux called it “a surge of the heart.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that the wellspring of prayer lies in the human heart, that seat of the soul or “hidden center” where only the Spirit of God can go. (CCC, 2563)

Sacred Scripture shows us that the origins of human prayer arise in history after the entry of sin into the world. From this moment, God desires to restore us to friendship. In the Hebrew Scriptures we learn the qualities of a prayerful life. From Abel we learn that prayer is walking with God. From Abraham and Sarah we discover attentiveness of heart and conformity to God’s will. From Jacob we learn that prayer can be a “wrestling” with God, but that perseverance has its rewards. In Moses we find a deep intimacy with God and see the power of intercession as Moses brings the needs of the people before God. From Samuel we learn the importance of listening for God, whose Word often comes as a whisper rather than an earthquake. From David we learn both how to praise and how to repent. From the prophets we learn of righteousness, and the power to proclaim the truth that is born of intimacy with God.

In the Psalms we find an entire school of prayer, so much so that some have said that all study of the Scriptures should begin with the Psalms. These masterpieces of prayer both nourish and speak the prayer of a community of faith. While they arose in a particular time and place, they have become universal expressions of praise and thanksgiving, of lamentation and repentance. In the Psalms, the Word of God becomes our word—our prayer (CCC, 2587).

Jesus is the perfect model of prayer. Jesus, though Son of God, was human like us. He took his first steps in prayer as we do, learning from his family and his religious tradition. Jesus found God in his human heart, where he discovered his deep intimacy, with his Father. He shows us the way to that intimacy, which is available to all of us who are willing to make the journey.

When did Jesus pray? He prayed before all the decisive moments in his ministry, most memorably before his Passion. He prayed before the great moments in the ministry of his disciples. He spent an entire night alone in prayer before the call of the Twelve. The night he was betrayed he told Peter he had prayed that Peter’s faith would be strong, that this man to whom he must entrust so much would not be tempted.

Where and how did Jesus pray? Jesus often prayed in solitude, sometimes apart from others, often at night. All of his words and works were empowered by these times of silent prayer. One of the great public prayers of Jesus occurs at the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41–42). Here Jesus teaches us that all prayer begins in thanksgiving. He acknowledges that in all cases “the Giver is more precious than the gift” (CCC, 2604); see Matthew 16:21, 33. And in all decisive situations, Jesus submits his own will to his Father’s will.

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. He reminded them of the constant conversion of heart that bringing the reign of God would require. He encouraged them to strive for great things in their prayer—to be bold. In the Lord’s Prayer, he summarized for them his entire message, so much so that his disciples incorporated it into their worship from the very beginning. He cautioned them to be watchful in prayer, to be patient and humble as he had been. And he told them to always pray in his name, in the power of the Spirit which remains with us.

At the end of his earthly life, it was Jesus’ prayer, spoken from the depths of his heart, that was heard by God and effected salvation for us all. He stayed faithful to the attitude of prayer he learned first from his mother: “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

For Reflection
What insights have you gained from this article about the importance of prayer in the Christian life?

Jo McClure Rotunno is a lifetime religious educator and Director of Creative Development at RCL • Benziger. Jo worked as a religious education consultant for the Office of Religious Education in Los Angeles, and served there for twenty years in the formation of catechists and master catechists. She speaks nationally on topics related to catechist formation and enrichment. Jo holds an M.A. in Religious Studies from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith, Prayer and Spirituality, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 1998.


Mary in the Church
By Rev. Robert J. Hater, PhD

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you!
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

For centuries this prayer has encapsulated the meaning and the place of Mary for millions of believers all over the world. The role of the Virgin in our history, and in our lives, is reflected in the beautiful stories of the annunciation and birth of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. These stories have some differences as to detail, but the reality and truth that they reflect is the same, that is, that Jesus is fully human and fully God and Mary was an integral part of his earthly existence.

God sends angels to announce the coming of Jesus in each of the Gospels. Luke has the angel go directly to the Virgin. “Greetings, favored one,” the angel says, “The Lord is with you . . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you . . . The child born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:28, 35). In what has become one of our greatest assertions of faith, Mary responds to the angel, “Here am I, the [handmaid] of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Whenever God sends angels as messengers to people, it is a sign that we need to pay attention to the unfolding of a great mystery. In the case of the conception and birth of Jesus, the Gospels alert us to the depths of unknowing that swirl around the Good News of Jesus’ human birth. The consistent doctrine of the perpetual Virginity of Mary speaks for the Church’s uncompromising faith in the greatness of God’s love and power to enter into our lives in a myriad of surprising ways.

Mary was the first witness to Jesus, and his first disciple. She was chosen to be the Mother of God, and God gave her special gifts. The greatest gift given to her was to be completely filled with grace. That is, she was conceived without original sin and, because of her special relationship with Jesus; she was preserved from all sin throughout her life. The great love and devotion of Mary to Jesus, and Jesus to his mother, made it fitting that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven to sit next to her Son.

What is often overlooked in the relationship of Mary and Jesus is her persistence and teaching of Jesus so that he would truly claim his own power. For example, in the Gospel of John, Mary challenges Jesus to begin his ministry. In the beautiful passage of the Wedding at Cana, Jesus is moved by the passion of his mother’s faith in him to turn the ordinary waters of life into the deep rich wines of a shared life (John 2:1–12).

The great depths of this mystery of faithfulness in the Sacred History of our Redemption places the Virgin in a special role as the Mother of the Church. Through her heartfelt assent to God, and her firm and loving hand in guiding the Christ child to adulthood, Mary is truly the Mother of All Believers. Jesus has gifted us with the presence of the Virgin as our Mother in Heaven. In her special relationship to Jesus, she intervenes in our behalf, she prays for us, and we can send our needs and prayers to her to give to her Son. This unique holiness that is Mary’s comes from Christ and from her unyielding desire to do the will of God. The Virgin was one of us, a human being born of a woman, and struggling to understand her role in the world.

We are inspired by Mary, though, because her dramatic YES! to God’s invitation models for us the holiness each one of us is called to by our Baptism in the Lord. With the help of our Heavenly Mother, we can aspire to have meaningful and holy lives as we walk with Jesus’ people today. Mary models for us how we ought to live our lives in a world too often filled with injustice and pain. It is, then, Mary’s total life of trust and faithfulness of God’s presence and commitment to her child, family, and community that captures our hearts and minds and truly places the Virgin at the very center of our lives as believers.

Mary is the Mother of the Church . . . truly the Mother of all believers.

Memorare
Remember, most
loving Virgin Mary,
never was it heard
that anyone who turned
to you for help
was left unaided.
Inspired by this
confidence, though burdened by my sins,
I run to your protection for you are my mother.
Mother of the Word
of God, do not despise
my words of pleading
but be merciful
and hear my prayer.
Amen.

For Reflection
How does Mary serve as a model for you in your life?

Reverend Robert J. Hater is a nationally recognized teacher, writer, and speaker on topics of theology, religious education, and pastoral ministry.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith, I Believe, We Believe, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 1997.


The Tapestry of Faith: Teaching the Six Tasks of Catechesis
by Kate Ristow

Like the multicolored threads and textures of a tapestry, the Catholic faith has many dimensions. As catechists we are called to weave together six interrelated dimensions that enable our students to develop an increasing sense of the authentic Christian message and mission. These dimensions, called the tasks of catechesis, help us to know, live, celebrate, and express our faith in prayer (General Directory for Catechesis 84). The six tasks if catechesis are outlined in the General Directory for Catechesis. Being mindful of the importance of the six tasks and incorporating them into your ministry will ensure that your students grow as disciples of Christ.

1. Promoting Knowledge of the Faith. Catechists introduce students to the life, mission, and message of Jesus Christ, through whom we come to know God and God’s loving plan of salvation for all people. As we learn about and respond to Christ’s presence in our lives, we grow in our understanding of God’s self-revelation through Sacred Scripture and Church Tradition. We teach students the meaning of the Creed so that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, they may understand and live the Church’s beliefs that can be traced from the time of the Apostles.

2. Liturgical Education. Catechists foster liturgical knowledge by teaching about the liturgy and the Church’s sacramental life. We enable students to participate more fully in the sacraments by helping them experience the prayers, gestures, signs, and symbols that celebrate God’s love and Christ’s presence among us.

3. Moral Formation. Catechesis on morality includes teaching the content of Christ’s moral teachings and helping students recognize how they can live out these teachings in their daily lives. The goal of moral catechesis is to enable students to transform their lives according to the example and message of Christ and the Church.

4. Teaching to Pray. Knowing and celebrating our faith go hand in hand. Catechists teach students to pray, as Jesus did in the Our Father. Understanding the Our Father teaches us how to pray and live as followers of Christ. Catechists also help students cultivate the use of a variety of prayer forms, including adoration, praise, thanksgiving, blessing, intercession, petition, contrition, and meditation so that they may pray with Christ and the Church.

5. Catechists are called to create an atmosphere in their classrooms that makes it possible for students to understand the implications of Jesus’ command: “[L]ove one another” (John 13:34). Jesus calls us into a community that is characterized by simplicity, humility, and concern for the poor, communal prayer, forgiveness, and love. Through their classroom experiences, students grow in their appreciation of communal living and their responsibility to build up the Christian community.

6. Missionary Initiative. Faith is meant to be lived. Catechists teach students that we are all called to bear witness to our faith through our daily words and actions. We promote a spirit of evangelization and help our students find ways to prepare the way for the coming of God’s kingdom of peace, love, and justice.

The six tasks of catechesis are the fabric of our faith—the canvas on which our faith is lived out. As you work with the tasks in your classroom, know that you are teaching as Jesus did, educating your students, praying with them, being a model for them, and inviting them to respond to our true vocation in life—continuing Christ’s work in the world.

For Reflection
• For which if the six tasks of catechesis do you feel most prepared? Which ones are more of a challenge for you?
• What are you doing to encourage children to take up the missionary mandate of the Gospel?

Kate Ristow in the National Catechetical Consultant for RCL • Benziger.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith Plus, Roles of the Catechist, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 2007.


Finding Jesus
by Alice Noe

“When did the Catholic Church find Jesus?” the catechist asked. She had been away from the Church in her early twenties and “found Jesus” in another denomination. Having returned to the Church, she was volunteering as a catechist. Her question points out the need for the National Directory for Catechesis (NDC).

The NDC was written specifically for Catholics in the United States who are responsible for catechizing others, whether adults, teens, or children. Most importantly for catechists, it sets catechesis within the context of evangelization. Evangelization is the context for catechesis because everyone needs to be evangelized, to be brought into communion with Jesus Christ and to know the power of his presence in their life.

As the example in the opening paragraph illustrates, it is possible to catechize people without evangelizing them. It is possible to teach people about Jesus and the truths of the faith of the Church without ever bringing them to know Jesus in a personal way. Consequently, evangelization needs to precede and accompany catechesis. Evangelization, therefore, is the overarching theme of catechesis and should permeate our teaching. Catechists must be able to lead people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and tech them the truths of the faith of the Church as those truths relate to being children of God and brothers and sisters to Jesus.

Since the NDC emphasizes evangelization so strongly, we Catholics must become comfortable with the word and the work of evangelization. What is evangelization? It is the “clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery” (the Church in America [Ecclesia in America] 66). (See NDC 17.) This definition of evangelization is not scary. It does not call for knocking on doors as so many people think when they hear the word. But it does presume a personal knowledge of Christ and of the Scriptures. One cannot be a catechist without being converted oneself, without having a personal relationship with God and a basic knowledge of Jesus in the Scriptures. “This is crucial: we must be converted—and we must continue to be converted! We must let the Holy Spirit change our lives! We must respond to Jesus Christ” (Go and Make Disciples 14). (See NDC 17B.) Jesus must make a difference in the life of the catechist and the lives of the catechized.

A strong emphasis is placed upon the forming of disciples and Christian community, on teaching others to be able to hand on the faith in an ever-widening circle of believers until we reach the four corners of the earth as the Gospel mandates. Ours is a missionary Church. Again, discipleship and missions, or apostolate, may be words with which we are uncomfortable, but they belong to the Catholic vocabulary.

Echoing previous Church documents, another emphasis of the NDC is the centrality of adult catechesis, which quotes Catechesi Tradendae in affirming that “the catechesis of adults… is the principal form of catechesis…” (CT 43 in NDC 48A). Indeed the catechesis of adults is the axis around which all other catechesis in a parish is to revolve. (See GDC 275, NDC 48A.) Only adults are capable of mature faith which produces the fruits of evangelization and witness to Christ, seeking justice for all, and the promotion of Christian unity. (See NDC 48A, 1.) Since most of our parishes have been focused on the catechesis of children rather than adults, this calls for a reorientation of our thinking, our resources, and our time.

The NDC also outlines particular challenges and opportunities within the culture of the United States that we need to be aware of and address in our catechetical ministry. We experience great cultural and regional diversity in our population, which can provide wonderful opportunities for learning even while we confront the effects of divorce, increased mobility, and globalization, to name only a few concerns. The NDC challenges the Catholic Church in the United States to bring all people into a personal relationship with Christ and to fulfill Jesus’ instructions to “Go… and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). It is a tall order. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us as we go.

For Reflection
• Give an example of a time when you have felt you were effective in sharing the message of Jesus with others.
• What stories from your life might you be able to share with others to illustrate how God has been faithful to you?

Alice Noe is Coordinator of Catechetical Program Development and Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith Plus, Person of the Catechist, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 2007.


From Slavery to Freedom
by Mary C. Boys, SNJM

When Christians gather to celebrate the Easter Vigil, we draw upon Israel’s exodus from Egypt and use it as a key metaphor for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Exodus testifies to a God who suffers with the oppressed, leads them to freedom, and calls them to become a holy people. Each year, during the celebration of Passover, Jews ritualize the Exodus, as if each had personally been redeemed from Egypt. One text for the Seder (ritual meal) includes this prayer:

Therefore, we must revere, adore, glorify, and praise beyond platitude
who performed all these miracles for our ancestors and for us.
He took us
from slavery to freedom
from despair to joy
from mourning to celebration
from darkness to radiance
from enslavement to redemption
and we sing before Him a new song.
Hallelujah.

At the Easter Vigil, we proclaim that this same God brings life out of death, and calls Christians to be “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

The Exodus is an event at the bedrock of Judaism and Christianity, and Jesus’ Passover from grave to new life is the centerpiece of Christian proclamation. Each is a journey. By the Hebrews leaving Egypt and traversing the Sinai, Jews and Christians learn to walk in God’s ways. Similarly, as we trace in our own lives Jesus’ journey from death to life, we discover God’s sustaining presence even in moments of despair. These are the essential stories we keep telling one another as we walk along life’s way, because they tell about God’s passion to redeem us from whatever enslaves us, and to restore life to whatever deals death.

The Exodus and Easter stories are not only about freedom. They also involve our being set free for commitment to God’s people. The story of the passage through the Sea was soon joined by a second “chapter,” so to speak: the making of the covenant in the wilderness of Sinai (see Exodus 24:1-8), which specified the obligations of the people. In fact, those obligations helped to form the motley group of escaped slaves into a people of the Lord (see Judges 5:11, 13). In the covenant in the wilderness we begin to understand what the freedom of belonging to God requires.

To live up to the obligations of the covenant leads to freedom, the freedom of belonging to a God who teaches people to reject every form of slavery. Covenant is a call to grow out of the narrowness of excessive self-preoccupation and, instead, to commit oneself to a community. Covenant is a call to love others as God loves. Freedom and responsibility are inextricably woven together, and they constitute the very fabric of our covenant with God.

We who are Christians see this covenantal love embodied in Jesus of Nazareth. We who trace the sign of the cross on our bodies are called to live as an Easter people, committed to a God who cares so passionately for all people.

For Reflection
• What do you feel enslaved by in your life?
• What commitment would be required on your part to begin to free yourself from this spiritual slavery?

Mary C. Boys, a Sister of the Holy Names, is the Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology at Union theological Seminary in New York.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith, Introduction to the Scriptures, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 1998.


The Journey to Moral Consciousness
by Evelyn Eaton Whitehead and James D. Whitehead

When we are children in faith, our parents and teachers guide our earliest growth toward moral consciousness. Caring for us with love, helping us to distinguish right and wrong, teaching us forgiveness and compassion, they show us the practical shape of Christian life.

Growing into youth and young adulthood, we become disciples of the Lord. Now, as we participate in a wider community of Christian value and commitment, our moral consciousness deepens. New formative experiences join with the early voices of family and teachers in shaping how we follow Christ. Gradually we find our own voice—the trustworthy inner guide that we call adult conscience.

Adult conscience is tested in our daily decisions of love and work and justice. We ask: “How should I follow Jesus in my own life?” As we struggle to discern a faithful response, our religious formation helps us to shape our imagination. The parable of the Good Samaritan instructs us how to respond to those in need. The account of the risen Jesus appearing on the road to Emmaus alerts us that the stranger in our midst may in truth be Christ. These stories enliven our imaginations and touch our hearts. Now we see through Jesus’ eyes.

Maturing in faith, our conscience becomes more reliable. We have been tested, and at times we have sinned and experienced God’s forgiveness. Through prayer and discernment we have learned which inner instincts to follow and which to turn away from. Forming a mature conscience does not make us isolated moral authorities, stranded outside the influence of the Scripture and our rich moral Tradition as Christians. Instead, mature conscience inserts us into the community of faith. Disciplined by our discipleship, we are ready to become stewards in the Christian community.

Saint Paul has described the chief virtue of the good steward: “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2) Stewards are mature Christians, charged with making important decisions for their families, for the parish and the civic community.

Stewardship can be a challenging season of Christian faith. The moral choices that confront us here are complex and confusing. Frequently we must decide in the face of disagreement, before all the facts are clear. And often now our decisions affect more than just ourselves; we are responsible for other people, for institutions and organizations, for the future. We ask: “What is the truly moral response here? Can I trust my conscience to guide me in this decision? How can we work together—in this family, in this parish, in this country—to bring about justice?

By holding us alert to the wisdom of faith and the demands of the Gospel, mature conscience guides us in the responsible choices of adult life.

For Reflection
• In what ways have stories from Scripture challenged you in your own growth toward the seasons of discipleship and stewardship?

Evelyn Eaton Whitehead is a developmental psychologist specializing in adult maturity, leadership, and the social analysis of community and parish life.
James D. Whitehead is a pastoral theologian and historian of theology.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith, Introduction to the Learner, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 1998.


 

The Ethics of Life and Death
by Marie Egan, IHM

Birth and death, the edges of life, are moments charged with human feelings and emotion. They are moments that present some of the knottiest ethical problems and the most heart wrenching moral decisions we face. There are other moments in between that also test our moral sensibilities.

Developments in modern medicine and technology have made these decisions increasingly difficult. A variety of techniques have been developed for ending life before birth and for extending life at its end. Science has made it possible to have sex without procreation and procreation without sex—to separate lovemaking and baby making. Gene therapy may soon make it possible to shape the genetic blueprint of future generations, while human cloning threatens the very individuality that makes each of us unique before God.

It is because of such developments that people would do well to think through these issues before the urgent need for a decision presents itself. Today many are in search of ethical wisdom to guide them in decision making in our complex modern society. The Christian is no different, but the Christian is able to bring to these moral dilemmas a number of guiding convictions and time-honored principles.

The sanctity of human life. Christianity has always affirmed the basic value of life, recognizing each and every life as made in the image of a creative and loving God. Life is the primary gift of God to each individual. Pope Pius XII described it as the foundational good, the necessary condition for all other values, achievements, and relationships. Without physical life, no other human good is even possible. Thus, since physical life is so essential, health is a value and the promotion and preservation of health are worthy goals and moral responsibilities.

Human life is not an absolute good. The Christian also recognizes that life is a relative, not an absolute, good, and the duty to preserve it is a limited one. Christianity does not demand the preservation of physical life at any cost. There are greater values worth the sacrificing of life. Jesus himself taught us this when he said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Jesuit moralist Richard McCormick asserts that life is of value precisely because of its potential for human relationships that make possible growth in love of God and neighbor. Life is good. Love is possible. Death is inevitable.

Death is part of the life cycle. For the Christian, death is not the enemy; sin is. Accepting one’s mortality is very much a part of the Christian wisdom. As the Mass of Resurrection reminds us, in death life is changed, not taken away. Such a perspective sheds light on decisions about withholding or withdrawing treatment at the end of life when the treatment offers no hope for a return to meaningful existence. The decision is not one of abandonment. Rather, it manifests an acceptance of death as a natural part of the life cycle and the surrender of the dying into the hands of the loving God who first gave life.

Decisions surrounding momentous events in life—birth, death, reproduction, sickness, organ donation, human experimentation, care of defective newborns—are complex and taxing. The Christian can best prepare for these decisions by being as informed as possible about scientific and medical developments, by seeking guidance from magisterium and the theological community, and by prayerfully reaffirming basic beliefs about the value of life, the inevitability of death, the assurance of resurrection, and the ongoing assistance of a loving God.

For Reflection
• What principles described in this article will assist you when you are faced with bioethical dilemmas in your own life?

Dr. Marie Egan, IHN, is a moral theologian with a doctorate from the Catholic University of America.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith, Catholic Morality, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 1998.


The Paschal Mystery: God’s Blessing
by Catherine Dooly, OP

Paschal mystery is one of those things that we teach and we experience but often cannot describe. The Catechism of the Catholic Church places the Paschal mystery in the context of the biblical understanding of blessing. Think of the last time that you said, “That was such a blessing for me!” When you remember that event or person that was a blessing for you, you will have some idea of why the Catechism offers blessing as a description of Paschal mystery. A biblical understanding of blessing, which includes praise, thanksgiving, and acknowledgement of dependence upon God, presumes that we have experienced and recognized God’s life-giving action in our lives. Blessing, then, is something we have known and acknowledged.

The ongoing story of salvation shows us that “[f]rom the beginning until the end of time the whole of God’s work is a blessing” (CCC, 1079). It is God who blesses all created things, who blessed Abraham, the patriarchs, the people of Israel, all that they experienced from birth to aging to death. God creates in love; God sustains in love. God’s people have received blessings; therefore they are to bless. The people of Israel bless their children; leaders and kings bless their people. Immersed in the blessings from God, the people send the blessings back to the source.

Blessing, therefore, has two aspects. When applied to God, it means God’s initiative, God’s saving action in our lives now. On our part, it designates our own response and surrender to God our Creator in thanksgiving for God’s saving presence with us.

In the liturgy of the Church, God’s blessing is fully made known and communicated. We praise our God, our Father and Creator, as the source of all blessings. We give thanks for God’s merciful and saving actions in our lives.

In the Eucharistic liturgy we celebrate and make present what God has done in Christ, God’s blessing, the Paschal mystery. The Paschal mystery is unique; it is a historical event that occurred in the past but cannot remain in the past. By dying Christ destroyed death; by rising he restored life. Jesus who became incarnate, died, and was raised out of love for us, fills us with many blessings. “Through his Word, he pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit” (CCC, 1082).

In the Eucharistic liturgy we recall all that God has done for us in Christ through the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, a mystery which is the paradigm for the true ultimate meaning of Christian life. Our celebration sends us forth to enter the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising in our daily lives.

The Paschal mystery is the lens through which we view and interpret our human experience. Living the Paschal mystery is a “letting go.” It means coping with the inevitable fact of our own mortality and that of those whom we love. The Paschal mystery means that in the midst of pain and disappointment, there is the possibility of change and new life. The rising of the Paschal mystery means reconciliation, fidelity, forgiveness, and hope in the face of adversity. We die to our enslavements in order to live in the freedom with which Christ has made for us free. The Church proclaims and celebrates this Paschal mystery in the liturgy in order to live from it and carry on God’s blessings in the world.

For Reflection
• What insight have you gained into how we live the Paschal mystery in our daily lives?

Sr. Catherine Dooley is an associate professor of catechesis and liturgy at the Catholic University of America, and a widely published author of texts and resources in liturgy and catechesis.

This article is an excerpt from Echoes of Faith, Liturgy and Sacraments, RCL • Resources for Christian Living, © 1998.


Advent Evening of Reflection
Opening Prayer

Leader: Let us begin our prayer with the Sign of the Cross, remembering Jesus’ promise to be with us always when we gather together in his name.

All: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Leader: During Advent we wait in joyful hope and anticipation of Jesus’ coming into our hearts at Christmas. Let us listen to a reading from Isaiah about the coming of Immanuel.

Reader: Proclaim Isaiah 11:1-10. Conclude with the words, “The Word of the Lord.”

All: Thanks be to God.

Reflection: Invite the participants to silently reflect briefly on how God is calling them to prepare for the coming of Christ.

Leader: The Advent wreath marks the four weeks of Advent. The candles remind us of the generations of people who lived in darkness, waiting for the arrival of the Savior. During Advent, we, too, wait in spiritual darkness for the Light of Christ to be rekindled in our hearts.

Lighting of the Advent Wreath: Have a catechist come forward to light the appropriate candles (s) on the Advent wreath.

Shared Prayer: Pray together the Lord’s Prayer.

Leader: May the preparations we begin this evening light the way for the renewal of Christ’s presence in our lives.

Closing Song: Together sing two verses of the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”


An Advent Evening of Reflection for Catechists
Until You Come in Glory, Lord!

Session Plan (approximately 90 minutes)

Theme: This session provides an opportunity to gather catechists together to prayerfully reflect on the meaning of Advent in their lives and to participate in faith-sharing activities with their peers. If your parish catechetical mission also includes a Catholic day school, you may want to consider inviting the school faculty to participate in the evening. This will further your efforts to build community among the two groups.

Preparation Checklist:
Schedule the workshop shortly before Advent begins or early enough in the Advent season so that the catechists are able to enter into the experience without the distractions of other pre-Christmas activities. Holding the event immediately before Advent begins will also enable catechists to devote themselves to celebrating Advent meaningfully.
Mail invitations to the catechetical staff six weeks in advance. Be sure to include the date, time, and workshop title on the invitation. Follow up on the written invitations by displaying a poster advertising the event in the Religious Education Center and through weekly memos to the staff.

Set Up
Choose a reader for the Opening Prayer Service in advance and give the catechist a copy of the reading he or she will proclaim.
Cover the prayer table with a purple cloth. Place an Advent wreath and a Bible on the table.
Arrange for the catechists to sit at round tables.
Place lined paper and pencils/pens on each table.
Tear a large sheet from an aluminum foil roll for each participant.
Cut half-sheets of unlined 8 ½” X 11” paper, one half-sheet for each catechist. Place these on the catechists’ tables.
Set up a table with refreshments for the break.

Workshop Materials

  • Nametags
  • A cassette or DVD of seasonal instrumental background music
  • A DVD or tape player
  • Copies of the Opening Prayer Service for all participants (downloadable)
  • A Bible
  • An Advent wreath
  • Purple table covering
  • Matches
  • Copies of the words to the hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
  • Lined paper and pencils or pens for all participants
  • A large sheet of foil for each participant
  • A half-sheet of blank paper for each participant
  • Refreshments

Part 1 (20 minutes)

• Greet the arriving catechists as seasonal instrumental music plays in the background. Have everyone sign in and make nametags for themselves. Invite participants to be seated at a table of their choice.
• Welcome the staff and share your hope that this evening will be a valuable experience that will enable them to focus their hearts on the true meaning of Advent. Invite the catechists to introduce themselves if they do not know the others at their table.
• Begin with Opening Prayer Service.
• Invite the catechists to use the paper and pens on their tables to write a quick list of all their activities and plans between this evening and Christmas Day. After about 5 minutes, ask them to look over their lists and circle the items that focus on spiritual preparations for Christmas. Then have them compare their lists with the other catechists at their table. Ask them to discuss what the list says about the importance of Advent in their lives. Explain that the lists are not intended to make them feel guilty about their observance of Advent. Rather, it gives them a concrete example of where their priorities are right now. Have them set the lists aside for use later in the session.

Part 2 (25 minutes)

Use the information below to share a brief presentation on the history and meaning of Advent using the four bullet points below.
• Briefly explain to the group that at Christmas we celebrate the three comings of Christ: in history, in mystery, and in majesty.
• Recall that the first coming of Jesus was his birth in Bethlehem. Jesus truly lived and walked among the people of his time. We recall and give thanks for the historical event of his Incarnation—God’s Son becoming man—fully human and fully divine. Read aloud Saint Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-14). Emphasize that Advent is a time to reflect on the gift of Jesus who came to save all people from the darkness of sin and death.
• Focus on the second coming of Christ—the mystery of his presence among us in our daily lives, in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and in our Church. We celebrate this mystery although we do not fully understand it. We recall that Jesus told us, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We live our belief in this mystery by working to build the kingdom of God through our words and actions toward others.
• Remind the catechists that during Advent, we also prepare for Christ’s return to us in majesty. Christ promised to return to us in glory to announce that God’s promised kingdom of perfect peace, love, and justice has been fulfilled. The time of this third coming of Christ is known only to God, but as followers of Jesus, we are called to be ready for his return in majesty. Read aloud Matthew 24:42-44. Explain that during Advent, we prepare for Jesus’ final coming by living according to his teachings and example and working to bring greater peace, love, and justice into our homes, classrooms, and community.

Following the presentation, allow for a period of silent reflection. Play soft background music as the catechists think about the meaning of Christ’s three comings in their lives.

• Assign one of the three comings of Christ to each table. If you have more than three tables, simply continue rotating the assignments until every table has one of the topics. Invite each group to work together to write a prayer, related to their assigned topic, expressing their faith, hope, love, or gratitude for Christ’s coming to us. Allow 10 minutes for the groups to complete their prayers and assign a group reader. Ask them to set the prayers aside for the closing prayer.

Break (15 minutes)

Part 3 (30 Minutes)

• Distribute large sheets of aluminum foil to each catechist. Invite each of them to make a foil symbol which reflects the meaning of Advent for them. These “sculptures” might reflect one of the three comings we prepare to celebrate on Christmas or an original idea which reflects on the meaning of Advent.
• After 10-15 minutes, invite volunteers to share their sculptures with the group. As an alternative, encourage the catechists to talk about their sculptures with their tablemates. Encourage the catechists to bring their foil sculptures to their next class session to share with their students as they discuss Advent. Point out that this activity works well with students off all ages, although younger children may need specifics about what to sculpt—a star, a wreath, an empty manger for the infant Jesus, and so forth.
• Encourage everyone to again look at the lists they created at the beginning of the session. Ask them what they will do to find more time to spiritually prepare for Christmas. Emphasize how easy it is to get caught up in the “secular” aspects of preparing for the holidays. Give them a few moments to think quietly about what specific thing or things they will do during the coming weeks to “keep” Advent.
• Invite everyone to use the half-sheets of unlined paper on each table to write their Advent commitments. Explain to the group that these promises are private and that you will not ask them to share them with the group.
• Before closing with prayer, thank the catechists for attending this evening of reflection. Express your hope that they will grow closer to the Lord during the Advent season.
• Call the group to prayer, saying, “Lord, open our minds and hearts to spending time readying ourselves for Christmas and to your coming to us in history, in mystery, and majesty. Let us pray…”
• Invite the reader from each table group to read aloud the prayer they wrote, one table at a time. After each prayer is read, invite all to proclaim, “Until You Come in Glory, Lord!” Then ask the catechists to come forward, one table at a time, to place their Advent commitments on the prayer table, around the wreath.
• Conclude by again singing together several verses of the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”


Celebrating and Proclaiming the Word of God

The theme for Catechetical Sunday and the entire 2008-2009 catechetical year, The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church, is also the theme chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for the Synod of Bishops that will take place from October 5-26 this year. Just as bishops from all over the world, chosen to represent their local conferences, will gather to study, pray, and discuss the role of Sacred Scripture, catechists are invited to spend this year reflecting on the importance of the Scriptures in our personal lives and our relationship with Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh. We are also called to renew our commitment to proclaiming God’s Word to our students. Our mission is to help those we teach to grow in their knowledge and love of God’s Word.

One of our joys as catechists is to open the Scriptures to our students and help them to appreciate what a wonderful treasure the Bible is. Here are some ideas for helping students develop a life-long love for God’s Word.

Enthrone the Bible
Highlight the centrality of the Scripture in our lives by giving the Bible a special place on your classroom prayer table. Drape a seasonally-colored cloth over the table and place a Bible stand in the center. If you do not have a Bible stand, place a book underneath the cloth to elevate the Word. Set a candle next to the Bible and complete the display by using a wide ribbon in a seasonal color as a bookmark.

Enthrone the Bible by having students process in line from outside the classroom to the prayer table, with one student carrying the Scriptures on high. Have the children sing together an Alleluia verse or some other appropriate song. After the Bible has been placed on the table, encourage the students to show reverence for God’s Word by tracing the Sign of the Cross on the open Bible, bowing before it, or touching it reverently with their hand. Each week, as you prepare to read from the Scriptures, begin with an invocation of praise and thanksgiving, such as, “We thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Word!”

Teaching Students to Use the Bible
Even students as young as third grade can learn to navigate their way through the Scriptures. Pair the students up and give each pair a Bible. Turn to the Contents page and point out the two main parts: the Old and New Testaments. Have them count the number of books in each section. Ask them to locate the first page in Genesis and read the first passage aloud. Do the same with the first passage in Matthew. Point out and explain the significance of the chapter and verse numbers. Then have the partners work together to find specific Scriptural passages you list on the board. It will be slow going at first, but once the students “get it” they will feel a real sense of accomplishment. During subsequent classes, have students locate the Scripture you are studying each week in their classroom Bibles.

Acting Out the Scriptures
Dramatizing a Scripture story often helps students to better understand its meaning. This is most effective when the story involves multiple characters: the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37); the Coming of the Spirit (Acts 2:1-13); or the Calming of the Storm at Sea (Mark 4:35-41). After sharing and discussing the story, work with the class to prepare a play. Older students can do this on their own, working in groups. Have props on hand to bring the story to life: a few old robes; costume beards; and objects mentioned in the passage. The students will enjoy performing their plays for one another, but for very special occasions, arrange for them to share their dramatizations with another class or during a prayer service with parents in attendance.

Praying with the Scriptures
Choose a relevant verse from your weekly Scripture story to proclaim in prayer with the class. Have the students repeat the passage as a refrain during a Prayer of the Faithful. Invite students to work in groups to study the Psalms and find an appropriate passage that mirrors your lesson theme (God’s love, faithfulness, presence, forgiveness, greatness, and so forth). Praying with the Scriptures helps students to recognize that God continues to speak to us today.


How do Children Learn?

Many Gifts, One Lord
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord.

1 Corinthians 12:4-5

How do you prefer to learn new things? Do you like to attend a lecture or watch one on TV? Do you like to read novels or see movies and reflect on the life messages they hold? When you cook, do you follow a recipe or learn through trial and error? Do you just want the facts, or do you like open-ended questions with lots of possibilities? The way in which you answer these questions tells a lot about how you prefer to learn and express yourself. You may prefer to learn by listening, by seeing, by imagining, or by doing. Children, as well, have preferred learning styles.

But there is another way to think about learning. Learning preferences may reflect only our “comfort zones.” According to the popular theory of the well-known educator, Howard Gardner, each of us is born with at least eight different ways of processing and responding to new information that he calls “multiple intelligences.” We might think of them, as one write has done, as eight different ways of being smart. All of us possess each of these kinds of “smart” in one degree or another. The particular combination of these intelligences that we have is one of the things that make each of us unique. One or several of these intelligences is probably dominant is each of us.

Some children learn and express their ideas through words, others by thinking things out or putting them in categories, and still others learn by using their bodies. Some learn and express themselves best when things are presented in a musical or rhythmic way. Some are best at writing and quiet, self-directed activities, others at group activities or sharing. Still others learn best through their contact with nature, through field trips, or by nurturing plants and animals.

In religious formation, as in classroom education, attention to the variety of gifts among the children will help them grow in an understanding of their faith and deepen their relationship with God. Good curriculum offers you many different strategies to honor the gifts that already exist in your learners and to encourage them to express themselves in new ways. Here are some activities related to the eight intelligences that support the different ways that children can learn about their faith and express their relationship with God and one another.

Language – and Music – Related Activities
• Researching word meanings
• Word games and puzzles
• Reading and Bible search activities
• Storytelling and journal writing
• Learning hymns and Mass responses
• Writing prayers or songs
• Using background music for activities

Object – Related Activities
• Learning “how many?” of different categories: sacraments, Apostles, and so on
• Celebrating the liturgical seasons of the Church
• “You are there” activities placing oneself in the action of the Bible story
• Using maps and models
• Graphic organizers to display information visually
• Posters and “designing” activities
• Crafts and classroom dramas
• Using gestures with songs and prayers
• Expressing response through dance
• Nurturing plants and animals
• Creating gardens or nature areas on school grounds

Person –Related Activities
• Cooperative-group learning activities
• Peer tutoring and sharing
• Teaching other students
• Games and simulations
• Quiet prayer times
• Writing and drawing in journals
• Creating autobiographies
• Self-assessment activities

For Reflection
What kinds of activities did you enjoy most as a child?

What kinds of activities are you most comfortable leading? What is a new kind of activity you would be willing to try with the children?


The Learning Environment

Creating an Inviting Environment
Create an environment that is inviting but also oriented. Use pictures, posters, flowers, banners, and plants to make the room visually appealing. Arrange the room so that you can be accessible to every child. Such a setting helps to facilitate interaction.

Put chairs in a circle. A circle allows children to see one another, puts each learner on an equal footing, and helps create a sense of community. You as the catechist are part of the circle.

Arrange separate areas for specific tasks. Areas for prayer and for discovery or for show-and-tell table, as well as large group activities are desirable.

Use a variety of visual materials. Bulletin boards, posters, and paintings, engage learners. A bulletin board that has been set aside for the children’s work helps them feel that the room belongs to them and permits the sharing of their work.

Review safety and fire codes. Review building-specific plans with the children in the beginning of the year and occasionally throughout the year.

Create an Emotionally Positive Environment
Through your example, show the children how you expect them to behave. Show reverence and respect for each child in the group. Be sensitive to the children’s feelings as well as their ideas.

Build a warm welcoming spirit. Show by your actions and expression that you are happy to be with the children. Call the children by name and welcome them warmly to each session. Let them know that you expect them to do their best and that you will do your best.

Encourage the children to praise one another. Model behavior that supports being kind and caring. Celebrate birthdays and name days. Send home special notes to children who miss a session.

Allow the children to share their concerns. Respect their need for privacy but help them to realize that, during the session, it is safe to share. Discuss events that are part of the parish community, too.

Give the children ownership. Invite them to help with tasks such as taking attendance, assisting with prayer, distributing materials, and watering plants.

Create a Safe and Disciplined Environment
Live by session rules. Begin the year by talking with the children about your expectations. Next explain that to attain these goals the group will need to follow certain rules. Together with the children, create rules based on mutual respect and personal responsibility. Write the rules on a large poster and refer to them often. Try to keep the rules general and have as few as possible. Be sure to communicate to parents the rules that you have established for the group sessions.

Make safety a priority. Be sure to arrive before the children to inspect the room. Do not leave them unattended. As you greet the children before the session, take note of any injuries or other health problems that may require special attention on your part. Do not depart the facility until all the children have been picked up by a parent or guardian.

Provide consistent routines. The ways in which you welcome the children, begin the sessions, and take attendance, as well as the other ongoing tasks, provide repetition and a safe, comfortable structure for them.

Model desired behavior. If you expect the young people to act in a certain way, model that behavior for them. Make ample use of praise. A nod or a smile can do wonders!

Expect attention. Wait until you have the attention of every learner before you speak. Don’t attempt to speak over the children’s chatter.

Do low-profile intervention. Be careful that a child is not rewarded for misbehavior by becoming the focus of attention. If possible, approach a misbehaving learner inconspicuously, giving a quiet reminder of your expectations. If disturbances continue, enlist the help of the director or coordinator of religious education and the child’s parents or guardians.

Give direct instructions. Begin by telling the children what will be happening during the session. Outline verbally and on the chalkboard what they will be doing. If you wish, explain that there will be time at the end to chat with friends.

Monitor the group. Circulate around the room, giving your attention to each learner. Observe how each one is doing and offer help as needed. Again, use a quiet voice as you give your personal attention to each child.


“Let’s Get Fired Up! Swap and Share” Workshop—A Workshop for Catechists and Religion Teachers

Session Plan (2 hours)

Theme: This workshop provides an opportunity for catechists/religion teachers to exchange with their peers creative ideas, tips, and activities that have helped them to be successful in sharing faith in the classroom.

Note: If both a parish religious education program and a Catholic school are part of the total parish catechetical effort, the “Swap and Share” workshop can serve as an opportunity to build community between the two groups. Schedule the workshop at a time when both groups can attend—in the evening or on a Saturday morning. Both Catholic school teachers and parish catechists may be able to obtain credits for certification for participating in the session. This is often an incentive for both catechists and school religion teachers to attend. Check with your diocesan office about how to arrange for participants to earn credit for this session.

Preparation Checklist:
Plan to schedule this workshop mid-year so that both veteran and new catechists can participate fully.
Two to three months before the workshop, complete the attached “Save the Date” flyer and distribute it to all catechists/religion teachers. The flyer alerts them to the specifics of the workshop and encourages them to begin preparing for it by thinking of a creative idea or tip they can share with others in areas such as arts and crafts, prayer, learning games, music, teaching doctrine, sharing Scripture, or seasonal activities.
Make a poster advertising the workshop and post it prominently in the religious education center or faculty lounge. In your weekly memos to the catechists/religion teachers, remind them of the upcoming workshop and encourage them to prepare by choosing an idea, activity, or tip for teaching religion that they want to share with others.
One month prior to the workshop, complete the attached Invitation flyer and distribute it to all catechists/religion teachers. The invitation gives specific information about the workshop and tells the participants how to prepare for the event. Note that the flyer instructs the staff to write out a description of their creative idea and to bring two copies of it to the workshop.
Some of the catechists/religion teachers may want to share more than one activity or tip at the workshop. In these cases, ask that the ideas they submit be in different areas of catechesis. Assure that in their eagerness to contribute they do not monopolize the session. Keep in mind that everyone on staff should have an opportunity to share ideas with the group.
Select experienced catechists/religion teachers to facilitate each of the three groupings of catechists/religion teachers (primary, intermediate, and junior high). Explain that their main role is to keep their group on task and to give all the participants in their group an opportunity to contribute ideas. Prior to the workshop, meet with the facilitators to go over the process for the session.
Arrange for two or three parent volunteers or junior high students to help throughout the workshop. They can assist in setting up the room, stocking the refreshment table, and duplicating the packet of ideas each participant will take home at the conclusion of the workshop.
If you have a very small staff, consider inviting the catechetical leader of a neighboring parish/school to join you in sponsoring the workshop. Having more participants will generate more ideas and activities for the catechists/religion teachers to share.

Set Up
Use a large, open room for the workshop. Arrange the tables and chairs into three groupings: one for primary grade catechist/religion teachers (K-grade 3); one for intermediate grade catechists/religion teachers (grades 4-6); and a third for junior high catechists/religion teachers (grades 7-8).
Create an attractive prayer area at the front of the room using colors and objects that reflect the appropriate season of the Church year.
Set aside an area for refreshments. Plan to serve food and beverages suitable to the time of day/evening when the workshop is being held.
Create an “Idea Wall” in the workshop area. Prepare three signs: Primary, Intermediate, and Junior High. Tape the signs on a long blank wall before the workshop begins. Leave enough space between each sign to tape the participants’ written instructions/descriptions for the activities and tips they bring to the workshop. During the workshop, direct your volunteers to photocopy the pages so that each participant will receive a packet for their level (primary, intermediate, and junior high) at the conclusion of the session.

Workshop Materials
• nametags
• tables and chairs
• masking tape
• refreshments
• a Bible
• a cassette or DVD of instrumental background music
• a DVD or tape player
• a copy of the Closing Prayer for each participant
• a large, lighted candle, placed on the prayer table
• small individual candles for each participant, placed on the prayer

Part 1 (10 minutes)
• Greet the catechist/religion teachers as they arrive. Have them sign in and make nametags for themselves.
• Begin on time. Direct the participants to be seated in their grade level area (primary, intermediate or junior high). If you have a large staff, you will want to have several tables to accommodate each level.
• Welcome all participants and thank them for attending. Ask if they are all ready to get “fired up” with new tips and activities to energize their classes. Express your hope that the workshop will be an opportunity for creative sharing and community building.
• Pray. Remind the group that the Holy Spirit has long been the inspiration of the Church. The Bible was written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guided the first Apostles and the first Christians in sharing the Good News and spreading the Gospel throughout the world. Today, the Holy Spirit guides us as we explain the teachings of the Catholic Church and help our students to celebrate their faith and live it in their daily lives. Encourage the catechists/religion teachers to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit as they listen and learn from one another’s ideas during the workshop. Together, pray aloud the Prayer to the Holy Spirit (found in the Catholic Prayers and Practices section of the Faith First Legacy Catechist/Teacher Guide). If the participants do not know this prayer by heart, pray it as an echo prayer, reciting one phrase at a time and inviting the group to repeat each phrase.

Part 2 (45 minutes)
• Explain the Process. Begin by explaining that all participants will leave with a packet of one another’s ideas to take home. Collect the extra copy of instructions or descriptions of the activity, tip, or project the participants have brought with them. Have your volunteers post these in the appropriate area on the Idea Wall as the groups begin sharing their ideas.
• Group Sharing. Have the facilitators invite volunteers to begin to share their ideas with the group. If the group is initially reluctant to share, facilitators can offer the first idea to get the ball rolling. After each activity or tip is offered, facilitators can stimulate discussion by making positive comments about it and inviting group members to do the same or by offering suggestions for adapting the ideas and tips for different grade levels. The facilitators should make every effort to give each participant an opportunity to contribute. Samples of completed arts and crafts projects can be displayed on the grade level tables for participants to examine during the break.
• Play a DVD or tape of instrumental music as background during the group sharing.
• Watch the clock. After approximately forty-five minutes, invite the participants to break for refreshments, to mingle, and to peruse the ideas posted on the Idea Wall. Before the break, assure those who have not yet shared that they will have the opportunity to do so after refreshments.

Break (15 minutes)

Part 3 (45 minutes)

• Ask the participants to return to their grade level groups to continue sharing their activities and tips. Allow 30 minutes for each group to finish up. While the groups are sharing, have volunteers duplicate the participant’s written idea sheets and create a packet for each catechist/religion teacher to take home.
• Call the entire group back together. Invite a few of the participants to share briefly with the large group an idea they heard that they are eager to try with their class. Point out the creativity and energy to share our faith that you have observed throughout the session.
• Conclude by praying together the closing prayer service (attached). As the participants depart, have them collect their idea packets. Thank everyone for participating. Encourage the catechists/religion teachers to continue to share their successful tips, ideas, and activities with one another throughout the year.


Jump Starting the Year

Organization is one of the key elements in becoming a successful catechist. When we are organized, it helps us to feel more in control and enables us to focus on what we have been called to do: share our Catholic faith with children. Here are three tips to help you get organized.

1. Plan Your Space
Whether your “classroom” is a partitioned section of a large hall, the family room of your home, or a traditional space with desks, chairs, and chalkboards, take time to consider how you can best utilize the area. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Where will I have the children sit as we work in our texts?
• Where will we pray?
• Where will the class gather to work together on arts and crafts projects?

Ideally, you should have enough space for the children to sit on chairs or the floor for the formal part of a lesson; an area they can gather around, sitting or standing, for prayer, and an easily-cleared space for projects—with furniture and flooring that can be wiped clean in case of spills. If you don’t have the space for movement between these areas, keeping in mind that even the smallest change of venue helps to keep the children alert, plan how you can adapt the area during class—by sliding tables or chairs against the wall or shifting quickly to a nearby room more suited to your next activity.

2. Prepare a Prayer Area
If there is an empty desk or tabletop in your space, you’re all set. All you’ll need to do is add religious symbols appropriate to your chapter theme and the season. If you don’t have a flat space suitable for a prayer table, you’ll need to be a bit more inventive. A portable TV tray is perfect for creating an instant prayer area—it’s lightweight, folds easily, and can be stored in a corner of a cloak room or closet.

Basic items for the prayer table include a Bible, a crucifix, a candle (lighted or not, depending on fire regulations), and a fabric cloth in seasonal or liturgical colors. Add and delete objects or symbols as appropriate throughout the year that relate to your lessons—a bowl of water if Baptism is your theme, a loaf of bread for a lesson on Eucharist, a paper scroll inscribed with the Ten Commandments if you are teaching morality. Some catechists prefer to have the prayer table completely set up before the children arrive for class each week, while others find that children are more responsive if they have the opportunity to take turns “setting” the table each week with the symbols you provide.

3. Pack Your Tool Kit
Your catechetical leader will usually provide a supply box stocked with many of the basic items you’ll need for class sessions: pencils, crayons or markers, lined paper, masking tape, a stapler and staples, and chalk and an eraser. You will need to request specific items for different projects called for in your lesson plan—things like construction paper, index cards, yarn, watercolors and brushes, a video, music tape or CD, and so forth.

However, you will also need your own “tool kit” to transport back and forth from your teaching space to your home. You might prefer a large canvas tote bag, but a plastic milk crate or banker’s box with handles works just as well. Keep the resources you need each week in the kit—your Catechist Guide, a folder with your class list, family contact information, any important forms or policies regarding teaching in your parish, a notepad, and several pens. From week to week, you can add specific items called for in your lesson plan—magazines to make a collage, for example, and your prayer table supplies. You may also want to include a few “goodies” in your kit—colorful stickers, prayer cards, a bag of sugarless candy, a pad of post-it notes, and other items you want to have on hand. Keep your kit in a specific place, so you’ll always know where it is. That way, on class day, you’ll be “good to go!


Seeing with Eyes of Faith:
A Lenten Evening of Reflection for Catechists

Session Plan (approximately 2 hours)
This session is designed to give the catechetical staff the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of Baptism in their lives.

Materials Needed:
• Nametags and markers
• Newsprint, poster board, and markers
• A Bible for each table
• Prepare an envelope for each table. Enclose in the envelope a slip of paper on which you have printed one of the following Scripture citations: John 4:5-42; John 9:1-41; and John 11: 1-45. If you expect to have more than three tables of catechists in attendance, prepare duplicates envelopes so that the three readings are distributed evenly among the participants.
• Stationary, an envelope and a pen, one each for each participant

Preparation:
• Invitations. Create an invitation to send to each member of the catechetical staff encouraging them to attend the evening of reflection. Include in the invitation the time, date, and location of the event. Ask catechists to RSVP by a specific date so that session materials can be prepared for all participants.
• Publicity. Continue to build interest in the event through the parish bulletin and your weekly communications with catechists.
• Location. Reserve a space large enough to accommodate all participants.
• Room Arrangement. Plan for participants to be seated at tables for the session.
• Prayer Center. Place a prayer table in the center of the meeting space. Cover the table with a purple cloth. Place the following items on the table: a large Bible on a Bible stand, a glass bowl of blessed water and a pillar candle.
• Refreshments. Ask a committee of parents to prepare snacks and beverages for the evening.
• Prepare for the Prayer Services. Choose Scriptures readers for the Opening and Closing Prayers.

Part 1 (45 minutes)
Arrival. As the catechists gather, have them sign-in and make nametags for themselves. Invite them to help themselves to refreshments and to sit at a table of their choice.
Welcome. Greet the participants. Express your hope that this evening will help each of them to enrich their Lenten experience as they prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on Easter.
Pray. Light the candle on the prayer table. Use the prayer service below to lead the catechists in praying together.

Leader: Let us remember that Jesus promised that whenever we gather in his name, he is in our midst. With this in mind, we begin with the Sign of the Cross.
All: Sign themselves.
Leader: Loving Father, you called us by name in Baptism. Help us to grow in wisdom and love through our reflection this evening and become even more committed to professing our faith in you. Grant this through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
All: Amen.

Reader: A Reading from the Book of Ezekiel. Proclaim Ezekiel. 36: 25-28 and conclude by saying, “The Word of the Lord.”
All: Thanks be to God.

Leader: Invite all to come to the prayer table and to sign themselves with the blessed water as a reminder of their Baptism.

All: Conclude by praying together the Glory Be.

Shared Discussion. Invite the participants to share with the catechists at their table a story about their own Baptism or a memory of a Baptism that has special significance for them. Ask them to make note of common themes related to Baptism that emerge as they share their stories. After approximately 15 minutes, call the group back together. Ask one person from each table to share the themes that surfaced during the discussion.

Presentation. Briefly make the following points with the group:
• Although each of us has a different Baptism story to share, we are made one through this, the first Sacrament of Initiation. Baptism is the beginning of our life-long journey of faith
• Through the waters of Baptism, we are given new life as adopted children of God, become members of the Church and share in the priesthood of Christ.
• During Lent, we journey with the RCIA catechumens, called “the elect” after the Rite of Election which ordinarily takes place on the first Sunday of Lent at the diocesan cathedral church. Because we are baptized members of the Church community, we are called to be models for the elect by demonstrating through our words and example what it means to be a committed follower of Jesus and a member of the Church community. If you have an RCIA process in your parish, mention the number of people preparing for full initiation into the Church community.
• In turn, the elect are a source of inspiration to us, the parish community. As we encourage them in faith and observe their desire to give their lives to Christ and his Church, we are called to renew our relationship with the Lord and to reflect on how we are living out our Baptism in our daily lives. We are invited to conversion—to see our lives and the world with eyes of faith and allow the Lord to renew our hearts.
• Invite the catechists to spend a few moments silently reflecting on the meaning of their Baptism in their daily lives. Play background music during this brief reflection period. Afterwards, invite sharing.

Break (10-15 minutes)

Part 2 (45 minutes)

Scripture Reflection. When the participants have reassembled at their tables, invite them to open the envelope containing their assigned Scripture story citation. Have them choose a reader to proclaim the Scripture and then to discuss the meaning of the story. Note: The three Scripture stories are taken from the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent Year A. Parishes who have active RCIA programs use the Year A readings on these three weeks of Lent every year.

Scripture Activity. Ask each group to choose an effective way of presenting the theme and meaning of their reading. Tell them that they may chose to do a re-enactment, a role play, make a poster or banner, create a PowerPoint presentation, write new lyrics to a familiar tune, and so forth. Provide supplies as needed.

After approximately ten minutes, invite each table to present their interpretation of their Scripture story to the large group.

Summarize by reminding the catechists that the three readings focus on three important Baptismal images: water (John 4:5-42); light (John 9:1-41); and life (John 11: 1-45). Invite volunteers to suggest how these images encourage us to see with eyes of faith and a new heart.

Letter Writing. Ask each catechist to consider how they will recommit themselves to seeing with eyes of faith during this season of Lent. Distribute the stationary, pens, and envelopes to each table. Invite everyone to write personal letters to themselves expressing their plan for living out their baptismal vocation to prepare for Easter.

When finished, have all participants seal the envelopes and self-address them. Collect the envelopes. Mail the commitment letters to the catechists during the first week of the Easter Season.

Closing Prayer. (see Closing Ritual Lenten Prayer pdf)
Call to Prayer

Leader: Let us begin by remembering our baptism as we pray together the Sign of the Cross.
All: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Leader: Loving God, through the waters of baptism you gave us a special vocation.
In his first epistle to the early Christians, St. Peter described our rights and responsibilities as baptized followers of Christ.

Reader: A reading from the first letter of Peter
Proclaim 1 Peter 2: 9-10. Conclude by saying, “The Word of the Lord.”

All: Thanks be to God

Ritual Action: Laying on of Hands

Leader: An ancient tradition of our faith has been to confer a blessing while laying hands on someone’s head. I invite each of you to come forward to receive a blessing. I will place my hands on your head as a sign of blessing and that all in attendance here are holding you in prayer in a special way as we journey through Lent together. We will pray silently together, asking for God’s blessing and conclude by saying, “Amen.” (NOTE: If the group is small enough, the catechetical leader can bless each person individually. However, if you have a large catechetical staff, enlist grade level leaders, master catechists, or a designated catechist from each table to perform the ritual).

Play reflective instrumental music throughout this ritual and allow for a period of silent prayer once everyone has been blessed.

Sending Forth

Leader: God our Father, you have touched us with your love, embracing us as your own in the sacrament of Baptism. May we, in turn, touch others with the gift of your love. As we journey through Lent, help us to see you anew with eyes of faith. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Leader: Let us pray together the prayer that Jesus taught.

All: Our Father…

Extending the Session
• Have participants each decorate a white pillar candle for their classroom prayer space or for use at home. Provide the candle, keeping in mind that purchasing in bulk will significantly reduce the cost. Also supply Sharpie markers, religious stickers, craft “gems” or decorative brads. If you choose this option, have the participants create their candles after the Scripture presentations.

• As an alternative, invite the participants to create white ribbon bookmarks as a reminder of the white garment they were given on the day of their baptism.
Purchase spools of 3” wide quality white ribbon and allow for up to 12” in length for each bookmark. The catechists will also need fabric markers. Encourage participants to decorate the ribbon with personal symbols of faith and baptism. They may want to include their name and the date of their baptism. Encourage the participants to use the completed bookmarks in their classroom or personal Bibles.

Suggestions for Background Music
• River of Glory (OCP)
• Come to the Water (traditional)
• Come to the River (OCP)
• We Belong to You (OCP)
• Baptized in Water (GIA)

CLOSING RITUAL LENTEN PRAYER

CALL TO PRAYER

Leader: Let us begin by remembering our baptism as we pray together the Sign of the Cross.

All: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Leader: Loving God, through the waters of baptism you gave us a special vocation. In his first epistle to the early Christians, St. Peter described our rights and responsibilities as baptized followers of Christ.

Reader: A reading from the first letter of Peter
Proclaim 1 Peter 2: 9-10
The Word of the Lord.

All: Thanks be to God

RITUAL ACTION: LAYING ON OF HANDS

Leader: An ancient tradition of our faith has been to confer a blessing while laying hands on someone’s head. I invite each of you to come forward to receive a blessing. I will place my hands on your head as a sign of blessing and that all in attendance here are holding you in prayer in a special way as we journey through Lent together. We will pray silently together, asking for God’s blessing and conclude by saying, “Amen.”

SENDING FORTH

Leader: God our Father, you have touched us with your love, embracing us as your own in the sacrament of Baptism. May we, in turn, touch others with the gift of your love. As we journey through Lent, help us to see you anew with eyes of faith. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Leader: Let us pray together the prayer that Jesus taught.

All: Our Father…


Getting to Know You: Building Community in the Classroom

As Jesus began his public ministry, he gathered together a diverse group of disciples. He spent time with the disciples, traveling with them and sharing meals together, teaching them to pray, and more fully explaining his teachings so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they could continue his work in the world after he returned to the Father. In short, he formed the disciples into a community of believers, ready to share with others the Good News he shared with them.

You, too, have a diverse group of “disciples” who have been entrusted to you for this catechetical year. Your goal goes well beyond merely finishing your textbook. In addition to sharing the truths of the Catholic faith with the children and helping them to apply what they learn to their daily lives, you are called to create a classroom community that in a sense is a microcosm of the Church—the Body of Christ and the new People of God called together in Jesus’ name.

Building community begins with helping the children get to know one another and, hopefully, eventually leading them to respect one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. This doesn’t happen overnight. Try a few of the ideas below to begin forming your class into a community of disciples.
• Prepare an information sheet for each child to complete during the first few weeks of class. If you work with primary-aged children, create a form that can be taken home and completed with a parent’s help. Older children can fill in the information on their own. In addition to biographical data, provide space for the children to indicate their interests and opinions, such as what they like to do on a day off from school; something they are proud of; two things they want their classmates to know about them, what they want to be when they grow up, and a lists of favorites—foods, movies, TV shows, and so forth. Over the next several weeks, take time to discuss different items on the questionnaire. It will help the children begin to recognize all they have in common and to learn a bit about one another.
• Have the children work in small groups frequently throughout the year. Working with three to five peers on a common goal helps the learners to recognize the many gifts and talents they each have to offer to the community.
• Begin class with ice-breakers for the first several sessions. A perennial favorite is “Ball of Yarn.” Before class, roll a long skein of yarn into a ball and also prepare a list of “quick response” questions (places I have visited, favorite holiday, most cherished possession, family pet and name, favorite hobby, etc.). Gather the class into a large circle and, holding the end of the yarn string, call out one of the questions, toss the yarn ball to one of the children. The child should catch the ball, respond, and toss it to another classmate, while still holding on to the string. Repeat this procedure several times until the yarn ball has been tossed around the group, several times. At this point, the children will be holding several different parts of the string ball. Have the group look at the design they’ve created with the string and identify what it says about your class. The ideal answer would be “We’re all connected!” However, accept any answer that helps the children recognize they are a group with a common purpose. This game often gets a bit rowdy, so make sure you play it in a large, uncluttered area.
• Honor a different “child of the week” throughout the year. Create a poster displaying the child’s name and picture and invite the learners to affirm their classmate by naming qualities that make the person special. Have one of the children write the qualities the group suggests on the poster. Conclude this activity working with the group to use the qualities they named to write a petition about the child. For example: “Lord, we thank you for Makenna, who tries to be a friend to everyone.” After each child has been honored, assemble the petitions into a class litany. Have the children respond, “We are the Body of Christ, Lord, called to love and serve one another” to each petition.” Pray your class litany aloud together often.

Keep in mind that building community is an on-going endeavor. Continue to find creative ways to help the children interact with one another throughout the entire year and to provide them with opportunities to live their faith by demonstrating caring and respect for one another.


 

Teaching the Saints

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults explains that a saint is a “person who, after having lived a life of virtue, dies in the state of grace and has been granted the reward of eternal life by God. The saints enjoy the beatific vision and unceasingly intercede for those still in earthly life. They also serve as a model and inspiration to us” (AC Appendix A. Glossary). The lives of the saints show us what it means to love God and others, to put our beliefs into practice, and to demonstrate our concern for others.

The saints are a light for us on our journey of faith because they lived their faith in concrete ways. The saints come from all walks of life and from every racial, social, and economic group. What they share in common is their desire to respond to God’s call. Teaching about the saints give students the opportunity to see how those who have gone before us in faith who lived out their baptismal calling in extraordinary ways. The example of the saints can motivate our students to express their faith in Jesus by acting with love, care, kindness, peace, and justice toward others.

Incorporate the saints into your weekly lessons in the following ways:

• Go to www.FaithFirst.com to locate saint stories to share with your students. Weekly profiles of saints can be found in the Kid’s Clubhouse (Grades K-3); the Kids Only Club (Grades 4-6); the Teen Center (Grades 7-8), Faith First for Families; and the Catechists and Teachers section.
• Purchase a book on the lives of the saints. Make sure that it is organized according to the calendar. Take time each week to read aloud a story from the book and help the students make the connection between the saint’s life and lived faith. Ask your catechetical leader to suggest an appropriate book for the grade level you teach. Better yet, let your catechetical leader know that a book on the lives of the saints would make a excellent Catechetical Sunday or end-of-the-year gift for each catechist!
• After sharing a saint story with your class, invite the students to suggest ways in which they can follow the saint’s example in their own lives.
• Choose a “Saint of the Month” to share with older students. Invite the students to use various saint reference books and the internet to research biographical information about the saint. Have the students write short reports or create skits highlighting some aspect of the saint’s life. You might also have the students work in groups to create a poster or bulletin board display on the saint.
• Over the course of the year, encourage the students to compile a booklet of saints they have “met” in your class. Give them time of a regular basis during your sessions to add to the booklet. The booklet pages might include a profile on the saint, a drawing that illustrates how the saint showed love for God and others, and a short prayer. At the end of the year, display the booklets in a public area of the parish so that others may benefit from your students’ work.
• Using resources suggested by your catechetical leader, explain the beatification and canonization process to older students. Invite them to visit the Vatican web site at www.vatican.va to learn about the holy men and women who have been beatified or canonized recently.
• Explain to your students that the Church teaches that everyone in heaven is considered a saint, whether or not they have been officially canonized. Remind them they we are all called to sainthood and that if we try our best to live as disciples of Jesus, we, too, will be welcomed into God’s kingdom and share everlasting life with the Communion of Saints in heaven.


 

Connecting with the Liturgical Year

Scripture proclaims: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:10). This passage has special meaning for Catholics because we prepare, remember, celebrate, and live “time” each year through the lens of the liturgical year, the annual cycle that celebrates the Paschal Mystery and God’s loving plan for the salvation of all people through Jesus Christ.

Teaching students about the seasons and celebrations of the liturgical year is an important responsibility for all catechists. We can do this in a variety of ways.

• Set aside one lesson each year to overview the liturgical year. With older students, display a poster that illustrates the Church year. With younger students, draw a circle on the chalkboard or a poster as you explain the major seasons and mark them on the circle. Point out that the major seasons of the year are Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, the Easter Triduum, and the Easter Season. Explain to older students that we celebrate two periods of Ordinary Time; the first after the Christmas Season, and the second after the Easter Season. Point out that the liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent. Work with the class to clarify what and how the Church celebrates during the different seasons.
• Visit the parish church with your class to point out signs and symbols of the Church year. For example, note the presence of the paschal candle and explain that a new paschal candle is lighted each year at the Easter Vigil. Take the children into the sacristy and show them the vestments worn by the priest. Work with them to match the colors of the vestments to the different Church seasons. As the year unfolds, remind the students of the signs and symbols you explored during your church visit.
• Throughout the liturgical year, decorate your classroom prayer space with colors and symbols that represent each season. During Advent, center your prayer around the Advent wreath; during Lent, make the crucifix the focus of prayer; during the Easter Season, pray with signs of new life—blessed water, eggs, flowers, and so forth.
• Incorporate the lectionary into your lessons throughout the Church year. Set aside time to read the Sunday Gospel and to discuss it with the class. Help the students make the connection between the Word of God, the Church season, and their lives.

Preparing for and celebrating the liturgical year is a joyful way of helping students experience God’s love and Christ’s presence throughout the year. As a catechist, capitalize on these opportunities to walk with the Lord!


 

Add a Dash of Creativity

In spite of our best intentions, sometimes we find that our class sessions have become predictable, following the exact same steps each week, in the same humdrum order. While children need a certain consistency to learn, they often respond more enthusiastically when we vary the routine and look for more inventive ways to approach a lesson. Use the ideas below to liven up your lessons plans.

Incorporate Group Work
Kids love working in groups. Extroverts enjoy the give and take and more introverted children often find it easier to contribute in a small group setting. Sadly, some catechists avoid group work because they worry that the increased noise level in the room will somehow reflect on their ability to “manage” the class. It’s true that group work is louder than having children work independently, but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost control. During group assignments, roam about the teaching space, checking in with each group frequently. That will keep the children on task and guarantee that the conversation is productive.

Experiment with a variety of groupings—pairs, threesomes, and small groups of three to five children for different activities. Children can complete a worksheet or textbook activity, write a group prayer, or read together a page in the textbook and find a creative way to present the three most important concepts on the page to the rest of the class. The latter idea is a terrific way to break the pattern of having children read aloud every word in a chapter. If the group somehow skips over a major teaching, you can always reinforce it by directing the class to the pertinent paragraph in the text and discussing it.

Try Something New
As catechists, we each have a certain comfort level. If we are unsure about how an activity will work with our class, we may avoid it. Fear of failure is a powerful force in convincing us to stick with the “tried and true.” However, variety will spice up your lesson plans and help you find different strategies to engage the children.
• Invite children to role-play how they can live a specific commandment, how a sacramental rite is celebrated, or how a child of their age might respond when faced with a moral choice.
• Introduce your class to different types of Church music throughout the year—familiar hymns they can sing together, instrumental songs for reflection, traditional seasonal songs, sung Mass responses, even Gregorian chant. Have a music selection that relates to your chapter theme playing to greet children as they arrive.
• Create word games or puzzles for the children to solve that preview or reinforce chapter concepts. Write the puzzle on the board or duplicate a copy for each student.
• Use a variety of prayer formats from week to week—traditional prayer, spontaneous prayer, meditation, responsorials, “echo” prayers in which the children repeat phrases after you, or alphabet prayers in which the children name things they are thankful for that begin with different letters of the alphabet. Encourage children to write and read aloud original psalms based on the chapter theme.

If an activity isn’t a roaring success, take heart. There’s always next week!


 



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