Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

Goodbye 6’ers. Hello 9’ers.

No, I’m not switching sports teams; but I am switching grades.  Due to some schedule changes going on at the parish for religious education, I will not be teaching 6th grade next year.  Instead, I’ll be moving up to 9th graders. To be honest, that’s somewhat intimidating to me.  I remember what high school was like and how certain students interacted with their teachers so I feel a bit anxious about it.  The good news is that I remember what high school was like so I least I can prepare a little bit for the experience.

Over the past year, I’ve been looking at a lot of resources on the internet gathering ideas on class setup and lesson structure.  Part of what I plan to do next year is to throw my students off their game a bit.  The grade’s primary curriculum will be an in depth look at the Mass.  This will be a topic that will lend itself to discussion, so I’m going to move the students away from the tables and have the chairs placed in an open circle in the center of the room.  My hope is that the proximity to me and the other students will make the discussions more lively and intimate.  It should set the tone that all must participate and it doesn’t give anyone a place to hide. A huge plus is that there will be no table there to help them hide their texting under and while that hasn’t been a huge problem in the past, with an older grade I wanted to eliminate the temptation. My CRE is also working on a way to incorporate Theology of the Body into the year.  My experience is that sex is on every teen’s (and tween’s) mind, but they are uncomfortable discussing the topic with any reliable source of information.  I suggested a student retreat as an option for covering some of the material.

Intimidation aside, I’m actually excited about the change.  The Mass is such a central part of how we express our faith that I think this has so much potential.  Additionally, I’m hoping the three year difference in age will make for more intelligent discussions as compared to what I was able to have with my 6th graders.  I’m pretty sure the students will keep me on my toes, so I ask for your prayers that the Holy Spirit wins out.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Wabbit Season or Duck Season?

Neither, but it sure does seem to be Webinar Season.

I have been lucky enough to have participated in two excellent webinars over the past couple of weeks that have really helped me to reconsider how I should engage in my ministry.

The first webinar was presented by Jonathan F. Sullivan, who is the Director of Catechetical Ministries for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.  The webinar was titled “Catechizing Digital Natives” and focused on the different ways that today’s kids process and learn information.  Below is the video recording of the webinar and here is a link to some of the resources discussed in the video.

The second webinar was presented by Joe Paprocki from Catechist’s Journey.com and Loyola Press.  Joe is well known among Catechists as not only an author of numerous books about being a Catechist, but also as an 8th Grade Catechist himself.  His webinar was titled “Growing as a Catechist: A Self-Evaluation Based on 7 Critical Tools from The Catechist’s Toolbox” and focused on how to reflect on our own ministries with the goal of tweaking our approach and preparation to add more impact when we catechize.

I found both of these webinars so valuable that I just had to share them with you.  As Catechists, sometimes we feel like we are left to our own devices and it’s nice to know that there are others out there who share their ideas with us.  It’s amazing when you find out that the problems you face in your classrooms and parishes are not as unique as you might think.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

On fire!!

Have you ever had one of those nights where you look back and think, “wow” or a night that you wish you could repeat every week?  For me, last night was one of those nights.

When I arrived at Church for Religious Education, my CRE asked if I would be willing to merge my class with another because we had a catechist out.  I figured “why not” and agreed to teach both classes.  Historically, having students that normally part of my class has been hit or miss, but I was going to make the best of it nonetheless.  The first question I get is, “Do you give homework” and I start doing a victory dance in my head.  I tell the student to ask my students that question and the standard response of “only if we don’t cooperate” puts them all in the palm of my hand.  The expectation is set and I see things looking up.  I probably shouldn’t be too joyful about using homework as a threat, but it makes things so much easier when we all understand each other.

We start class with a prayer, Come Holy Spirit, which was not only topical, but I’m convinced that prayer was answered last night.  Then my students ask if we can do the Three J’s.  For those that are not familiar with the Three J’s, it’s something that I picked up from In Between Sundays, a podcast that I frequently listen to.  It consists of sharing your Junk, Joy and Jesus Moment for the past week.  I had my students participate and made it optional for my guests.  I think my guest students were more into it then my own students!  It was a huge success last night and ended up being a great ice breaker.

Our formal topics last night were focused around the activities of the Apostles after the Resurrection.  We discussed Jesus’ first appearance in the Upper Room.  We discussed Doubting Thomas.  We discussed Pentecost and the effect the Holy Spirit had on the Apostles.  I spent time focusing on the before and after of the Apostles’ behavior, including the effects of some of the gifts they received on Pentecost.  Additionally, we discussed how we (and they) knew the Holy Spirit had arrived, namely wind and fire.

After spending some time on Pentecost, we moved on to the missionary activities of the early Church leaders.  We reviewed how they traveled and thier ministries in obedience to the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations.  We also connected this to Pentecost by discussing how those gifts they received from the Holy Spirit helped them be successful.  We spoke about the Conversion of St. Paul, and how appropriate since yesterday was the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.  We also discussed why we call St. Paul an Apostle even thought he was not a follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry.  To help drive that story home, I finished the segment by showing them an artist’s representation of that conversion moment on the road to Damascus.

We discussed what martyrdom was and why the Church believes that martyrs have a special place in heaven.  We spoke about the martyrdom of St. Peter and why he was crucified upside down.  Once again, I showed them an artist’s representation of his martyrdom to help drive that story home.

I ended the class by handing out the lyrics to “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister and played the song.  After listening to it, we discussed the lyrics and what the artist was trying to say through his song.  The references to the Holy Spirit and being sent on a mission are so strong in that song that I love tying it to this lesson.

I left class last night feeling like I myself was on fire!  Not only that, but my students, and I mean all of my students last night seemed fired up as well.  I can’t beleive how much I was able to cover in one hour; and to be honest, I felt like I actually got through to them as opposed to being rushed and lost.  I’m sure it was with a little help from above.  I truly hope that the Holy Spirit can come and kindle in us the fire of His love every week!!

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

The Game of Life

Hey!  You guys may not remember me.  I’m the Catechist that used to post on this blog.  It’s been how long?  Oh yeah, a month and a half.  I’m embarrassed by the fact that I haven’t posted in so long.  Life got a little bit crazy for me in December.  Work picked up as we neared the end of the year, plus Advent and Christmas time always get busy with things happening at the parish, preparing for time with family and buying gifts.  Additionally, it’s gotten only crazier in January.  Oh, before I forget … a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

So what’s been going on you might ask?  Besides all the things at work that would bore you, I’ve been busy working on Religious Education stuff.  My classes have been going well.  In my 6th Grade class, we’ve discussed wisdom, focusing on individuals like King Solomon.  I was able to use one of my favorite Old Testament stories (1 Kings 3:16-28) to show wisdom in action.  It was great to see their reactions as I read parts of the story and stopped for impressions.  We’ve also discussed some of the prophets that foretold of the coming of the Messiah, like Isaiah & Zechariah.  I think the differences of how the Messiah was described were a bit tough for them to grasp.  With those topics, we wrapped up the formal curriculum around the Old Testament.

This week, we moved into the New Testament, exploring parts of the Gospels in a little more detail.  We got to focus on one of my favorite New Testament stories, “The Boy Jesus in the Temple” (Luke 2:41-52).  Oddly enough, the prior week I got asked the question if Jesus knew he was God from the time he was born.  I referred to this passage to help express my opinion.  As we reviewed this story, I chose to focus on Luke 2:51.  We discussed the significance of the fact the Jesus was “obedient” to his parents.  I always find it such a powerful example that Jesus, who is God, was obedient to His human parents.

On top of my 6th Grade lessons, I had the opportunity to present at RCIA this past week.  My topic was “The Sacraments of Healing”.  As much as I felt comfortable with my knowledge around the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I still felt that this needed to be spot on, so I did a lot of work with the Catechism and some other resources to help make sure I got it right.  Additionally, I had never done much work around the Anointing of the Sick, so this gave me an opportunity to increase my own knowledge as well.  I felt very good about my presentation and our catechumen asked some insightful questions which was a signal to me that my presentation was giving him reason to think.

On top of that, I’m also working with my CRE and fellow catechists in developing a plan for our 6th Grade Retreat that will be happening in early February.  My CRE provided me the framework and I helped build out a more detailed discussion plan.  The theme of the retreat will be the Ten Commandments.  Lastly, I’ve been methodically working on my pastor to allow me to create a Facebook page for our parish.  After months of my pastor not having time to focus on it, we met today and he agreed that we needed to do it.  And just like in the business world, the person who has the idea gets the project.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very excited about doing this.  It will be a great opportunity to stay connected to parishioners beyond the Sunday Liturgy, but for it to be successful, it needs constant focus.  Please pray for me as I deal with whatever the game of life throws my way.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
16Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him:
17And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
18And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two.
19And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
20And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
22And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
23Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
24The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,
25Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof.
28And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
Luke 2:41-52 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
42And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
43And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
44And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
45And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.
48And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?
50And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.
52And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
Luke 2:51 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.

Here I come to save the day!!

Mighty MouseSuperheroes.  Who’s your favorite?  Maybe it’s Superman, or Batman, or Wonder Woman, or maybe it’s even the Green Lantern or the Flash.  Mine happens to be Mighty Mouse, for those of you who remember the little guy.  No matter which superhero is your favorite, they all have a couple of things in common … they use their gifts and talents to help people, and they all suffer in one way or another while doing their good deeds.

We focused on superheroes last night in class with the 6th graders.  We spoke about their favorite superheroes as well as some of their real-life heroes.  We discussed some of their qualities, like courage and love of their fellow man.  We spoke about the challenges that they each face and how difficult it truly is being a hero.

Then we transitioned to one of the great Old Testament heroes.  To quote the movie, it was “Moses, Moses, Moses.”  We reviewed Moses’ early days and how he came to leave Egypt, but we focused mostly on his calling.  We spoke about what it means to be called.  Each and every one of us is called to impact the world, albeit in different ways; but being called can be a scary thing.  Most times, you are being called to do something that you haven’t done before or that you think you just cannot do.  I know I’d be a bit scared if I saw a burning bush that was telling me to take off my shoes, because last I checked, bushes don’t speak.  We know that’s how Moses must have felt, among feeling other emotions.

What if Moses had said “No thanks, God, I’m not your guy so go with your backup plan”?  News flash – God doesn’t make backup plans.  We each have a purpose for being here, most likely more than one; but we all have a choice to fulfill that purpose or not.  If I had not accepted my call as a Catechist, then maybe some kids would not learn their faith as fully.  Sure there are other Catechists, but there is only one Catechist that does things “exactly” the way I do it (we are all unique, after all) and maybe my style impacts some students in a special way; or maybe this ministry is preparing me to help someone in the future who is struggling with their faith that would not otherwise be helped, or maybe I help set an example that will touch someone’s heart.  None of us truly know what our purpose is, but saying no to our calling will definitely have an impact that none of us will ever truly understand, sort of in the same way that saying yes will have an impact.  If Moses had said no, then who knows what might have happened to the Israelites.

Luckily, Moses said yes.  Afraid and unsure, but trusting in God, he went back to Egypt to demand that the Hebrews be freed per the command of God.  We discussed how God supported Moses’ words and reviewed the first 9 plagues.  Then we discussed the biggie – The Angel of Death, and why Passover and the Passover Seder have been and continue to be so important for the Jewish faith.

That was the perfect segue over to the Eucharist.  We all know the Last Supper occurred at the Passover Seder that year.  Just as the Jews celebrate and remember through a meal the saving power of God by His freeing them from Egypt, we too remember the saving power of God through Jesus through a meal.  Of course, there are differences between the two celebrations as well, but it was interesting to see some of the links.

So, whether it’s one of the Super Friends, Mighty Mouse, Moses, Jesus, or even your grandmother; heroes love, sacrifice, trust in good, help others and show people the way.

Next time, the class will discuss the rest of the Exodus and the Ten Commandments.  Until then, keep sharing the faith.

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
16Then there came two women that were harlots, to the king, and stood before him:
17And one of them said: I beseech thee, my lord, I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I was delivered of a child with her in the chamber.
18And the third day, after that I was delivered, she also was delivered, and we were together, and no other person with us in the house, only we two.
19And this woman's child died in the night: for in her sleep she overlaid him.
20And rising in the dead time of the night, she took my child from my side, while I thy handmaid was asleep, and laid it in her bosom: and laid her dead child in my bosom.
21And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but considering him more diligently when it was clear day, I found that it was not mine which I bore.
22And the other woman answered: It is not so as thou sayest, but thy child is dead, and mine is alive. On the contrary she said: Thou liest: for my child liveth, and thy child is dead. And in this manner they strove before the king.
23Then said the king: The one saith, My child is alive, and thy child is dead. And the other answereth: Nay, but thy child is dead, and mine liveth.
24The king therefore said: Bring me a sword. And when they had brought a sword before the king,
25Divide, said he, the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
26But the woman whose child was alive, said to the king, (for her bowels were moved upon her child,) I beseech thee, my lord, give her the child alive, and do not kill it. But the other said: Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
27The king answered, and said: Give the living child to this woman, and let it not be killed, for she is the mother thereof.
28And all Israel heard the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, seeing that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.
Luke 2:41-52 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
41And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch,
42And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast,
43And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not.
44And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance.
45And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
46And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.
47And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers.
48And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?
50And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.
52And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.
Luke 2:51 (Douay-Rheims)
View in: NAB RSVCE Vulg
51And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.