Catechist Corner

It's all about sharing the faith.

In a Year

First, let me wish all of my readers a Happy and Blessed New Year!  I hope you have much joy throughout 2012.

As I look forward to the new year, I have been trying to set some goals for myself.  One thing I’ve been considering doing for some time now is to read the Bible completely.  It can easily be a daunting task when you look at the thickness of the book itself, but there is no doubt as to the value one can obtain from reading all of salvation history in Holy Scripture.

As I’ve considered how to best tackle the undertaking, I’ve come across a number of suggestions on how to read through the Bible.  The approach I’ve settled on is to read the Bible in one year.  Many of the one year plans I’ve seen are based on the Protestant Bible, but I did come across a document from an organization called The Coming Home Network International.  They have a plan to not only read the Bible in a year, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well.

I’ve taken their plan schedule and also built it into a spreadsheet format that allows me to keep track of my progress right on my iPad as I use my Bible app and a CCC link right off of that device.  I can read my daily reading from anywhere, and if I miss a day along the way, it’s very easy to catch right back up.  For those interested in the plan, below are links to the original PDF as well as my spreadsheet versions. I would suggest that one always looks at the PDF first, even if they want to use the spreadsheets because the PDF contains some additional guidance where the spreadsheets are exclusively the listing of the daily readings.

Read the Bible and the Catechism in a Year
Original PDF Format
Excel Spreadsheet Format
Open Document Spreadsheet Format


I’m looking forward to my own personal growth as I read through the Bible fully, along with the Catechism and I know it will absolutely help in my catechetical ministries.  I hope it can be helpful to all of you as well.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith.

The Christmas Story

With Christmas approaching, I thought I’d share this cute video that’s been flooding the social networks today.  It was put together by some children in New Zealand (with some adult help, I’m sure).  Enjoy!!



I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!!

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

Catechizing a Digital Generation

I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office of Religious Education yesterday focused on reaching our youth using media.  As you know, not only do I blog here but I am also an administrator for my parish’s Facebook page, so using these tools more effectively was of particular interest to me.  The workshop was lead by Sr. Helena Burns, FSP (Blog: Hell Burns, Twitter: @SrHelenaBurns) and Sr. Anne Flanagan, FSP (Blog: Nun Blog, Twitter: @nunblogger) of the Daughters of St. Paul.  They did a wonderful job of educating us on the importance of using new media if we hope to effectively reach our youth (and even some adults) today.  This seemed so appropriate considering Bishop Herzog’s comments around social media at this week’s USCCB Fall General Assembly.

There was a lot of good information offered throughout the day, with much of the focus being around media literacy.  The overreaching message that I got from the workshop was that this form of communication is not a fad.  Whether you “love” it, “hate” it or have a “love/hate” relationship with it, is here to stay and we must embrace it.  Also, this means of communication is a game changer.  It is interactive.  It must respect open communication.  Everyone wants to have a say and if you make it one directional, you will have very little, if any impact on the world.

This seems very different from how we traditionally think of communication from the Church.  The Church preaches from the ambo, it teaches the Truth as given to us by Jesus Christ and as revealed by the Holy Spirit.  This stuff isn’t up for discussion, is it?  Unbeknownst to most, the Church’s official position on its presence within the world of media is to be an active listener, not simply and authoritative teacher.  This is contradictory of the perception, but that position places the Church in a good position to participate effectively in the use of these tools.  It listens and responds with the Truth.

I think many would comment that the Church has been slow to embrace some of the tools available in the new media space, but through the leadership of the Venerable Pope John Paul II and the current leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, the Church is making great strides.  This must continue through the embracing of these technologies at the parish level.  As was made clear at the workshop, to be effective, the use of these tools must allow the opportunity for dialogue.  Pastors and catechist must listen first and teach as a follow up to that listening.  I don’t think the average parishioner is used to that, nor are many of the pastors and catechists out there; but I think our youth are definitely ready to engage us with the hope of learning and better understanding.  We need to engage them in a way that shows that we respect them, their concerns and their methods of communicating and learning.  Bishop Herzog said in his comments, “If the church is not on their mobile device, it doesn’t exist.”  We don’t have to change the message, only how we deliver it.  We must go to them, not expect them to come to us.

Thank you Sr. Helena and Sr. Anne for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us!  I, for one, have been given a deeper understanding of the importance of using these tools effectively.

Until next time, keep sharing the faith!

A Case for Consistant, Balanced Memorization

I’m not old enough to have been catechized with the Baltimore Catechism, but I do have a copy of it and I’ve heard quite a few people comment on their own experiences with it.  The Baltimore Catechism is primarily laid out in a Q&A format.  It is concise and to the point.  When I hear people that grew up using that catechism, they always talk about how they had to memorize all the questions and answers verbatim.  I’ve even had people begin to recite the catechism to me decades after they learned it.  That’s pretty impressive!

Catechetical programs today are not like that.  Today, we see a lot less memorization and much more conceptual, story-based and scriptural-based teaching methods that help get the message across.  I have to admit that the programs of today seem a lot less dry, make it easier to keep the attention of the students and do a good job of connecting the teachings of the Church to today’s society.

So then, which one is better?  I would say neither, or maybe it’s both.  Okay, I think it’s a blend of the two.

I received a comment in class last night when we broke out into an unscheduled Q&A session that “this is what makes religious ed fun.”  My response was that Religious Education by unstructured Q&A does nothing more than give one points of Catholic trivia.  Unless it is part of a structured program, you can’t understand how it fits into the big picture.  That being said, are the current catechetical programs really answering the questions of our students?  Are we trying to beat around a teaching instead of hitting it head on, like the Baltimore Catechism did?

We have all seen it.  People don’t know their faith today.  Scarier yet, the kids in our religious education programs don’t know their faith all that well either and presumably it’s supposed to be fresh in their minds.  Why might that be?  I would submit because as we teach something, we move on and don’t continue to review it over and over again.  Let’s take the Ten Commandments.  We teach the Ten Commandments to our second graders as we prepare them for First Reconciliation.  That is integral to their curriculum.  We review the Ten Commandments in 6th grade as part of our review of the Old Testament.  By 6th grade, students have forgotten the Ten Commandments.  Sure, it may have had cursory mention in other years, but a mention is just not enough.  That’s a pretty basic thing to know, but we don’t support it from year to year so it gets dropped from memory.  I won’t even go into basic Catholic prayers!  It’s our fault for not holding our youth accountable for this knowledge; our fault and the fault of parents.

I think we, as religious educators need to balance the need to understand our faith with the need to know our faith.  Just going through a program that teaches through Q&A does not help you understand how to truly live your faith because it is not flexible enough to cover that ever developing scenarios we are faced with; but it is a great way to learn “the facts”.  On the flip side, teaching you the meaning of a particular tenant of faith in detail once without returning to it again in any great detail doesn’t really help make it stick.  Should we not have some basic items that every student should be required to show knowledge of every year?  Test on the Ten Commandments every year.  Test on Acts of Mercy every year.  Test on the Act of Contrition every year.  Test on the True Presence every year.  I can go on.

It is important to progress through topics of faith and help students understand what it should mean to them today, but not so exclusively that we never give it an opportunity to set in through repetition and memorization.

Until next time, keep 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!