About Denise Gorss
Denise Gorss is a catechist with 17 years experience, mostly in junior high. She appreciates the gifts of Ignatian spirituality and likes sharing various types of prayer with the young people in her groups. She enjoys seeing the world on pilgrimages and lives in the Chicago area, where she works as Web Editor at Loyola Press.

The Vocabulary of Lent

As we look to observe Lent with our students, I am thinking about the language of Lent and how to ensure that my seventh-graders know the Church’s vocabulary related to the season. I shared a post on the Vocabulary of Christmas two months ago, and many of the techniques for helping children understand key terms could apply here as well. But one of the advantages of Lent, from a catechetical perspective, is that it is […]

30 Extra Minutes to Fill

My plan was to cover Finding God, Grade 7, Chapter 9, as part of a session on family and mission. I’ve used the general plan before with success, but knew early on it wasn’t quite working this night. The young people were attentive, but not interactive. And so I found myself at the end of my lesson plan with almost 30 minutes of our 90-minute session to go! While I didn’t have an extra activity […]

The Prayer Before Meals Opens a Conversation About Real-Life Prayer

In the middle of a session, the conversation turned to the Prayer Before Meals, and I asked my seventh-graders if they knew that prayer. One girl volunteered that she knew it in Spanish, so I invited her to recite it for our group. But aside from that girl, no one indicated they knew the prayer. I directed the young people to look at the words of the prayer in the book. The same girl who […]

Eight Ways to Review, Reevaluate, and Reenergize for the New Year

We catechists celebrate three new years with our classes: the start of the religious education year, the beginning of the liturgical year in Advent, and the new calendar year starting January 1. As we enter into the third of those new years, it’s a good time to review, reevaluate, and reenergize for the second half of the catechetical year. Reenergize with a reflective or imaginative activity. Take time to refresh your own outlook and look […]

The Vocabulary of Christmas

In one of my first years of teaching, one of the parish priests visited my fourth-grade classroom in December. He asked how many of the children’s families had displayed a crèche as part of their holiday decorations. None of the children said yes, which disappointed the priest, who left to visit another class. As soon as he left, one of the children asked me, “What’s a crèche?” I asked if others had the same question […]

10 Lists of Interest to Catechists

We’re continuing our 10th anniversary celebration here at Catechist’s Journey. Today, enjoy this list of 10 lists for catechists, for a total of 100 great suggestions for your work in faith formation and personal growth in faith. Then, enter for your chance to win today’s prize package: a Children’s Collection from Loyola Press. 10 Ways for Catholic School Teachers to Reinforce Catholic Identity Outside of Religion Class by Joe Paprocki 10 Tips for Maintaining Discipline—Free […]

10 Ways to Celebrate Advent with Your Class—Without Rushing to Christmas

Editor’s note: We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of Catechist’s Journey this week by sharing catechetical top-10 lists each day and giving away Loyola Press prize packages. Enter for your chance to win the Dear Pope Francis Family Kit today; details below. With stores decorating for Christmas as early as Halloween, movie channels already showing holiday flicks, and restaurants playing Christmas music in November, it’s easy for the young people we serve to want to jump […]

When and How to Introduce Advent

The first week of Advent begins on the Sunday following Thanksgiving. While that is usual, it forces me to make a choice in how to introduce Advent: Do I talk about the season early, before Thanksgiving? Or do I wait until after the holiday break, when the season has already started? I’ve alternated my approach through the years, but I usually like to at least introduce Advent before the holiday, inviting the young people to […]

Patron Saints Election Results

At the time I write this, my group of seventh graders has narrowed down the pool of saintly candidates to three as we move toward electing a patron saint for our classroom. The finalists are St. Mary, St. Francis Xavier, and Blessed Miguel Pro. Mary is polling as the current leader, but who knows what the final tally will say. You may recall that when I originally shared this activity of electing a patron saint, […]

Classroom Management Techniques: Call-and-Response

A few years ago, I started using a new technique for getting the young people’s attention: call-and-response. When I would say, “God is good,” the young people would respond, “all the time.” Then I would say, “And all the time,” to which the young people would respond, “God is good.” I borrowed the idea from another catechist and the specific phrase from a priest who served at a local parish. The technique’s effectiveness has been […]

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