About Denise Gorss
Denise Gorss is a catechist with 16 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.

Preparing for Holy Week in Junior High

March 22, 2016 Denise Gorss 0

In our last session before Holy Week, I like to walk through the Passion story with my group. Last year I tried starting with Joe Paprocki’s Bible story treasure hunt. I hid pictures of symbols related to the events of the Passion around the room and gave the young people a few minutes to find them all. They found most without trouble, and I gave hints to help them find the more well-hidden ones. It […]

Miracle Workshop: Talking about the Miracles of Jesus

March 8, 2016 Denise Gorss 0

I knew we had a lot of ground to cover when I asked for examples of miracles Jesus performed and one of the students said, “When he gave fish to two guys.” That didn’t sound too miraculous, so I asked the boy if he thought that sounded impressive, and he admitted it didn’t. One of his classmates helped by offering that he thought there were 2,000 people fed with fish—getting closer to the famous miracle […]

Honesty and the Gift of Reconciliation

February 23, 2016 Denise Gorss 0

Among my group of seventh graders, I have several who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Eucharist this year. Because of this, I spent more time in a recent session on Reconciliation talking about the steps of receiving the sacrament than I otherwise would. And that led to a surprising moment of honesty. Finding God, Grade 7, Session 14 formed the basis of the lesson for the evening, but we […]

Preparing for Ash Wednesday

February 9, 2016 Denise Gorss 0

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, so we’ll take all the children in the religious education program to church for Mass. It’s the same Mass the full parish is invited to, and it’s usually crowded. By taking the children to this Mass, we emphasize that not only is Ash Wednesday something special, but that we are part of a parish community. Because of the Mass, we don’t have a class session this week to discuss Lent; we had […]

How Do You Approach Lesson Planning?

January 26, 2016 Denise Gorss 3

How do you plan your lessons for faith formation sessions? The majority of us catechists don’t hold education degrees, so we likely don’t have much, if any, formal training in lesson planning. A good catechetical textbook with a teacher’s manual may outline ways to approach each lesson. This can be a great starting point, especially for new catechists. But with some experience, we can approach lesson planning in ways personalized to the group we have […]

Four Reasons Movement Is Important for Catechists

January 5, 2016 Denise Gorss 0

I wear a pedometer to track the number of steps I take daily. It’s a fitness reminder, but I was surprised to notice that in one recent class period I had added almost 2,000 steps to my count! I knew I moved around a lot during class, but this was near one mile, which was more than I would have guessed. Movement is important for catechists, not only for our own physical well-being, but for […]

Change in Plans

December 22, 2015 Denise Gorss 0

I walked into the building with a plan for the session, as usual, but as I was gathering supplies, the DRE introduced me to a woman from the parish evangelization team. She needed volunteers to make the ornaments for the parish prayer tree—that evening. We talked about the exact needs and the fact that she would also be asking the eighth grade class for help, so we could split the project time. We decided that […]

Teaching the Trinity

December 8, 2015 Denise Gorss 0

Several of my students experienced a “light-bulb moment” in our recent discussion of the Trinity. So often we sow seeds never to see whether they take root, much less grow; seeing faces light up in understanding is always a fun moment. Our guiding text for the day was Finding God, Grade 7, Chapter 1. Even though this is the first chapter in the text, I usually skip over it until we’ve been in class together […]

When Young People Don’t Want to Be in the Skits

November 24, 2015 Denise Gorss 4

I went into my session on the Beatitudes with a mixture of confidence and trepidation. Confidence, because after experimenting with ways to convey the Beatitudes over the past few years, I felt I had a solid lesson plan that would get the young people out of their seats and engaged. But I also felt trepidation, because the plan called for volunteers to do skits, and I wasn’t sure I could get the number of volunteers […]

Jesse Trees Aren’t Just for Advent

November 10, 2015 Denise Gorss 0

The theme for a recent session was “Jesus fulfills the Revelation of God found in the history of the Chosen People.” I realized I could make the connection this week by adapting an activity typically reserved for Advent—the Jesse tree. As the young people entered the room, I invited them to work on a worksheet on “Grand Genes,” which was a Bible look-up activity that asked students to look up promises in the Old Testament […]

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