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.

Lessons in Teaching from Jesus

We’re a little past the halfway point of the year in my parish’s program, and in reviewing the track of lessons, I noticed that I hadn’t yet used any skits this year. Our upcoming lesson on Jesus as Teacher will change that. Session 13 in Finding God, Grade 7, focuses on Jesus the Teacher. The chapter introduces the Sermon on the Mount, particularly the Beatitudes, and Christ’s teachings about the Kingdom of God, with a […]

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

Last time I wrote, I shared my plan for a class on Jesus as a child in the Temple, mission, and the Examen. This was not my most successful class. Attendance was lower than usual, which seemed like it might make for a quieter session, but the young people were full of questions that derailed the planned lesson. I firmly believe that young people should be given the opportunity to ask their questions, so I […]

Growing in Wisdom: Discernment for Young People

We know little about the life of Jesus as he grew up, but the one story we have of him as an adolescent can form the basis of a session on family and mission. Using Finding God, Grade 7, Chapter 9, my group will talk about how Jesus grew in age, wisdom, and grace—and what difference it makes to the life of a contemporary junior-high student. We’ll begin by studying the story of the 12-year-old […]

Christmas Project Day

We take the week of Christmas and the following week off from faith formation classes. That means we might have one or two classes during the Christmas season—and those after the world has already moved on past trees and tinsel. How do we teach children the importance of the Christian understanding of Christmas when the timing seems a bit awkward? I try to do so by using the last class before Christmas as a project […]

The Advent Prayer Grab Bag

Traditional Advent activities include Advent wreaths, calendars, and Jesse trees. While these are all great ways to help children celebrate the season, I like using something different: the Advent prayer grab bag. The prayer grab bag takes its inspiration from the popular party game of grab bags. I ask my group if anyone has ever participated in a grab bag and invite someone who has to explain the tradition of bringing one gift to a […]

Being a Disciple Takes Practice

In a recent session, my class talked about being a disciple in the context of Ordinary Time. Since this Church season occupies most of the liturgical year, the discussion centered on how we can follow Jesus in everyday life. We focused on the works of mercy as ways to practice our discipleship. I set the stage by holding up a poster-sized copy of the liturgical calendar and gave a brief introduction to how we mark […]

Setting the Tone for Classroom Management with Respect

When I began teaching religious education classes, I decided that I would institute only one rule consisting of a single word: respect. This simple word sets the tone for the class. First, I make sure that all the students know the meaning of the word. It would not make any difference if no one knew what the word respect means. I explain to the class that when we respect someone or something, we treat that […]

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