What’s Inside My Catechist’s Bag

September 27, 2016 Denise Gorss 4

I teach in a classroom that is in a school that closed a few years ago. While this means I can leave some things at the school, the room is still shared space among two sessions of religious education and a few other groups that use the building during the week. I also like to have my textbook, worksheets, and other learning materials with me when I plan sessions, so aside from the prayer table […]

Electing a Patron Saint for the Classroom

September 6, 2016 Denise Gorss 4

In this election year, I’ve decided to use a general outline of the political process as a multi-week activity for my seventh-grade class to learn about the saints. I’ll frame this lesson as selecting a patron saint for our year together. This will be an opportunity to look to the saints as role models who exhibit heroic virtues worthy of examples of the Christian life. First, we’ll meet the pool of candidates. I’ll help the […]

A Catechetical Year in One Sentence

June 7, 2016 Denise Gorss 2

How would you summarize your catechetical year in one sentence? As I reviewed my year, I found myself reviewing my previous contributions to Catechist’s Journey and ran across that question. I came up with several sentences that described this year with seventh grade. It was better than last year. Last year was one of my most challenging years as a catechist, but this year rejuvenated me by being easier. The room layout worked better, with […]

Sacraments of Initiation Learning Stations Used with Seventh Graders

May 24, 2016 Denise Gorss 0

In the next-to-last session for the year, I used the Sacraments of Initiation learning stations with my group of seventh graders. As the download page for the learning stations explains, the activity gets young people “out of their seats and moving around doing simple tasks to learn about the symbols and signs used in each Sacrament of Initiation.” Overall it was a successful lesson. I was surprised by how quiet the young people were as […]

Four Tips for Making Connections Between the Mass and Class Discussions

April 26, 2016 Denise Gorss 2

One of the boys in my group asked, “Do you go to church?” We were discussing the Mass, and he seemed genuinely surprised when I told him that, yes, I do go to church for weekly Mass. He admits he only goes to church occasionally, and he, like many kids in our programs, is more the norm than the exception. I don’t have the secret formula for how we change this trend and encourage those […]

Empowering Young People to Become Women and Men for Others

April 8, 2016 Joe Paprocki 1

Here’s a great idea that Fr. Tom Sweetser, SJ, recently passed along in his newsletter from the Parish Evaluation Project (reprinted with permission). The St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ has as its mission and purpose, “Empowering students to become men and women for others through faith, service, and justice.”  One concrete way of carrying out this mission is a creative project for the 7th and 8th grade students called The Arrupe Project. It was […]

Hallelujah and Peace to Celebrate Easter Season

April 5, 2016 Denise Gorss 0

Because our faith formation program takes time off for Holy Week and Easter Week, the Second Week of Easter is the first time we meet after the Church has celebrated the Resurrection and the Alleluia has returned to Mass. I like to make a point of that for the young people in my group and start sessions after Easter by playing a recording of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” It grabs the attention of the young people […]

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 […]

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