Empowering Young People to Become Women and Men for Others

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

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

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

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

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 […]

Change in Plans

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

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

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

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 […]

First Experiences with Two Forms of Prayer

One of my favorite parts of teaching religious education is introducing young people to various forms of prayer. In addition to starting sessions with three traditional prayers—the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be to the Father—I’ve led them in lectio divina and guided reflection. When I mentioned to another catechist that I was doing lectio divina with seventh graders, she questioned how that worked, unsure that the technique was one young people […]

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