A number of people sent in some excellent questions during our Webinar last night. Here’s a sampling along with my responses. You’re most welcome to chime in on the discussion.
Q: What are the biggest differences between teaching religion in a five day school and as a catechist once a week. For the first time in almost 30 years I am doing both at the same time.
A: Steven, the most obvious of course is the time differential: in a Catholic school, you have probably 120-160 minutes a week as compared with 60-120 in a parish RE program. That’s not to mention being in a Catholic environment all day, 5 days a week in a Catholic school. As parish RE catechists, we face a daunting challenge of initiating young people into the Catholic way of life within a very short time span. For that reason, we need to be sure that our time spent with them is quality time. Whether in a Catholic school or parish RE program, ALL of these children are OUR children and the parish seeks to initiate them all more deeply into the one Body of Christ no matter how much time we have with them. I’d love to hear what other folks have to add to this!
Q: I teach 2nd grade in the summer and 3rd grade throughout the year. Should I begin teaching the new prayers that will be used in the New Missal beginning in Advent 2011?
A: Aaron, I’m glad you’re in tune with this issue! You should talk to your DRE about this as well as your diocesan office to find out what specifically is being recommended in your diocese for implementing the new edition of the Roman Missal. The timing for children preparing for First Communion is crucial. If we introduce the new prayers to them too early, we can confuse them. However, if we wait too long, we’ll be doing them a disservice.
Q: Would you wait a few sessions before using guided reflection? I would think that the nervousness of the first sessions would make quietness a challenge.
A: Liz this is a very practical question. You may want to ease in to things, inviting them to do some breathing exercises the first session or two for a few minutes just to get them used to the notion of slowing down. I personally prefer to jump in “whole hog” so to speak and give them a full taste of what I’m expecting of them and just fine tune their behavior as we move along. That requires patience and some thick skin!
Q: do you have a guided reflection or prayer of the Rosary?
A: Kristine, I don’t, however, the Rosary is, in and of itself, a guided reflection! We can use the same techniques of doing deep breathing, finding a comfortable posture, etc. and then move into the Rosary per se, perhaps providing more description of the Mysteries that we are reflecting upon and inviting the students to enter into the scenes. The Hail Marys that we pray act as a mantra, keeping us focused on our prayer and leading us deeper into the Mystery. When ending the Rosary, you can easily allow a period of silence, inviting the participants to spend that time talking to Jesus in their own words.
Q: was that universalice?
A: Ann, the Web site I mentioned was www.universalis.com and is a good resource for praying the Liturgy of the Hours online.
Q: Is it ok to use just the Responsorial Psalm from Mass as a Liturgical Prayer?
A: Connie, absolutely, yes.
Q: I have a difficult time establishing respect during reflective prayer in my 5th grade PSR. I want them to be comfortable, and not restricted, but it seems to end with giggling.
A: Kristin, this is typical and I faced it with my 8th graders all the time. I would continually address the issue, acknowledging that they are becoming more mature young people and that they are capable of mature behavior and challenging them to act accordingly. When they don’t you should point out how immature that is and tell them that they can do so much better. Kids that age don’t like to be “outed” as immature so the threat of doing so can be very powerful. Be careful to NOT directly and publicly accuse any one individual, however, of being immature…that can be devastating.
Q: We will be doing a prayer service this year that reflects on the mysteries of the rosary – any suggestions to make it easy to follow for grades 1 – 6
A: Kristine, you may want to consider having kids do tableaus (a depiction of a scene) of each of the mysteries as part of the prayer service as a way of visualizing the scenes from Mary’s and Jesus’ lives.
Q: Do you have any suggestions of music for 7 graders?
A: Rocio, I’m not sure if you’re looking for suggestions for contemporary or spiritual music for 7th graders so I’ll just point you to my posts on using music in catechesis: https://catechistsjourney.loyolapress.com/category/catechetical-issues-topics/music-in-catechesis/
Q: I also have a 2-yr-old preschool class at our church. We pray throughout the day, but does anyone have anything they’d like to share on praying with little people?
A: Kristin, this is not my specialty so hopefully some other readers will weigh in!
Q: How to structure the prayer when there are time constraints and you have a very large group
A: Ann, prayer services and guided reflections do not have to be long. What matters most is the quality, prayerfulness, and reverence. By the way, if you have a “very large group,” you may need to talk to the DRE about adding another section to cut down on class size.
Q: what is your opinion about involving the parents/care givers? If in agreement, then could you give recommendations on how to go about?
A: Jorge, parental involvement is crucial to any child’s faith formation. What exactly do you have in mind when you say “involving the parents/caregivers?” In most cases, there’s only so much an individual catechist can do whereas the parish as a whole can shape the program in such a way as to make parental involvement a priority.