A More Worshipful Catechesis

The General Directory for Catechesis (#85) tells us that the most effective catechesis takes place within a climate of prayer. With that in mind, I constantly urge catechists to do all they can to make their sessions resemble going to church more than going to school. We do this by incorporating the language of liturgy—a language of mystery that includes sign, symbol, and ritual—into our catechetical sessions. Following is a template that I offer to catechists as a way of structuring a typical 75-minute catechetical session in such a way as to make it more worshipful.

Preliminaries (15 minutes)

  1. Greet students at the door with bowl of holy water (held by you, your aide, or one of the students) and invite them to bless themselves.
  2. Play liturgical music in the background as students enter.
  3. Students write on a slip of paper their prayer intention for the week, fold it, and place it in a basket.
  4. Introductions, attendance, and business.
  5. Setting of prayer table—each child retrieves from a table one object that will be placed on the prayer table (cloth with color of the liturgical season, Bible stand, Bible, battery-operated pillar candle, basket of prayer intentions, crucifix, bowl of holy water, icon, etc.) and line up for procession. Child with the cross leads as they slowly process around the room as an appropriate song is played on CD or a song is sung. Students place their objects on the prayer table one at a time and return to their seats.
  6. Opening Prayer:
    • All Stand and pray the Sign of the Cross.
    • Ritual greeting: (e.g.) “This is the day the Lord has made!” “Let us rejoice and be glad!”
    • Threefold Sign of the Cross on forehead, lips, and heart: “And let us pray tonight that God’s Word will be…(perform gesture).
    • Pass battery-operated candle around, and invite each child to pray in thanksgiving for something or to pray for someone in need.
    • End with a traditional prayer. (Alternate prayer each month.)

Engage (15 minutes)

  1. Introduce (announce clearly) the theme/topic/big idea of the lesson.
  2. Do an engaging activity that enables you to “enter through their door” (i.e. draw from their lived experience, current events, popular culture, etc. to grab their attention in a way that connects with the direction you intend to take with your lesson).
  3. Your catechist manual often has ideas and suggestions for ways to introduce the theme of your lesson.

Explore (25 minutes)

  1. Invite a minute of silence to prepare to hear God speak to them in the lesson.
  2. Invite a child to come forward, bow before the Bible, and read a passage that pertains to the lesson.(Scripture is usually referenced in the textbook). End with “The Word of the Lord/Thanks be to God” or “The Gospel of the Lord/Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”
  3. Read from the textbook (or deliver content in some other appropriate manner) and relate to the big idea of the lesson.
  4. Discuss/do activities that further clarify, flesh out, reinforce the content and big idea.
  5. Play a CD or sing a song/hymn that flows from the theme.

Reflect (10 minutes)

  1. Invite students to come forward one at a time to take a battery-operated tea light candle from the table and proceed to their “sacred space” (the place they will remain during the guided reflection).
  2. Lead a guided reflection that flows from/connects with the theme/big idea of the lesson.
  3. Allow at least a minute of silence at the end of the guided reflection.

Respond (10 minutes)

  1. Read/do activities in textbook that invite the students to apply the lesson to life.
  2. Give an assignment that invites/challenges the young people to put into practice what has been learned.(Invite sharing the following week about experiences.)
  3. Closing prayer—either a traditional prayer, a decade of the Rosary, a Mass part (Confiteor, Gloria, Creed, Holy, Holy, Lamb of God, etc.).
  4. Exchange a Sign of Peace.
  5. Bless selves with holy water as leaving.
About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

1 Comment

  1. Hi. I have endeavored to make the weekly lessons memorable in the minds, and hopefully lives, of my middle school students.

    What especially had impact on my teaching approach was a quote I found in the Catechist’s Journey where a priest suggested instead of putting words in the mouths of kids for prayer, let them lead. I have worked since to help the kids own the lessons.

    As context:
    I have found over the years, either from my own classroom or to hear tell from my kids or their peers, is that faith formation, delivered exactly per the manual outline including the prayer table, can feel disconnected and –boring.

    I have had middle schoolers say they can’t wait for confirmation so that this obligation is over. I’ve had parents say the same. I’ve heard a couple of DRE’s, plus a registrar at a Catholic school, say that weekly students and their families are more secular, less committed and less interested in faith formation so my extra efforts are unnecessary.

    However, in making my classes more dynamic and active, the kids are paying attention and appear to absorb and retain the material. And one kid, who was morose and angry because his mother “made him” come back to classes after a year off, has become an engaged and thoughtful student– not trouble-free but not the problem I thought he’d be.

    What I’m saying is that my classroom has not been like church. It is celebratory of God and the week’s lesson but it has not been solemn with several meditative segments. And I want to hear from others whether the apathy described by some in my neighborhood is unique to my region and whether I am missing the point of the General Directory.

    While I want to make the lessons relevant, I don’t want to travel into the realm described in this satiric video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeATy06jST8&feature=related.

    Your comments, advice, counsel welcome.

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