St. Barnabas Family Catechesis: Getting Ready for Lent

wall of Lent information
This past Sunday, I facilitated the family catechesis session at St. Barnabas, as we prepared to enter the season of Lent in just a few short days. I have to say that this was one of the most fulfilling adult faith experiences of my long career, namely because of the high level of engagement and interest on the part of the parents and grandparents throughout this session! I felt inspired by the Holy Spirit the day before the session to change the format and increase the level of engagement on the part of the adults during their session. The topic of Lent was perfect for this, because I was confident that they would bring with them a good amount of knowledge and experience related to the topic—and they did not disappoint. Here are some highlights:

  • The parish hall has a new sound system, and thankfully, Patrick, the catechetical leader, gave me a good tutorial a few days before so that I would be more familiar with the wireless microphone and the Bluetooth feature, which now enables me to play music and other sound without any wires or portable speakers.
  • Patrick was thorough in making sure we were all set for this session, because he would be gone on medical leave for a while, undergoing some procedures, and many folks chipped in to fill the gap during his absence.
  • Several families volunteered to bring in donuts and juice, which Patrick usually provides. The generosity was heartwarming.
  • One of the catechists, who also happens to be a former high-school student of mine, was tapped to stand in for Patrick to escort the kids and catechists across the street to the school and supervise their sessions there once they were dismissed from our gathering. He did a superb job of standing in.
  • I got there an hour early to make sure that I was familiar with the sound system and that everything worked as it did earlier in the week!
  • Attendance was very good, and the energy in the room was high. The kids really come in with a great spirit!
  • After our opening prayer, I asked if anyone liked science, and a number of hands went up. I then showed this video of a brief science demonstration I did for Pop-Up Catechesis that shows how to make a homemade compass. After the video, the kids and parents applauded!
  • I explained that, just as the magnetized point of the needle is naturally drawn to the magnetic pole of the earth (the North Pole), we are naturally drawn to God. Lent is our season to turn back to God just as the compass needle turns back to face North. I think this really captured the kids’ imaginations, and I’ve no doubt many will be asking their parents to recreate the experiment at home!
  • After the kids and catechists were sent forth for their lessons, Deacon Andy and I got down to work with the parents. The first thing we did was invite them to work together for a couple of minutes at their tables to make a list of everything they knew about Lent. The results were impressive! Collectively, they identified most of the key elements of Lent: 40 days, a time of renewal, self-sacrifice, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and so on. Each group reported on its list and then taped it to the wall. It was such a joy to see folks take the mic and report on their brainstorming and to see the wall fill up with their knowledge and experience of Lent.
  • As they reported, Deacon Andy and I made comments affirming their lists, clarifying a few details, and filling in some “backstory” on various aspects of Lent.
  • We then did the same for the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, as the adults continued to work together with high energy and, dare I say, a nice level of enjoyment! They really looked and sounded like they were enjoying themselves, and I think a lot had to do with feeling empowered to direct their own session to the extent that they were, as well as with their continuing comfort with and enjoyment of one another.
  • During our discussion of prayer, one mom raised her hand and shared how her son adapts the traditional prayers they pray together in Spanish to connect with something important in his day, such as the soccer game he had yesterday. I couldn’t have written a script to flow that well! I used that as an opportunity to share the slides I had ready about the daily Examen and to stress how important it is to connect our prayer with our daily lives.
  • The pastor, Fr. Donovan, had joined us at this point and took a segment to go over the schedule of services and events at the parish during Lent. (We also provided that information on a handout.) He added some background on the various services taking place, such as his own experience of walking the Way of the Cross in the Holy Land amid the daily chaos and noise of the streets of Jerusalem.
  • When the children and catechists returned, I asked one of the catechists to get up and show us a lovely craft that her group had created. She had created a tree and provided the children with leaves on which they wrote a prayer asking God to help them do something special this Lent. She pointed out how she also added a heart, because we had talked about Ash Wednesday taking place on Valentine’s Day this year. Just beautiful!

We sent the families on their way, telling the kids to share with their parents what they learned about Lent and telling the parents to do the same, since now they were all experts on the topic!

Yesterday was definitely one of those days when I said to myself, “This is why I love being a catechist!” Thank you, Jesus!

About Joe Paprocki 2769 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.

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