About Denise Gorss
Denise Gorss is a catechist with 18 years experience, mostly in junior high. She appreciates the gifts of Ignatian spirituality and likes sharing various types of prayer with the young people in her groups. She enjoys seeing the world on pilgrimages and lives in the Chicago area, where she works as Web Editor at Loyola Press.

When an Activity Doesn’t Work So Well

Sometimes when I add an activity I made up to the session, it works out great, but a recent session proved a reminder that sometimes it doesn’t. The chapter called for introducing the idea of different literary forms found in the Bible, as part of a discussion on apocalyptic literature and ultimately, the struggle between good and evil. I thought it would be fun to play a game to begin our session, so I came […]

Traditional Teaching Habits to Avoid

John Barone, co-author of The Adaptive Teacher: Faith-Based Strategies to Reach and Teach Learners with Disabilities, suggests Five Traditional Teaching Habits to Avoid in an article over at LoyolaPress.com. If you find yourself shushing learners, talking too much, or giving complex instructions, try Barone’s “Try this instead” tips in the article to be a more effective catechist. Read the article here. Also check out Barone’s 9 Strategies for How to Get and Keep Attention, a […]

40 Small Changes for a Big Year

Editor’s note: This week we’re thinking about small changes we can make for a big year in ministry. As we start a new calendar year, it’s a good time to look at changes we can make in our faith formation settings that will make the most of the time we have left with our groups. Here’s a list of small suggestions, most easy to implement. And these are ideas only, not a checklist. Please don’t […]

Building Community with the Communion of Saints

A few weeks ago, I was excited after a session on the saints because the young people in my group were excited too. We enjoyed playing a game, listening to an upbeat saints song, and participating in learning stations to get to know some of the saints. The first activity of the evening was Saints Musical Chairs. I found this game online a few years ago, and the writer shared brief descriptions of some of […]

A Lesson from St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes: Experience First

Bernadette Soubirous was a young girl of 14 when Our Lady appeared to her, about the age of the young people in my class. She didn’t have much education, but still she was chosen to receive the visions of Lourdes. St. Bernadette helps me to remember that it’s about the experience first. While it’s important to know the facts of our faith and be able to articulate what we believe, first there must be an […]

What a Marketing Conference Teaches About Catechesis

I recently attended a marketing conference, and the workshops on writing effective e-mails and storytelling had lessons applicable to our work as catechists. Have a clear call to action. This reminds me of what Joe Paprocki says about the big idea in a lesson—have the goal in mind from the start. Knowing what action we want young people to take as a result of the lesson helps us to plan activities that take them from […]

More Microshifts for Catechists

Earlier this summer, we explored microshifts we can make as catechists to improve our ministry, inspired by Gary Jansen’s MicroShifts: Transforming Your Life One Step at a Time. Now two of our readers share the small changes they plan for the new year of faith formation. One small change I am always trying to integrate into my ministry as a catechist is to be more prepared with a slew of effective, impactful, and meaningful icebreakers—which […]

Microshifts to Create a Retreat Atmosphere

Editor’s Note: This week we’re exploring microshifts we can make as catechists to improve our ministry, inspired by Gary Jansen’s MicroShifts: Transforming Your Life One Step at a Time. Learn more about the book here. Transformation often comes from small changes, and making these small changes, or MicroShifts, as author Gary Jansen calls them, can improve the faith formation experience for both catechist and young people. Consider how these microshifts can create a retreat atmosphere in the catechetical […]

A May Crowning Acrostic

We end our program year with a May Crowning celebration, presided over by our pastor. Generally we can expect opening and closing songs, a reading about Mary from Scripture, a few words from the priest, some prayers, and an eighth-grader crowning the statue of Mary. The statue then keeps the crown for the rest of the month, serving as a reminder to the entire parish of the special evening the religious education students shared. Today […]

Not Done with Prayer Yet

We had just finished a silence challenge, and I called the young people to our regular opening prayer when I was disheartened to hear one boy mumble, “What, we’re not done with prayer yet?” Prayer time is usually not met with such resistance in my classroom. In fact, I think many of the young people enjoy the quiet and reflective experiences built in to our time together, whether they are able to vocalize it or […]

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