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.

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 […]

How Jesus Responds to Suffering (VIDEO)

We know the Stations of the Cross as a traditional Lenten devotion, but how can we connect the Way of the Cross to our lives? Author Gary Jansen suggests that by walking through each station, we see the unique ways in which Jesus responded to suffering, and we are challenged to react similarly in our own struggles. Jansen writes: Though Jesus seems passive throughout his Passion—he never lifts a finger against anyone and he barely […]

Sometimes the Young People Surprise Me

Sometimes the young people surprise me. Such was the case at the beginning of Lent, when I led a session on the season that focused on Christ’s temptation in the desert. I asked the young people what they already knew about Lent. An informal assessment of their previous knowledge, the question gave the students an opportunity to tell me things such as the season was 40 days and that they got ashes on Ash Wednesday. […]

Games in Lent

After a successful session with Advent Bingo, a catechist asked me whether Lent Bingo existed. While I don’t have a formal game board for that, there’s no reason we catechists can’t play Lent Bingo and other Lenten-themed games with our groups. While Lent is seen as a more solemn season than others in the liturgical year, and rightly so, there’s no reason we can’t lighten the mood in our classrooms with a game, even as […]

Gathering Activities

Grabbing the attention of young people can be challenging when they go straight to their classrooms after being dropped off. With young people arriving in staggered fashion, straggling in one at a time, we need to have something for them to do as they arrive. Enter the gathering activity. What’s What? Page—Finding God Grade 7 includes a review page at the end of each chapter. Sometimes I use these as a pre-assessment before the session […]

Incorporating Movement into Faith Formation Sessions

One of the young people in my group asked if we’d be moving around at all during the session. It hit me as a necessary reminder that I need to be intentional about incorporating movement into my sessions. While not every session has elements of movement that bodily-kinesthetic learners might appreciate, I try to include varied activities such as: Learning Stations—I’ve been incorporating sacraments learning stations into my classes for several years now, and last […]

Patience with Quiet Students

Being a catechist requires patience. Some years it’s patience with behavior issues, and other years it’s patience with a class that’s too quiet. Let me explain. When discipline issues arise, there are a number of strategies for managing classroom behavior. But when young people are well-behaved yet non-participatory, we need different strategies, which we often don’t hear much about. The overreaching strategy to working with young people who don’t want to join in discussions or […]

Praying with a Classroom Visitor

The DRE told me that one of the parish priests would be stopping by sometime during class to talk to the young people about becoming altar servers. He was visiting several classrooms, and I didn’t know how much time he would spend in each one nor the order in which he would visit. So I started class knowing that at some point we’d have a visitor, though I didn’t know exactly when. Of course, he […]

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