About Denise Gorss
Denise Gorss is a catechist with 17 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.

Relaxing Prayer

I prepared my students to pray with a guided reflection, telling them that using their imaginations to have a conversation with God might take some practice. I gave them permission to “not get it” the first time. This was important for establishing trust and tone. I then played the “Called by Name” prayer track from the CD that came with our Finding God program and sat down with my students to participate in the imaginative […]

How to Prepare for Class

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success,” said Alexander Graham Bell—and so says any catechist who wants to be effective. But how do we prepare for class, especially when we might have just a few minutes before each session? I’m not talking here about planning the session in terms of what to teach and what techniques to use, but the immediate preparation on class day before the young people arrive. Here are five […]

Four Ways to Meet Them Where They Are

By now we’re all settling into our routines for the year and getting to know our students. Inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola, who advised “meeting them where they are” as the starting point for conversation, I’m wondering, do we meet them where they are? In order to take this Ignatian approach, we need to get to know them. Beyond playing a few get-to-know-you name games, which have their place, how do we go deeper […]

Four Ideas for Setting Up the Classroom Environment as Sacred Space

Setting up a prayer center in the faith-formation classroom is a key element in establishing an environment of prayer. The visual reminders of our Catholic faith invite young people to remember to quiet themselves in the presence of the holy. While we all know that God is everywhere and we can pray at any time, a dedicated prayer center is a special place where young people can gather in the presence of God. But beyond […]

10 Things Veteran Catechists Want New Catechists to Know

What do you wish someone had told you before you became a catechist? We asked this question on our Catholic Faith Formation Facebook page and got some great responses—good encouragement, especially for new catechists starting their first year of teaching. You’re responsible for one thing: getting the child closer to God. —Shannon Panchyshyn I’ve been teaching religion for almost 50 years in a regular classroom and PREP classes. I learned from experience. If I had […]

Eight Ways to Use Worksheets Effectively in Faith Formation

I have heard some catechists say they will never use blackline masters (BLMs) in religious education classrooms, and other catechists like to use every one their curriculum provides. These worksheets and other handouts are usually provided as part of the curriculum; a good catechist manual will advise when to integrate a BLM into the lesson. The key to using worksheets effectively in faith formation is understanding that they are resources for activities, not time-fillers, and […]

The Catechist as a Personal Trainer for Prayer Life

“Central aspects of the formation of children are training in prayer and introduction to Sacred Scripture” (General Directory for Catechesis 178). Today let’s focus on the training in prayer part of that. Training indeed is key, but how do we understand that? Think of a personal trainer: when we need to get in shape or need new motivation to stay in shape, we might hire a trainer to teach us the basics of fitness and […]

Take Time to Celebrate

At the end of the religious education year, there’s often a flurry of activity—final preparations for First Communion and Confirmation, May Crowning, early start on registrations for next year, and catechist recruitment before summer break. But it’s important that we take time to celebrate the year completed and savor its graces. Our parish did that in a tangible way with a special dinner for catechists and others who make religious education possible: crossing guards, aides, […]

Praying the Daily Examen

Becky Eldredge, author of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, loves praying the Examen, a method of prayer that involves reflection on the past 24 hours of your life. She explains the steps of this defining Ignatian prayer in the below video. Pray this way with young people using Finding God Grades 7 and 8. The Examen is also a great prayer for families, as Eric Gurash explains in his article Where Have You Been, Lord? […]

Praying the Scriptures with Lectio Divina

Lectio divina is an ancient method of praying the Scriptures. The name means “sacred reading,” and the prayer invites slow reading and praying with a Scripture passage. In the video below, Becky Eldredge, a spiritual director and author of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, explains lectio divina. Suggested Uses for the Video Use this video in your catechetical classroom with older students to introduce this prayer form. Then lead an experience of lectio divina with […]

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