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.

Evaluating the Marian Learning Stations

When I wrote about the Marian learning stations, I might not have been realistic about what we could accomplish in the time allotted. Because I wanted to keep working groups small—three or four people per station—I went with more stations than I should have. As a result, we ran out of time before everyone could get through all the stations, especially since each activity took a different amount of time to complete. The idea, you […]

A Few Ignatian Items

As you take some time to relax this week and enjoy the Christmas season, we bring to your attention a few articles you might enjoy from another Loyola Press website, IgnatianSpirituality.com. Staying Curious by Marina McCoy In his ministry, Jesus often asks others what they want. For example, he asks the blind Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) On another occasion, James and John approach Jesus, and he asks […]

Marian Art, Advent, and Learning Stations

With both the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (a holy day of obligation) and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December, and the readings in the second half of Advent telling Mary’s story in the days before Jesus’ birth, this is the perfect time to teach the children in our classes about Mary. I realized in my planning my Advent arc of activities this year that the Finding God art prints […]

Are We Still Sharing Stories?

As a starter activity for a recent session on parables, I asked the young people in my seventh-grade group to think about some of their favorite stories. A few people asked for clarification: what kind of stories? Wanting to keep the activity broad in scope, I told them, “Any kind. Personal stories, family stories, or a favorite story you read.” The kids turned their heads to their papers, and some of them jotted some notes. […]

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 […]

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