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.

Teaching the Trinity

Several of my students experienced a “light-bulb moment” in our recent discussion of the Trinity. So often we sow seeds never to see whether they take root, much less grow; seeing faces light up in understanding is always a fun moment. Our guiding text for the day was Finding God, Grade 7, Chapter 1. Even though this is the first chapter in the text, I usually skip over it until we’ve been in class together […]

When Young People Don’t Want to Be in the Skits

I went into my session on the Beatitudes with a mixture of confidence and trepidation. Confidence, because after experimenting with ways to convey the Beatitudes over the past few years, I felt I had a solid lesson plan that would get the young people out of their seats and engaged. But I also felt trepidation, because the plan called for volunteers to do skits, and I wasn’t sure I could get the number of volunteers […]

Jesse Trees Aren’t Just for Advent

The theme for a recent session was “Jesus fulfills the Revelation of God found in the history of the Chosen People.” I realized I could make the connection this week by adapting an activity typically reserved for Advent—the Jesse tree. As the young people entered the room, I invited them to work on a worksheet on “Grand Genes,” which was a Bible look-up activity that asked students to look up promises in the Old Testament […]

First Experiences with Two Forms of Prayer

One of my favorite parts of teaching religious education is introducing young people to various forms of prayer. In addition to starting sessions with three traditional prayers—the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be to the Father—I’ve led them in lectio divina and guided reflection. When I mentioned to another catechist that I was doing lectio divina with seventh graders, she questioned how that worked, unsure that the technique was one young people […]

Feeling Like a First-Year Catechist

Despite having 15 years of experience, I feel like a first-year catechist in many ways this year. Our parish has a new catechetical leader. I will be in a different classroom on a different floor of the school building. My room has tables instead of individual desks. The religious education office moved to different location within the parish space. Things are changing, and I’m hoping the changes bring positive effects for our program. On the […]

A Catechist’s Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, You are the model teacher. Let me look to you as an example and come to you for comfort on the bad days and to share my joy on the good ones. Help me remember that the work of catechesis is not something I do by myself, as I pray: For my catechetical leader, that she have the strength to be an effective leader. May she find the best ways to organize […]

How Saint Joachim and Saint Ann Can Inspire Catechetical Ministers

The upcoming memorial of Saint Joachim and Saint Ann has me thinking about how these saints can inspire catechetical ministers. Tradition tells us that Joachim and Ann were the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the Saints Kit says, “They must have set the example that Mary followed to become the loving, gentle, faith-filled, courageous woman she was—the perfect woman to bear and raise the Son of God.” Now, none of us is perfect or […]

Not Every Year Will Be Like This One

Another catechetical year has ended, and I have to admit that I am glad this one is over. I had a challenging class this year, and many of my tried-and-true methods didn’t reach this group. There were good moments, but there were more frustrating ones. So today I am writing especially to the first-year catechists: Your year might have been a resounding success or not, but not every year will be like this one. Reflect […]

St. Paul, Conversion, and Mission

As the year winds down, we’re taking a session to talk about St. Paul and his conversion and missionary journeys. Our guide is Finding God, Grade 7, Chapter 23, but as usual, I’m using that as a jumping off point rather than following the book’s lesson plan word for word. We are all called to conversion and mission in our ongoing faith journeys, and that’s the point of this lesson (the “big idea” as Joe […]

Pentecost Fire Drill

In one of my first years teaching, I was introducing the story of Pentecost to my group of fourth graders. The book had an illustration of the Feast of Pentecost, with the disciples gathered in a room, tongues of fire over each of their heads. They were facing an open door with looks of shock on their faces. One of the fourth graders asked if this was a picture of the first recorded fire drill. […]

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