Advanced Catechism & New Evangelization
A reference page for Catechists, New Evangelization lecturers and their students alike
|So, you are a Catechist or an Evangelization lecturer
and would like to get more ideas about how to make your lectures and presentations
captivating and interesting, but most importantly, informative and effective?
You are at the right place!
In catechesis in order to make our teaching worthwhile, our ultimate goal should be our students' spiritual growth. That inevitably is tied to their understanding of historical facts being linked to our second, higher spiritual existence. In addition, the history itself also needs to be linked to the reality of our present physical world. This last point is especially important for younger students, children with little life experience. Due to the lack of their life experience they need reference to something concrete, something they know and they can relate to. The Books of Bible provide the historical background quite well provided we interpret them in the right context. However the challenge of relating scriptures to this physical world is ours - the teachers'.
Before we begin let me share with you my experience in teaching young
people (primarily ages 10-14). We call them kids, right? But in fact they
are young men and women sitting in my classroom eager to learn something
cool. So here I am, having an unique opportunity to either captivate them,
making their going to church for catechetical classes and their learning
experience worthwhile and actually having them to look forward to be there
with me next lecture because they know they would learn something new and
interesting, or I can completely discourage them, bore them to death so
that they can not wait to finally receive their Sacrament of Confirmation
so that "they can get out of this place" and then we will never
see them in the church again. Regrettably, in Catholic churches the second
scenario is more prevalent. Young children are more forgiving in that regard
as their thinking still operates at the level of concrete operations
box below). Older children (youth 11 years and older) become particularly
sensitive to teaching methodology as their thinking begins switching to
operations mode and this is where we start loosing them. It does
not have to be that way though. Here, I provide the receipe for the implementation
of the New Evangelization methodology into your weekly catechetical
classes so that "kids" will enjoy them and will start absorbing the material
deeply into their hearts (the goal of spiritual formation).
Children and youth:
It was not long, after I began teaching, before I realized the shortcomings of the Faith First, and later the Be My Disciples design. The material in both books was scattered all over the place and the course lacked organized flow. The didactic was compromised until I reorganized the topics placing them in order so as to improve the flow (see the outline). The Faith First and Be My Disciples provide you with the raw material - the bricks and mortar. You, the teacher must use them to build the house - faith of your students. Of course, in order to build the house you must have the plans - the Holy Spirit. Rergrettably, during my teaching career I have seen many, many senior Catholic catechists actively "building their houses" without plans. The outcome was already mentioned earlier. After I got the flow of topics in order so that it made much more sense I began expanding and deepening the contents of both programs to encompass as much spirituality as I could. This can be accomplished well without compromising the doctrines of the Church. My studens provided me with a positive feedback Suddenly among the kids I observed much more interaction and their interest was rising. Then I began adding movie clips to make the point. This was a winner. Finally, we also began incorporating a number of movies and made them compulsory part of our curriculum at St. Malachy's. Our enrollment to Sunday School began skyrocketing.
There is a number of worthwhile films around that can, and should be
presented to your audience. The Faith First and Be My Disciples
hopelessly lack any reference to the active presence of Christ and Mary
around us. Therefore for our children, first we included movies about apparitions
of Mary to later day visionaries and prophets. It is not by coincidence
that Mary and Our Lord choose appearing to young women and children. This
worked for us, as our young students can relate to the stories of these
young saints better. Suddenly our kids began to see for themselves, "hey,
this is real stuff!" and their faith began to deepen. When we start
discussing morality in the second half of the course, a film still with
a religious theme but with a serious moral message is called for. At St.
Malachy's we opted for the following content:
All these films were carefully selected to give our students the lacking historical perspective of Christianity while fitting the spiritual and moral message expected from the Sunday School program according the priciples mentioned earlier in my introduction.
The concept of New Evangelization is not new. Since Vatican II,
Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have used the term "new evangelization"
to refer to the unique situation that the Catholic Church is in today.
In the 80s Pope John Paul II called for new ardor, new expressions and
new methods to reach out to an increasingly secular culture. New Evangelization
was to encourage Catholics preaching the Gospel to the world using inovative
means and approaches. Besides the very existence of this particular web
site for example, a second good example I can share with you is from my
teaching experience. It is about teaching our children to pray Rosary.
Rosary is a relatively long contemplative prayer. Many of our students,
especially those coming from families relatively lukewarm to the faith
had difficulties with this prayer. Even the students who knew how to recite
this prayer relatively well did not understand the meaning of the individual
mysteries. They did know to say "the fourth joyful mystery is the presentation
of Jesus in the temple", but they had no clue what that means! One
way for me getting the message across was showing them clips about the
presentation of baby Jesus in the temple taken from historical films about
the life of Christ. Now, when my kids saw it with their own very eyes,
they will always know, and never forget. This method worked extremely well.
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