THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BOSCO
ISSUE 16 - JANUARY 2014
Q U A R T E R L Y
J O U R N A L
T H E
O F F I C E
5 New Year Resolutions for Catechetical Leaders
Celiac Disease and Catholics Page 4
Witness to the Lord; Nurturing the Faith Page 6
Mark Your Calendar! Page 9
Forming Children as Intentional Disciples Page 10
F O R
C A T E C H E S I S
Mission We believe that through our ministry we continue the mission of Jesus Christ by enabling the people of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois to develop the gifts given them by the Spirit. In carrying out this mission, we strive to provide resources, service and leadership to all who are part of the educational mission of the Church: religious education, early childhood, elementary and secondary schools, and adult education. We do this in the spirit of Jesus Christ.
Staff Jonathan F. Sullivan Director of Catechetical Services firstname.lastname@example.org Chris Malmevik Associate Director for Catechesis email@example.com Cynthia Callan Executive Secretary for Catechesis Secretary for Youth and Young Adult Ministries firstname.lastname@example.org Jean Johnson Superintendent of Catholic Schools email@example.com
n his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis states The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the ﬁrst step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice… Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s inﬁnite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the ﬁrst step and to become involved. (no. 24)
As catechetical leaders we are especially called to “get involved” with the people to whom we minister. Catechesis can never be extricated from the lived situations of real human persons, for “catechesis links human experience to the revealed word of God.” (National Directory for Catechesis no. 29.B). We don’t just catechize; we are called to love one another and support each other in good times and bad, connecting those experiences to the larger Christian story. Jesus was the ultimate exemplar of this reality, healing and eating with the poor, the sinner, the sick, and the outcast. In doing so he didn’t just send them on their way: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” “Where is your faith?” “Your sins have been forgiven.” “Your faith has made you well.” Jesus always orients these encounters towards expanding the faith of the person before him. Their joys, sorrows, and fears become moments of transformation through a radical encounter with Jesus. As we draw others to Christ, we must “get involved” and know them in order to proclaim the Gospel boldly and effectively. By taking that ﬁrst step we, too, can encounter the risen Lord and grow in holiness as catechists and disciples.
Marilyn Missel Associate Superintendent of Catholic Schools firstname.lastname@example.org Lori Casson Secretary for School Personnel email@example.com Kyle Holtgrave Associate Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries firstname.lastname@example.org
St. John Bosco 1815-1888
John Bosco (Italian: Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco; 16 August 1815 – 31 January 1888), popularly known as Don Bosco, was an Italian Roman Catholic priest of the Latin Church, educator and writer of the 19th century. While working in Turin, where the population suffered many of the effects of industrialization and urbanization, he dedicated his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth. He developed teaching methods based on love rather than punishment, a method that became known as the Salesian Preventive System. (from Wikipedia). For additional reading about St. John Bosco visit Wikipedia or Catholic.org.
5 New Year Resolutions ……3 Rethinking My Relationship with the Eucharist ……4 Witness to the Lord; Nurturing the Faith ……6 Mark Your Calendar! ……9 Forming Children as Intentional Disciples ……10 Online Graduate Study Opportunities ……16 Calendar of Events ……17
5 New Year Resolutions for Catechetical Leaders By Jonathan F. Sullivan
With the inauguration of 2014 it’s time once again to engage in the annual practice of setting New Year resolutions! And while I think too many people make resolutions without thinking about how they will support them, there are plenty of ways that we, as catechetical leaders, can work to deepen our ministry in the coming year. Here are ﬁve suggestions for improving your leadership in 2014:
Hone Your Leadership Skills. While many of us have degrees in theology, religious studies, and education, these degrees don’t always prepare us for the day-to-day work of leadership and management. You might pick up a good book (I’ve set up a list of some of my favorite leadership books), listen to a podcast like Manager Tools, or even try to take a course at a local college; regardless, make a commitment to learn more about how to be an effective leader in your parish or diocese!
Make Something… Too often in catechesis we look for a canned program instead of creating something that will meet the speciﬁc needs of our parishes and schools. This year, try creating something yourself! It doesn’t have to be grand. A short study guide, a reﬂection booklet, a prayer card; just ﬂex your creativity for the glory of God!
…And Share It With the World. If you have something you’ve made that you’re particularly happy with, share it! Send copies to your diocesan ofﬁce to distribute, put it online, or just email it to someone. Share your blessings with others so that the great work you do isn’t just conﬁned to your local area. You might even consider releasing your creation under a Creative Commons license.
Go to a Conference. There are plenty of great catechetical conferences around the country that offer ongoing education and networking with other catechists. Depending on your speciﬁc interests you might consider the major conferences held by the National Catholic Educational Association (in Pittsburgh this year) or the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (in St. Louis). If neither of those works for your schedule, you might try the LA Religious Education Congress, the St. John Bosco Conference in Steubenville, or the Mid-Atlantic Congress.
Pray For Success. Above all else, commit yourself to praying more for the success of your ministry. As I’ve mentioned before, our diocesan ofﬁces have been praying the Rosary weekly with a special intention for an increase in faith and discipleship in our parishes. Choose a special intention centered on your efforts and pray constantly for it!
What resolutions are you making regarding your ministry this year?
Rethinking My Relationship with the Eucharist: Celiac Disease and Catholics What if you could no longer receive Eucharist in the regular way? I have learned that when it is a choice between receiving the Body of Christ in a wheaten wafer as does the rest of the community - and my health - it is a very emotional issue as well as a logistical one. I have always been able to eat pretty much anything, so a summer of severe gastrointestinal issues came as a huge shock. Doctors tested me for the usual “bugs,” but concluded it was probably one of the “between 3 and 4 thousand viruses we don’t test for.” In September, I had a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy, which was initially reported as clear. However, when I went back for my follow-up appointment, he mentioned that microscopic examination of samples had revealed the cilia in the lining of my small intestine had atrophied, the sign of celiac disease. I protested that I was no longer having G-I issues. His response was simply “Well, see me if you are having any problems.” End of visit. I had heard of celiac disease, but had never known anyone who had it. (One out of every 133 people in the U.S. have it.) From what I have since read, it’s obvious the gastroenterologist really had no real experience with it either. He seemed to think that as long as I was not having G-I distress it was not much of an issue. The nurse for the internal medicine doctor who had referred me to the gastroenterologist suggested a gluten-free diet, but gave me incorrect information about what I could not eat. Since then I have learned that celiac disease is regarded as very under-diagnosed (some estimate that 95% of people who have it don’t know) and that “silent” celiac disease is indeed serious, even when there are no or few digestive issues. For people like me the only noticeable symptoms may be arthritis and
By Joyce Donahue
major fatigue. The damage to the intestine means I do not absorb nutrients from food - which can result in severe osteoporosis, liver damage and even cancer. My best strategy is to eat a totally gluten-free diet for the rest of my life. That means nothing made with wheat, barley or rye. And that means no wheaten hosts for Communion. I was certainly aware that the USCCB has a statement about low-gluten hosts, but never thought it would apply to me. After a few weeks when the communion host was the only wheat I knowingly ingested - and a tell-tale reactive rash - I made the difﬁcult decision to deal with it. As a diocesan employee, I frequently receive at Masses with our bishop, so I ﬁrst consulted our Ofﬁce for Divine Worship. I was told I needed to purchase my own hosts and pyx and bring them to each Mass. So I ordered the hosts made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and an inexpensive starter pyx. The early experience has not exactly been seamless. • I have to remember to load my pyx and bring it with me to Mass. (The hosts need to be stored frozen because the lack of gluten means they go stale very quickly, so I can’t just carry around a “spare” at all times.) • At my parish, my pastor has been very good about it. He hands me my pyx, with the usual words “The Body of Christ.” Since I am the only one doing this at the moment, communication has not been good. Other priests, communion ministers and deacons are con-
fused and reluctant. I have sometimes had to ask for the pyx to be brought from the altar and usually they had it to me in silence. One priest insists I should just go up and take it if he forgets. •The ﬁrst time I received the special host, it completely stuck to the roof of my mouth. Since I was the cantor, that made singing the communion song a bit of a challenge. •When I am handed the closed pyx, I have to open it and leverage the extremely thin wafer out with a ﬁngernail. Sometimes it’s a struggle.
prepared for, however, were my emotional reactions and the distraction that these can cause. These have included general sadness that this has to happen at all, uncertainty about procedure, fear that I will forget to bring a host with me, worry about whether my pyx will actually be on the altar at the Consecration, fear of causing a fuss or disruption to the communion line, reluctance to make an issue at an unfamiliar site or with new people, and sorrow when I am unable to receive.
I realize that my experience is not as difﬁcult as it must be for people who have a severe reacSome sources of gluten include (clockwise from top): High-gluten wheat flour, European spelt, barley, rolled rye flakes. (from Wikimedia Commons) tion to even the tiniest amount of gluten. (There is •At each of the diocesan employee litursome discussion in the Catholic celiac commugies something different has happened. nity about whether even the low-gluten hosts First, the bishop placed the open pyx in the ciare safe.) However, I am a highly-motivated, borium with the other hosts and offered me my high-functioning, liturgically knowledgeable host in the normal way. Next time, the deacon person. I already knew there were low-gluten came down separately and handed me my host. hosts. I can only wonder how many people have I don’t know what to expect next. stopped receiving communion or have stopped going to Mass altogether because of celiac dis•I attended a funeral at a local parish for ease. a priest where there were many concelebrants - and three bishops. It was not my home parFor me, this has and will continue to be a jourish, so I did not feel comfortable presenting my ney. It has resulted in my realizing just how pyx at the altar. The Precious Blood was not important the Eucharist is in my life. I will offered to the congregation, so I did not go up struggle through this - because I have to, and for communion. because I have the right to receive the Body of Christ, even when it is not in the same way as Yes, there are logistical issues. I hope these the rest of the community. will be worked out over time. What I was not
Joyce Donahue is a Catechetical Associate in the Diocese of Joliet’s Religious Education Ofﬁce. This post originally appeared on her blog “Liturgy and Catechesis Shall Kiss” (http://liturgycatechesisshallkiss.blogspot.com/) and is © 2013 by Joyce Donahue. Reprinted with permission.
Witness to the Lord; Nurturing the Faith
by Karen Ristau, EdD President National Catholic Educational Association
The Catholic school intends to proclaim the gospel message of Jesus Christ and teach the content of the faith as an integral part of an excellent education. Thus, Catholic elementary and secondary school education is designed to provide a complete education, one that eventually leads students to consider who they are and what it means to be a whole person with a sense of purpose in this present time.
The Good News of Jesus teaches the value of the person and that person’s inalienable dignity. The Catholic faith, therefore, holds a comprehensive theory of human life in general and of the goodness of human beings as made in the image and likeness of God. That belief transforms the school into a graced institution. In this sense, the faith, presented as an academic subject in the course of the day, cannot be seen as something that is “value-added” or a “wrap-around”—to use two current buzzwords—to an already existing educational program. The school is called to present an integration of the Gospel so that faith becomes “all of a piece” in the life of the student. The schools fulﬁll this obligation both by giving witness and nurturing the faith of the students and others involved in the life of the school.
Witnessing to the Lord The institution itself becomes a living witness to the Lord in its purpose and its programs, in the culture it creates, and in the relationships it establishes. The idea of being a living witness emanates from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which in turn informs the very distinctive educational philosophy that guides the school’s purpose. Jesus, as proclaimed by the Catholic Church, is the person at the heart of the Catholic educational ministry. He “is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise. . . . The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision makes the school, Catholic. . . . Principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the school then has them as its internal motivation and ﬁnal goal” (Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School[CS] [1977; repr. with new translation by Karen M. Ristau, Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association, 2009], 34). The programs offered in the Catholic school curriculum address the entire life of the person. Current government-sponsored educational programs that call for either workplace readiness or college readiness are simply limiting (National Governors Association, www.corestandards.org). There is no mention, nor can there be, of education for life, how to live one’s life, and especially how to understand the transcendent purpose of this life, which brings us home to God. The holistic approach offered by the Catholic school addresses the deep spiritual needs of students as well as their intellectual and physical needs. In that sense, the Catholic school curriculum is able to help students make a connection between faith and culture. Because the school offers a comprehensive program, students begin their learning in basic skills, for example, learning to read and write and to conquer basic mathematic skills. Ultimately, they are prepared to understand sophisticated and complex knowledge in science and world events through the critical lens of faith. Urged to see God in all things, students begin to form a Catholic worldview.
The school creates a culture based on the distinctive characteristics of its philosophy. Ideally, all persons are valued and respected because they are made in the image and likeness of God. This philosophy requires excellence from the teachers in their ministry and holds students responsible for living up to the highest academic standards possible for the individual. Laxity is seen as disrespectful of the gifts and talents given us by God. Similarly, this same philosophy establishes behavioral expectations based on respect, which is manifested in courtesy, thoughtfulness, truthfulness, and a certain decorum.
Nurturing the Faith In the arena beyond the school doors, the Catholic school has the opportunity to give particular witness to the demands of the Gospel. Catholics often deﬁne themselves as the People of God, implying a sense of community, of being for each other. Regina Bechtle pointed out that the history of God’s people demonstrates his preference for tribes, for people together in a group, as opposed to highly individualistic societies (Regina Bechtle, “Giving the Spirit a Home” in Called and Chosen, ed. Zeni Fox and Regina Bechtle [Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littleﬁeld, 2005], 101). In the Catholic school, students learn to think about a way of being together within the school and to understand and demonstrate a concern for people in the community, especially those in need. The school’s challenge is to make this value a lived experience for students, not just a value taught. The same may be said for instruction in principles of social justice. Catholic schools do more than teach about human dignity. They do something about it. School activities include numerous occasions for students to involve themselves in service projects: visiting those conﬁned to home, collecting goods for food kitchens, and taking part in a myriad of other age-appropriate activities. Catholic schools also pay attention to the relationships they establish with parents, Church ofﬁcials, governing committees, public school leaders, and proper civil authorities. While Catholic schools are intrinsically linked to the Church hierarchy (Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition: New English Translation [Codex Iuris Canonici (CIC)] [Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1998], c. 803), the ideal relationship is one of charity and support. Acknowledging the role of parents as the primary educators of their children (Second Vatican Council, Declaration on Christian Education [Gravissimum Educationis (GE)], no. 3, in Vatican Council II: Volume 1: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery [Northport, NY: Costello Publishing, 1996]), Catholic schools encourage parent associations and advisory groups that create a spirit of mutual support. Harmonious relationships with other educational leaders and civic authorities extend our belief system to others. Catholic schools aspire to nurture the faith of all those involved in the educational project: the students, the teachers, and families who make up the school community. The school curriculum presents the content and the body of truths of the Catholic faith to all students attending the school, using current and effective teaching methodologies. Beyond content, Catholic school teaching understands the Person of Jesus as the heart of its mission and communicates the living mystery of God in the development of attitudes, the maturity necessary to make wise and life-giving choices, and the ability to think and see as a Catholic. Catholic schools have the unique opportunity to involve students in the daily and usual practices of the Catholic religion. Prayer frames the school day and becomes a natural way of life for the students. Frequent school-wide liturgies provide students with the celebration of the Mass for their own spiritual needs and allow them to participate, where appropriate, as lec-
tors, greeters, song leaders, and Eucharistic ministers. This brings the students close to life in the Holy Spirit and prepares them to participate in the liturgical life of their parishes or campus ministry in the future. The school program enriches and inﬂuences not only the students but also the parents and teachers. Research done by James Coleman points out how the value of being in a common culture, developing a sense of belonging, and building what Coleman calls “human capital” enriches the educational experience for students and families (James S. Coleman and Thomas Hoffer, Public and Private High Schools: The Impact of Communities [New York: Basic Books, 1987]). In a good school, all learn and teach to some degree. The whole community helps every member grow in faith. Parents are drawn into the religious activities of their children. The educational process particularly informs and inspires the faith life of those who teach. The adage “to teach is to learn” holds true. As teachers review the knowledge to be presented and seek to give purpose, direction, and guidance to their students, they open themselves to greater knowledge. Teachers
are afforded the opportunity to reﬂect and practice the virtues of acceptance, patience, and understanding of others in their own actions with students and parents. Here the faith guides the teacher’s vocation. In this arrangement, “the Spirit is at work in every person” (CS, 18). Witnessing and nurturing the faith, then, are two important components of the Catholic school. They must not remain abstract concepts but must be promoted by the entire school community: students, teachers, and parents. The inalienable dignity of every person must be experienced in the life of the school. This is not easy work. The community that calls the school into existence—bishops, pastors, parents, administrators, and teachers—needs to speak anew the foundational philosophy of Catholic education and speak it convincingly. To be a living witness and to nurture the faith of those involved in the school community requires sustained attention to the Gospel of Jesus, which names all people as those made in the image and likeness of God.
Copyright © 2013, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to duplicate this work without adaptation for non-commercial use.
Confirmation of Catechized Catholics, June 8, 2014 Following the directives established by Bishop Paprocki, adult Catholics who are catechized but not confirmed are invited to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. Further details can be found at dio.org/catechesis
S AV E TH DAT E E!
Decatur Conference Center & Hotel Decatur, Illinois
Pre-Conference November 15 Sessions on Athletics, Young Adult Ministry and Youth Ministry
Ar twork: Cece Donathan, Christ the King, Springfield, Illinois
Sherry Weddell, Author of Forming Intentional Disciples
Sponsored by the Office for Catechesis and the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Made possible in part by the Annual Catholic Services Appeal
Leland Nagel Executive Director of the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL)
Contact Information Office for Catechesis 217-698-8500, ext. 178 email@example.com
Registration Brochures available after August 1, 2014 Visit dio.org/catechesis/daec for up-to-date information
Among the many great books that were published during the Year of Faith in 2012-2013 was Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples. The book is meant to clarify an important distinction between being “Catholic” and being a “disciple.” It begins with the statistics about participation in the Catholic Church today that conﬁrm what many of us see and experience in our parishes. Then the book introduces process of disciple-making that focuses on the progression through thresholds of conversion: 1. Initial Trust 2. Spiritual Curiosity 3. Spiritual Openness 4. Spiritual Seeking 5. Intentional Disciples Although I read the book months ago, it hasn’t really been until now that I’ve given much thought to applying her book to the way we form disciples at various stages of childhood development. I won’t claim to speak for the author and I may be highly misinterpreting or oversimplifying her thoughts on evangelization and catechesis. My hope with this short post is to lay out how I have seen signs of young, intentional disciples in my experience as a parent, teacher, and catechist. My own children are pre-school age and younger and I have taught at every grade level from second grade to middle school and to high school. That doesn’t make me an expert, but I hope you will beneﬁt from this perspective in the way you form the young disciples in your care. I think you could make an argument that my observations below place children at various thresholds on the way to intentional discipleship, but not yet as intentional disciples. I’m open to that and welcome feedback from those who are deeper into the book that I am. What is an “Intentional Disciple”? First things ﬁrst, what is an “intentional disciple”? Weddell’s thesis, if I understand it correctly, is that while we have many baptized Catholics (both practicing and non-practicing), there is a key distinction between being “Catholic” and being a “disciple.” A disciple must consciously commit to following Jesus Christ. In other words, to be a disciple, you must be an intentional disciple. “Discipleship is never unconscious,” Weddell writes (Kindle version, loc. 936). So in the examination below, I will do my best to create a distinction between what child disciples might look like compared to children who are not intentional disciples. The key distinction from what I understand in Weddell’s book and have seen in my own experience is whether or not someone conceives of God as a person with whom they can have a relationship and whether he or she consciously chooses to commit to that relationship.
By Jared Dees
s e l p i c s i D - 10 7 --
mong the many great books that were published during the Year of Faith in 2012-2013 was Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples. The book is meant to clarify an important distinction between being “Catholic” and being a “disciple.” It begins with the statistics about participation in the Catholic Church today that conﬁrm what many of us see and experience in our parishes. Then the book introduces process of disciple-making that focuses on the progression through thresholds of conversion: 1. Initial Trust 2. Spiritual Curiosity 3. Spiritual Openness 4. Spiritual Seeking 5. Intentional Disciples Although I read the book months ago, it hasn’t really been until now that I’ve given much thought to applying her book to the way we form disciples at various stages of childhood development. I won’t claim to speak for the author and I may be highly misinterpreting or oversimplifying her thoughts on evangelization and catechesis. My hope with this short post is to lay out how I have seen signs of young, intentional disciples in my experience as a parent, teacher, and catechist. My own children are pre-school age and younger and I have taught at every grade level from second grade to middle school and to high school. That doesn’t make me an expert, but I hope you will beneﬁt from this perspective in the way you form the young disciples in your care. I think you could make an argument that my observations below place children at various thresholds on the way to intentional discipleship, but not yet as intentional disciples. I’m open to that and welcome feedback from those who are deeper into the book that I am. What is an “Intentional Disciple”? First things ﬁrst, what is an “intentional disciple”? Weddell’s thesis, if I understand it correctly, is that while we have many baptized Catholics (both practicing and non-practicing), there is a key distinction between being “Catholic” and being a “disciple.” A disciple must consciously commit to following Jesus Christ. In other words, to be a disciple, you must be an intentional disciple. “Discipleship is never unconscious,” Weddell writes (Kindle version, loc. 936). So in the examination below, I will do my best to create a distinction between what child disciples might look like compared to children who are not intentional disciples. The key distinction from what I understand in Weddell’s book and have seen in my own experience is whether or not someone conceives of God as a person with whom they can have a relationship and whether he or she consciously chooses to commit to that relationship. Intentional disciples, as Weddell points out, “drop their nets” like Peter and make the decision to dedicate their life to following Christ.
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Although young people at various stages of childhood development may not make life-long decisions to be a disciple of Christ, I do believe it is worthwhile to examine how they might envision God as a personal or impersonal being through various stages of growth and recognize that a relationship with him is not only possible, but taken for granted. What Young Intentional Disciples Look Like at Various Ages I think this needs much more thought and study. This is only based on my own experience working with each age level. For a more detailed and quantitative study of faith at various levels of childhood development, check out Dr. James Fowler’s Stages of Faith. Infancy to Pre-school We all know the story, but the lesson is essential to understanding discipleship at young ages particularly pre-school: People brought infants to Jesus and the disciples rebuked them. Jesus ﬁred back at his disciples telling them that, in fact, the kingdom of God belongs to those who accept the kingdom like a child. My own kids are pre-school age and younger. They are all baptized, go to mass regularly, and pray daily (with the help of their parents of course), but are they disciples? When my wife and I talk to our children about God (once they are able to talk), they do not question his existence. They have no doubt that he is indeed a “he” with whom we can talk. Just a few weeks ago, I had the following exchange with my four year old daughter: Daughter: Dad, why do we have to pray to God all the time? Me: Well, in my experience I just can’t do anything without God’s help. Why do you pray to God? Daughter: [Pause] Because I want him to watch over me. Me: That’s a very good reason. Then I had another exchange with my very literal-minded two year old who kept asking me during Mass, “Where’s Jesus?” To try to quiet her down during the homily and later during the Eucharistic Prayer I kept pointing to the cruciﬁx above the altar, which was nowhere near an acceptable answer to her. “No,” she said looking around the church, “Where is Jesus?” Of course, pointing to the bread and wine just didn’t get the point across either. What does this suggest about their level of discipleship?
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I can’t say we’re perfect parents by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe we’ve done a good job so far witnessing to our personal faith in God to our kids. Why? Because they view God as a reality with whom they can come to know and have a relationship. When we pray, they know we are talking to someone not just saying fancy words to ourselves. When we go to church, we go to see Jesus. The key to forming intentional disciples at this stage is to constantly refer to God as a someone rather than a something. Prayer, mass, and children’s catechesis are all related to a person not just things we do or stories we tell. Christ has to be the center and purpose of everything we do. Signs of an Intentional Disciple: • Refer to God as a person • Expect to see Jesus like they see other people • Ask God to watch over friends and family Elementary School Children Between the ages of ﬁve and ten children have incredible imaginations. Still at these ages the idea of God as person with whom we can have a relationship is easy to grasp. At the “age of reason,” young people are able to at least accept (even if they don’t understand) that when they eat the bread and drink the wine at Mass, they receive a God with whom they can have a relationship. At this stage of development, children still play imaginary games. They pretend. They have imaginary friends and make swords to ﬁght dragons and set tables for tea parties. They are dreamers and they ask questions constantly. One key, I have noticed, is to cultivate questions about “who” rather than “what.” If the students are asking questions about the “who” of Jesus Christ and relating the “what” of our beliefs and spiritual practices to our relationship with him, then we are heading in the right direction. Signs of an Intentional Disciple: • Sincere desire to receive their ﬁrst communion • Ask questions about what God and Jesus are like Middle School and Junior High Children At some point prior to junior high school, children stop playing pretend. Things become very black and white, good and bad, cool and uncool, real or not real. Among the many challenges to forming intentional disciples at this stage is making sure God doesn’t get put into the “not real” category along with realizations about Santa Claus and the
Easter Bunny. It is critical that young people at this age “believe in” God in a different way than we all might “believe in” the spirit of Santa or the Easter Bunny. In other words, it is during this time that we have to pray that young people will maintain a belief in God’s reality and purse a relationship with him. Pre-teens and teens want desperately to be an adult, but they can easily be misled as to what those ideals should be. At this age, it is critical for them to have role models who have personal relationships with Christ so they can come to understand what being an intentional disciple is really like. Signs of an Intentional Disciple: • Relate moral decisions to a relationship with God • Participate in faith even when it isn’t “cool” • Look up to and respect teens and adults who are intentional disciples
Adolescents This is a critical time in a person’s faith development. As young people approach adulthood, they start to develop meaningful relationships with other people. At the same time, they have developed the capability of entering into a mature, personal relationship with Christ. During the teenage years, young people rely highly on the development of their logical thinking. They start to defy their parents because they can logically think their way around rules and habits, which often creates a divide between them. That same divide often occurs between teens and God. It is so easy for teens to use their logic to defy God’s existence (using short-term, observable events) that developing a relationship with him doesn’t make sense to them. In fact, to many teens, all spiritual practices start to seem empty because they use only their heads and not their hearts. At the same time, teenagers are suffering. At this age, they feel what may be the height of our human disconnect and divide from other people. Almost all teenagers compensate for this divide by trying to ﬁt in and create an identity for themselves that will protect them from getting hurt. When young people take refuge in God and base their identity on him, they ﬁnd healing. From that source of healing and strength, a foundation can be set for lifelong discipleship. Signs of Intentional Discipleship: • Mature, authentic relationship with Jesus Christ • Belief in Jesus Christ amid a struggle to logically believe God is real • Sincere interest in learning without a claim to know it all
How to Form Children and Teens as Intentional Disciples How do you form disciples at young ages? Here are some basic principles that I have found to be helpful at all levels of religious education and youth ministry. Keep in mind, they are only principles. The details of your situation and the age group of your students are very important. 1.
Disciples make disciples. Are you an intentional disciple? There is no amount of training, formation, or education that can replace the impact your own relationship with Christ can have on the young people you serve. Before anything else, focus on your own relationship with Christ as his disciple.
Share faith in God, not abstract truths. Our job as religious educators is to pass on the faith in a person, not teach a series of abstract truths. Every lesson we teach needs to relate back to our relationships with God and with each other. Every Church teaching has to have a foundation in that relationship otherwise we’re just expecting young people to accept things with their heads and not their hearts.
Ask about their relationship with God. Whenever you have the chance, ask young people about their relationship with Christ. If you don’t ask, will anyone else? In FID, the key question in what Weddell calls a “threshold conversation” is “Could you brieﬂy describe for me your relationship with God to this point in your life?” It wouldn’t hurt to ask your students this question no matter how old they are.
Read the Bible. We encounter the living God when we read the Bible especially when we practice Lectio Divina. Make sure the Bible isn’t just a book of stories used to analyze abstract truths and lessons. Introduce the Bible as an opportunity to encounter the Word of God.
Share the sacraments. Celebrate the sacraments as a real encounter with Christ. Participate in Eucharistic adoration as well.
Pray for them. We can never pray for our students enough. They need our prayers. They need the help because you and I both know how hard it is to stay on that journey of discipleship when we’re young and some young people have it harder than others. Pray for them as often as possible.
Jared Dees is the creator of The Religion Teacher (www.thereligionteacher.com) and has worked in catechetical ministry for over ten years. He is the Digital Publishing Specialist at Ave Maria Press and the author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator. This article original appeared on his blog and is © 2013 by Jared Dees. Reprinted with permission.
Online Graduate Study Opportunities in Ministry and Catechesis With the advent of new media technologies studying for theology and ministry has gotten easier and easier. Here are three great programs available to lay ministers in our diocese who are looking for advanced study options.
Aquinas Institute of Theology St. Louis, Missouri; www.ai.edu
Aquinas Institute is a Dominican-sponsored graduate school of theology and ministry located in downtown St. Louis. Most classes may be taken on-campus or online. Students from the diocese of Springﬁeld in Illinois receive a substantial tuition discount thanks to a partnering agreement with the school. In addition, scholarships are available from the Ofﬁce for Catechesis. Academic Programs • • • •
Master of Arts (MA) Masters of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (MAPS) Master of Divinity (MDiv)
Quincy, Illinois; www.quincy.edu Quincy University recently announced the creation of a new online Master of Religious Education. This 33-credit program involves 10 courses and a culminating experience to integrate classroom learning while tailoring the program to your speciﬁc ministerial situation. Academic Program • Master of Religious Education (MRE)
Greenwood Village, Colorado; www.augustineinstitute.org The Augustine Institute offers online graduate courses in theology with an emphasis on preparing lay ministers for the new evangelization. Academic Programs • Master of Arts in Theology (MA) • Graduate Certiﬁcate
• • • • •
Graduate Certiﬁcate in Biblical Studies Graduate Certiﬁcate in Pastoral Care Graduate Certiﬁcate in Spiritual Direction Graduate Certiﬁcate in Thomistic Studies Doctor of Ministry in Preaching (DMin)
CALENDAR OF EVENTS CORE Meetings
Thursdays, March 20, and May 15, 2014; Catholic Pastoral Center; Springfield, Illinois; 10a-2p
Principals Leadership Conference
April 10-11, 2014; Villa Maria; Springfield, Illinois
NCEA (National Catholic Educational Association) Convention and Expo April 22-24, 2014; Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; ncea.org/ConventionCentral.asp
NCCL (National Conference for Catechetical Leadership) “Energize, Evangelize, Catechize” May 19-22, 2014; St. Louis, Missouri; nccl.us
Confirmation of Adult Catholics
June 8, 2014; Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; Springfield, Illinois; 2p
June 10-11, 2014; Villa Maria; Springfield, Illinois
Diocesan Adult Enrichment Conference (DAEC)
November 16-17, 2014; Decatur Conference Center & Hotel; Decatur, Illinois
Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good. In this regard, several sayings of Saint Paul will not surprise us: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14); “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (no.9)
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COREnotes January 2014 - Issue 16 The Feast of St. John Bosco
Office for Catechesis 1615 W. Washington • Springfield, IL 62702 - 4757 217.698.8500 ph • 217.698.8620 fax • dio.org/catechesis