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Franciscan at Home

Online learning at your convenience

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines has partnered with Franciscan University's Catechetical Institute in order to provide our parish and school staff, ministry leaders, and clergy with excellent Catholic formation: intellectual, pastoral, and spiritual.  Whether in a Catholic School classroom, a parish religious education experience, youth and young adult opportunities, the RCIA, parish staff, Catholic school steacher, ministry leaders, and parents of your parish or school will have unlimited access to the Catechetical Institute’s online workshops in the comfort of their own homes.

During our initial launch we will offer certificates  in the following areas of ministry: Youth Ministry, Parish Catechetical Leadership, and for Catechists.  RCIA (both in English and Spanish) and Mentorship will soon follow in the phase.  The Mentorship track is for those individuals who have been designated by their parish to serve as a mentor.  During the coming months we will be helping parish leaders on-board tracks ideal for parishioners who are not active in ministry but want to grow in their faith and for those with a specific ministry in the Church.

If you have any questions about the Catechetical Institute, please contact:

John Gaffney

Director, Department of Evangelization and Catechesis

jgaffney@dmdiocese.org 

Learning Tracks

Foundational Catechist Certification
Foundations

This workshop explores the most critical element in the graced work of passing on the faith – you. Because the content of the faith is a Person – the Person of Christ – the person of the catechist is pivotal for success. The vocation of the catechist is to be a witness of Christ’s goodness, of His zeal, of His ways, of Him – to be like the Master. “Whatever be the level of his responsibility in the Church, every catechist must constantly endeavor to transmit by his teaching and behavior the teaching and life of Jesus” (CT 6). This calling is both joyfully thrilling, and jarringly daunting. It is a supernatural work, beyond our natural capacities. “Catechesis . . . is consequently a work of the Holy Spirit, a work that He alone can initiate and sustain in the Church” (CT 72). And sustain in you. This foundational workshop offers inspiration, insight, and guidance to encourage catechists as they strive to live out their privileged vocation.

Mother Church insists that catechesis that truly evangelizes hearts, and that meets souls in the place of greatest need, must be unshakably centered upon Him who is our beginning and our end – Jesus Christ.  We teach Jesus, and everything we teach, we teach in reference to Him, thus teaching Christo-centrically.  Come explore how to unfold the life-giving truths of our faith with Jesus placed clearly at the center of all things: our teaching content, our teaching methods, and our own personal witness to others whom God has called us to love.

Throughout the generations, the Word of God has been handed on as a precious jewel. The Church has guarded this Deposit of Faith so that the saving message of hope might shine out for all to see. Now it is up to us. It is our turn to hand on this jewel, unscathed. It is up to us to catechize, continuing the unbroken chain of passing on the faith throughout the ages. The term catechesis comes from two Greek words meaning, “to echo down,” reflecting the call to us to “echo down,” to hand on, the whole of the faith in its saving fullness. This Deposit of Faith is summed up for our times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We will look at this important teaching tool for catechesis in this workshop, to discover how we, too, can effectively pass on the precious deposit of Christian teaching. And in learning how to do this, we are able to insert our own name into St. Paul’s exhortation, “O catechist, guard what has been entrusted to you.”

 

This workshop will explore the necessary connection of catechesis to the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church in our work as catechists.  The liturgy comes from the “living memory” of the Church, that is, the Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit working in the liturgy, the truths of the faith are passed on, like a special family memory, from generation to generation, to the present day.  Each time we participate in the liturgy we receive the treasure of the Deposit of Faith.  But the liturgy is more than a family heirloom – it is reality, the place in which “Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human beings” (CT 23).  As catechists, we have a call, the privilege of assuring that those we catechize understand and grow in appreciation for this encounter with God.  We bring others into God’s saving work in the liturgy so they too can become transformed by He who loves us fully.  We teach about the liturgy to pass on the magnificent inheritance of faith to the next generation, echoing the action of catechists from the centuries before us.

Scripture

Knowing and understanding Scripture is essential in the life of a catechist. This workshop will explore how God’s Word, transmitted in Sacred Scripture, grounds and deepens our relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. In Scripture, we see the sweeping Plan of God, the history of salvation unfolded. We hear His stunning and steadfast invitation to communion with Him. Sacred Scripture ought to permeate all forms of catechesis, as well as our personal lives as catechists. Through creating lesson plans saturated with the Scriptures, we foster a profound encounter with the Divine – love and challenge, wisdom and hope, forgiveness and mercy, and the means to know God and to know ourselves. By breaking open the Scriptures in each catechetical session, we unlock the mystery of Christ, revealing to those we teach the One they desire to know, fostering life-changing intimacy with God.

This workshop will introduce participants to biblical catechesis through an ancient catechetical technique: the use of the Story of the Bible. The most important historical events of the Bible can be briefly described in one Story, connected by one common theme: union with God. The Story of the Bible portrays the drama of God’s love for every soul and the whole human race: how God created us to be united with Him in a relationship of love; how we lost union with God through the original sin; how Jesus re-united us with God in a relationship of love through His passion, death and Resurrection; and how the Holy Spirit fosters a continuing unfolding of those saving events in the life of Church, as the Lord’s Bride. Often in a catechetical setting we fall into the habit of teaching individual topics without reference to the greater context of salvation history. In order to draw others into the life of God and the Church we have to help them make this Story of the Bible their own. Everything that the Church teaches, her doctrines, disciplines, worship, and morality makes sense when delivered within the context of the Story of the Bible. The Story of the Bible tells us of our spiritual roots, our dignity, our destiny, and daily vocation to follow Jesus Christ, providing peace and authentic hope to those we seek to teach and evangelize.

 

Method

“The content of catechesis cannot be indifferently subjected to any method” (General Directory for Catechesis 149). Every good catechist seeks in some organized fashion to give growth to the seed of faith, to nourish hope, and to develop a deeper desire to love God and neighbor. In this workshop, we will explore a method that is highly suited to the goals of catechesis, and flows from a study of how the Church’s many catechetical saints sought to pass on the beauty, truth, and goodness of Christ’s saving revelation.

The goal of catechesis is participation in God’s life. It is critical that catechists learn how to effectively engage the young mind and heart of each child, encourage each child to respect and love the things of the faith, and help each child discover the wonderful love of a gentle Father. This very basic workshop focuses on the most fundamental catechetical methodologies that will enable the catechist of children to facilitate intimacy with God and fidelity to the Church. Methods and techniques will be demonstrated that encourage children to grow in wonder and awe, as they deepen their love for God and His truths.

The General Directory of Catechesis says that, “Catechesis for adults, since it deals with persons who are capable of an adherence that is fully responsible, must be considered the chief form of catechesis” (GDC 59).  Is this what most adult Catholics understand?  Do most parishes orient sufficient resources to this endeavor?  Do the methods employed in parishes reflect the best possible principles for adult learning, which differ from methodology employed for children and adolescents?  This workshop will explore techniques to evangelize, catechize, and form faith in adults most effectively, given that the principle places of adult formation are in the family and in the parish.

Philosophy

This workshop sharpens a few of your philosophical tools for teaching the faith. Philosophy, far from putting our lessons out of reach of our audience, actually appeals to the reason of those we teach; it helps us explain doctrine so that it “makes sense,” rather than just falling back on, “because I said so.” This workshop will provide examples of philosophically approaching the faith by exploring both a Catholic and a secular worldview, as well as what these two approaches mean for the human person, ultimately helping us prepare our learners to answer Jesus’ crucial question to His apostles and to each one of us, “Who do you say that I am?”           

 

Spiritual

In order to pass on the truths of Faith in season and out, the catechist must be securely grounded in Christ. This workshop will consider the richness of the Catholic spiritual life as it pertains specifically to the life of the catechist. Prayer is not the “last ditch effort” of defense for us as catechists, but our first line of defense - the wings on which every effort should soar. Our society often has trouble recognizing that the invisible spiritual realities are in fact “more real,” and certainly more lasting, than the physical realities we touch, see, hear, and experience daily. A review of the spiritual tools of the trade is thus appropriate to help us as catechists joyfully incorporate prayer as our first, middle, and last act of the day, and of the teaching session, creating an environment for catechesis that is permeated by prayer.

 

Doctrine

The Blessed Trinity is the greatest of all mysteries: the One and Only God is a unity of Three Persons. The Trinity is also our final home, the goal of our life. This mystery, revealed in Jesus, sheds light on all other Christian mysteries. And it is the revelation that sheds light on all other Christian mysteries. Knowing that God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, is a unity of loving Persons, changes our understanding of everything. Many religions believe in gods, some believe in one God, but nothing compares to the Christian belief in one God as a communion of Persons, named for us by Jesus as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Many curriculums include the Trinity as only one doctrine among many. This workshop will help to show how to teach the centrality of the Trinity effectively, as the goal and fulfillment of the life of each Christian.

He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is in all, before all, through all.  The primary and essential object of catechesis is, to use an expression dear to St. Paul, “the mystery of Christ.” (CT 5)  Therefore everyone who teaches the Catholic faith must be immersed in this mystery.  Using Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as recent ecclesial documents, this workshop will present the key doctrines that must be taught concerning Jesus Christ.  By examining Jesus’ actions in Scripture, His relationships, and His ways of teaching, we will help catechists unlock the mysteries of Christ, His Incarnation, Redemption, and Second Coming.

 

Foundational RCIA Certification
The Vision for Christian Initiation

What is our purpose and goal as ministers in the Church in an RCIA process? To make new Catholics? To spread the Gospel? To run a good process? Our purpose and goal must transcend the “how” of RCIA and begin with the “why.” The restoration of the catechumenal process is a reflection of the Church’s wisdom in going back to a tried and true practice in order to lovingly bring people into Her fold. It is a restoration of grace for those who are seeking Christ and His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. This workshop inaugurates the necessary vision to develop excellent parish-based RCIA ministry, beginning with a call to trust the wisdom of Holy Mother Church in Her discernment to gift the modern world with a way of Christian initiation unparalleled in its beauty and power. Only in the light of this trust and deep understanding of the RCIA process, as the Church intends it to be implemented, does the full purpose and potential of the initiation journey become clear and attainable.

It is into the great mystery of the Father’s saving love through Christ Jesus that all believers are called.  And it is this great mystery that all the institutions of the Church, each and every one of them, exist to serve. The RCIA has no other purpose than the service of the holy mystery, the saving sacrament, of Christ present and active in His living Body.  The renewal of the process of Christian initiation stands as one of the most important and successful features of modern liturgical renewal. Since its promulgation in 1972 and its further elaboration under the auspices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1988, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults has been among the most pastorally effective features of Catholic life in the United States.  And yet all is not well. The very fact that the challenge is conversion, the conforming of imperfect men and women to Christ, means that the process will never be perfect. Initiation is, after all, the beginning of a process which has its ending in eternity. However, there are problems that are more concrete and, for that reason, can more readily be corrected. In general, three models of RCIA are operative today in most Catholic parishes using the Rite. Each of the models conceives of, and practices, Christian initiation differently. This workshop describes these models, discussing their strengths and weaknesses in terms of catechetical, liturgical, and pastoral dimensions.  The result is clarity on how best the RCIA can serve the great work of immersing participants into Catholicism through a process of learning and interiorizing the sacred Scriptures, doctrines, sacraments, prayers, moral traditions, spiritual readings and rich communal culture of the Catholic Church, in order to serve the Father’s provident love in calling each soul to the living Body of Christ on earth.

From the ancient Nicene Creed we proclaim that “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.” The mystery of the Second Person of the Trinity is the God Who comes to us to save, redeem, instruct, give us hope and lead us to our promised glory. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We do not have a God Who is distant, but a God Who comes to us in the most intimate way. We enter into the mystery of Christ through a living Word, transforming sacramental grace, evangelizing catechesis, and evangelical communities. This workshop will explore how a rich understanding of the means by which souls enter into Christ’s life can be fostered in our approaches to ministry. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) to call each soul to God’s loving plan and sure hope in Christ. This talk describes the means to participate in that life.

Liturgical Aspect of Christian Initiation

This workshop will explore the necessary connection of catechesis to the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church in our work as catechists.  The liturgy comes from the “living memory” of the Church, that is, the Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit working in the liturgy, the truths of the faith are passed on, like a special family memory, from generation to generation, to the present day.  Each time we participate in the liturgy we receive the treasure of the Deposit of Faith.  But the liturgy is more than a family heirloom – it is reality, the place in which “Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human beings” (CT 23).  As catechists, we have a call, the privilege of assuring that those we catechize understand and grow in appreciation for this encounter with God.  We bring others into God’s saving work in the liturgy so they too can become transformed by He who loves us fully.  We teach about the liturgy to pass on the magnificent inheritance of faith to the next generation, echoing the action of catechists from the centuries before us.

“. . . [T]he liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed;  it is also the fount from which all her power flows” (Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium 10).  The liturgy proclaims, celebrates, and actualizes the Father’s loving plan for His people.  The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), or catechumenal process, has three aspects: liturgical, catechetical, and pastoral, of which liturgical is prime. The Church has designed these aspects to promote deep, long-lasting conversion to Christ and a love for the Church.  This workshop will focus on the stages of the modern catechumenal process, which derives directly from the ancient order of catechumens, and the way liturgical graces build and crescendo through the four periods of the RCIA process to make possible the plan of goodness born in the Father’s heart for each believer.

Catechetical Aspect of Christian Initiation

“That which was from the beginning . . . that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…” (1 John 1:1, 3). St. John Paul II proclaimed that, “The definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ . . .” (Apostolic Exhortation "On Catechesis in Our Time," Catechesi tradendae 5). The work of catechesis is not just “education,” but “intimacy with Jesus Christ.” God wants to make Himself known, to communicate His own divine life to us and make us capable of responding to Him. God gradually “pulls back the veil” (See 2 Corinthians 3:14–16) by words and deeds, but especially in Jesus Christ, the Mediator and fullness of all Revelation. By His Revelation, God has answered all the questions of the human condition. God wants all to be saved, so He arranged that His Revelation remain in its entirety and be transmitted to all generations. This workshop focuses on the apostolic work of passing on the truths of the faith in an organic and systematic way. This is done to make disciples of Christ and to initiate them into the fullness of Christian life through an encounter with the communion of believers and with Christ the Teacher. “‘The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 25)

This workshop explores adult catechesis within the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) baptismal catechumenate. Each period of the RCIA process has a distinctive catechetical objective in serving the Holy Spirit’s work of conversion, and so each period of the RCIA will have a different “feel” catechetically. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults itself gives us the guidelines for what participants need to know, and what we need to teach, thereby allowing the catechetical aspect of Christian initiation to become teaching in the service of leading others into the Father’s eternal embrace, a love beyond all telling

Knowing and understanding Scripture is essential in the life of a catechist. This workshop will explore how God’s Word, transmitted in Sacred Scripture, grounds and deepens our relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. In Scripture, we see the sweeping Plan of God, the history of salvation unfolded. We hear His stunning and steadfast invitation to communion with Him. Sacred Scripture ought to permeate all forms of catechesis, as well as our personal lives as catechists. Through creating lesson plans saturated with the Scriptures, we foster a profound encounter with the Divine – love and challenge, wisdom and hope, forgiveness and mercy, and the means to know God and to know ourselves. By breaking open the Scriptures in each catechetical session, we unlock the mystery of Christ, revealing to those we teach the One they desire to know, fostering life-changing intimacy with God.

Pastoral Aspect of Christian Initiation

St. Thérèse of Lisieux joyfully exulted that, “‘If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn't lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. And I realized that this love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the Martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT'S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE — IT'S ETERNAL!’” (quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 826, emphasis in the original). We know that this love is the golden thread that binds all we believe, this love which has God as its source and which we know as the theological virtue of charity. It is the love of God that gives us truth to speak in gentleness and clarity, and life-giving concern to reach out sacrificially to all those souls around us. It is the love that makes us adopted sons and daughters. It is our beginning and our gifted destiny. This workshop delves into the vital nature of the love of brethren — the virtue of charity that helps us to love God first and love our neighbors as ourselves — that is to be the mark of any community calling others to join Christ’s Body.

The pastoral aspect of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) signifies the means by which we form and accompany souls, person-to-person, to a deeper relationship with the Trinity through the Body of Christ. Many who do not stay with the Church after going through the RCIA process leave not for lack of knowledge, but for lack of care. The pastoral components are the people who participate, some intimately and others from a distance, in Jesus’ graced work of conversion and discipleship of souls. It is the surpassing calling of becoming a gift to other souls, and receiving others freely as a gift from the Lord. This workshop addresses how the pastoral aspect of the RCIA process leads us to be sacrificial witnesses — the Lord’s chosen means to authenticate faith and relationship with the Trinity, to support conversion in lives, and through God’s saving message draw all people into the loving embrace of the Father and His People.

Foundational PCL Certification
Foundations

While “Parish Catechetical Leader” can mean virtually anything in a given parish, there are  specific skills that are particularly best suited for the people who serve in these eclectic positions. This workshop discusses those skills and traits in detail and examines some of the major themes, underlying principles and recurring patterns found in the lives of successful leaders who serve under pastors. May we be inspired to seek the harder road in the privileged vocation of leadership in God’s Church, so that He may be glorified and many souls lifted up. As St. Catherine of Siena in the voice of our Lord said: “I have set you as workers in your own and your neighbor’s souls, and in the mystic Body of holy Church.  Take your tears and your sweat, drawn from the fountain of My Divine love, and with them wash the face of My spouse the Church. I promise you, that by this means, her beauty will be restored to her.”

“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.  Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for: The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27). The basic proclamation of the Good News of Jesus’ saving life, death and Resurrection, known as the kerygma, is about giving the gift of belonging  the call to a life within a Love beyond all telling. This workshop lays out the essential elements of this most important story, enabling those who teach, share, and witness to more effectively unfold its surpassing beauty to other souls. This workshop's creation was made possible through a generous grant by the Our Sunday Visitor Institute.

In order to pass on the truths of Faith in season and out, the catechist must be securely grounded in Christ. This workshop will consider the richness of the Catholic spiritual life as it pertains specifically to the life of the catechist. Prayer is not the “last ditch effort” of defense for us as catechists, but our first line of defense - the wings on which every effort should soar. Our society often has trouble recognizing that the invisible spiritual realities are in fact “more real,” and certainly more lasting, than the physical realities we touch, see, hear, and experience daily. A review of the spiritual tools of the trade is thus appropriate to help us as catechists joyfully incorporate prayer as our first, middle, and last act of the day, and of the teaching session, creating an environment for catechesis that is permeated by prayer.

 

Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:17).  Imagine Jesus facing you, and speaking to you these words, with no distractions, no doubts of His reality, identity or knowledge. Imagine facing Him with no loss of memory on your part about your whole past, nothing less than your whole future to offer, no misinterpretation of the profoundness of the question, Do you love me? A breathtaking question. Conversion is about finding what you are seeking in the deepest part of yourself, and finding it superabundantly.  The result of true conversion is a rare combination: peace of soul and zeal of heart. This workshop explores how to support this work of the Holy Spirit, so that all catechesis is focused on conversion to Christ and to His Church, and continuing conversion becomes the norm for each Christian life.

This workshop will explore the necessary connection of catechesis to the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church in our work as catechists.  The liturgy comes from the “living memory” of the Church, that is, the Holy Spirit.  Through the Holy Spirit working in the liturgy, the truths of the faith are passed on, like a special family memory, from generation to generation, to the present day.  Each time we participate in the liturgy we receive the treasure of the Deposit of Faith.  But the liturgy is more than a family heirloom – it is reality, the place in which “Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human beings” (CT 23).  As catechists, we have a call, the privilege of assuring that those we catechize understand and grow in appreciation for this encounter with God.  We bring others into God’s saving work in the liturgy so they too can become transformed by He who loves us fully.  We teach about the liturgy to pass on the magnificent inheritance of faith to the next generation, echoing the action of catechists from the centuries before us.

Leadership

St. John Paul II tells us that, “Family catechesis . . . precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis” (Apostolic Exhortation “On Catechesis in Our Time,” Catechesi tradendae 68). These words challenge us to examine our thinking about how to pass on the Catholic faith within the parish or school we serve, and specifically to look at how to encourage the formation of the entire family.  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom” (2207). This workshop examines the primacy of the family in religious education and the importance of assisting families in their formation, so that together the parish or school community and families can work to bring about the well-formed and beautiful soul of each member.

 

This workshop, designed for Parish Catechetical Leaders seeking to plan for and implement successful parish faith formation programs, discusses how the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults’ (RCIA) baptismal catechumenate format actually serves as a helpful model for doing so. This may be surprising, but the format of the RCIA baptismal catechumenate is actually modeled by Jesus in His encounter with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35), and since then has been followed by the Church to form disciples. The presenter precedes this teaching on the RCIA baptismal catechumenate with the 1997 General Directory for Catechesis’ (GDC) key conditions that need to be present in the parish before beginning and concludes with ways to assess faith formation programs. Let's explore this method of applying the RCIA baptismal catechumenate to our parish formation programs in order to best foster conversion and form disciples of our Lord Jesus, to make saints!

Christ our Lord had wonderful times with his apostolic band – “You are my friends” (John 15:13) – and tough times as well – “How much longer must I be among you and put up with you!” (Luke 9:41). The volunteer catechists we have the privilege of serving alongside of and leading in ministry merit our best efforts in training and equipping them for the ministry to which they are called. This highly practical pair of workshops examines the type of person who volunteers to be a catechist, reasons for volunteering, where to find volunteer catechists, screening prospects, the dynamics of working together in a parish program, addressing problem situations which may arise among or with catechists. We offers specific practical strategies for forming and training catechists in four critical areas: human, spiritual, doctrinal and apostolic. The aim of this pair of workshops is to place integral formation of people at the top of the list of priorities of a parish catechetical leader, to make possible a successful sharing of outreach to any age in every parish.

Christ our Lord had wonderful times with his apostolic band – “You are my friends” (John 15:14) – and tough times as well – “How much longer must I be among you and put up with you!” (Luke 9:41).  The volunteer catechists we have the privilege of serving alongside of and leading in ministry merit our best efforts in training and equipping them for the ministry to which they are called. This highly practical pair of workshops examines the type of person who volunteers to be a catechist, reasons for volunteering, where to find volunteer catechists, screening prospects, the dynamics of working together in a parish program, addressing problem situations which may arise among or with catechists. We offer specific practical strategies for forming and training catechists in four critical areas: human, spiritual, doctrinal and apostolic. The aim of this pair of workshops is to place integral formation of people at the top of the list of priorities of a parish catechetical leader, to make possible a successful sharing of outreach to any age in every parish.

Ministries

In our calling to guide souls in their relationship with the Blessed Trinity, we have the assistance of a powerful tool: the religion textbook! Religion textbooks play an undeniably important role in the Church’s mandate to foster a faith that is “living, conscious, and active” (see the General Catechetical Directory (GCD) 17). This workshop explores the purpose and best use of textbooks within catechesis, and assists participants in developing criteria for textbook selection while examining various materials currently in use for schools and parish programs. Ways to include the parents or caregivers, who are the “primary educators” (see General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) 226–227) of children, will be explored. We will also be challenging the dominance of the textbook in religious education, and the need to develop formation approaches that prioritize the person of the catechist above all: “The work of the catechist must be considered of greater importance than the selection of texts and other tools” (GCD 71).

Called to Him.  Kept in Him.  Made new in Him.  God’s generosity and His fatherly love for His young daughters and sons are strikingly evident in the gift of these two sacraments to those newly arrived at the age of reason.  This workshop unfolds the Church’s guidance for parents and parishes in preparing souls for Confession and Communion.  By considering the role of both the home and the parochial settings, a balanced and effective formation can be achieved.  This pragmatic workshop also addresses common struggles and cultural issues that Catholic communities face in developing responsible and robust approaches to helping young souls be open to grace.

Effectively Confirming.  What the bishop gives sacramentally is always efficacious.  How do we support our confirmands and their families in this deeply challenging modern culture so that what we give in our parishes and schools catechetically is also reliably effective?  How do we not only provide a program, but also a conversion process, so that participants do not experience the catechesis we give as a series of required hoops to jump through, but revelatory hope?  This workshop aims to explore some practical strategies that apply to this and other parish ministries.  It includes insights from Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium, as well as examines current trends relating to the age of Confirmation and the ordering of the sacraments of Christian initiation.

First Year Youth Ministry
Foundations

What is good youth ministry in today’s Church? Every ministry to young people needs to have a clear mission and purpose, rooted in the larger mission of the Church, and needs to be able to identify clear values in the way that ministry is carried out. In this workshop, we look specifically at the essential components to a vibrant, effective approach to parish ministry for young people.

“Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us” (CCC 2560). Jesus not only desires to have a relationship with youth, but with youth ministers as well.  In fact, God cares more about doing ministry to people than he cares about people doing ministry for others. This workshop focuses on God’s intense love for us, and places that personal relationship as the center for all our ministry.

“So they came to him and he appointed twelve; they were to be his companions and to be sent out to proclaim the message, with power to drive out devils.” (Mark 3: 13-14) The theme of discipleship is strong in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' document called Renewing the Vision. This workshop looks at what discipleship entails and what it means to help teens be not just a follower of Christ, but a disciple of Christ. And through helping teens become disciples of Christ, we help them along this path of companionship with Christ both now and to eternity.

Culture and Context of Youth Ministry

Faith seeks understanding. Yet, understanding the social teachings of the Catholic Church is not enough. Teens need to be drawn into the apostolic life and mission of the Church, and be given tangible opportunities to experience that life at work. This workshop addresses the critical nature of outreach and service, and offers excellent resources for mobilizing teens for service and leadership. It also addresses the apostolic nature of the Church, and the great gift of priestly and religious vocations, helping youth ministers to understand how to draw young people into a greater awareness of that gift.

The responsibility of passing on the faith to a young person begins first and foremost with his or her family, particularly the parents. St. John Paul II wrote that catechesis within the family has “a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable” (Familiaris Consortio 68). Though the teenage years are often characterized as a time of rebellion from the family, the ‘National Study of Youth and Religion’ found that a young person is more likely than not to reflect the religiosity of his or her parents. Parents are the hinge-point of successfully and consistently reaching most teens. It is therefore essential that those in youth ministry understand their role is to provide support, empower, and partner with families.

What does it mean to serve in a diverse parish? Cultural diversity has always been at the heart of the Church: “Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). This workshop explores how to navigate the intercultural reality that many parish programs experience, so that we can effectively bring the love of Christ to each person and help all within the community feel a part of the Body of Christ. In doing so, fostering a respect for the dignity of each person, honoring the pivotal importance of family culture, and making the effort to grow in intercultural competence become key highlights in any successful ministry approach.

Catechetical Formation of Adolescents

“At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time, the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2). When the Second Person of the Trinity became flesh and dwelt among us, everything changed. He used to speak through others, now He comes to us personally. This model of “incarnational ministry” should be at the foundation of our efforts to reach teens. For ministry to be effective, it has to be intentionally and consistently relational. As St. John Bosco once wrote that it was important “not only that the (youth) be loved, but that they know they are loved.” We explore how to do that safely and effectively in the current culture.

“The most effective catechetical programs for adolescents are integrated into a comprehensive program of pastoral ministry for youth…” (NDC p. 201).  The craft of passing on the faith is never a generic work. It is specifically attuned to those being drawn towards the Lord’s goodness. This workshop looks at the distinct features of adolescent catechesis as discussed by the National Catechetical Directory, with practical examples of how to utilize them in a youth ministry setting.

Understanding universal catechetical principles, such as the primacy of relational ministry, are important for every type of formation and outreach, yet these principles come to life in the context of each ministry’s unique demands. For youth ministry, though many elements of methodology are discussed in our other workshops, this workshop provides an opportunity to have specific questions answered about the ecclesial method applied to adolescents, retreat and semester planning, and effective ways to speak to groups of teens.

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