Finding God Grades 1–6
It’s prayerful. It’s personal. It’s powerful.
A faith-formation program for children in grades 1–6 and the significant adults in their lives. The program mentors children, parents, and adults in cultivating a special place in their hearts to meet with God. Preview samples online at www.findinggod.com/preview.
• Empowers catechists and teachers to lead children in prayer
• Offers high-quality sessions with a strong presentation of Church doctrine
• Connects technology and faith through online activities, planning tools, and assessments
• Integrates multisensory opportunities to experience Scripture, music, and prayer
• Provides an abundance of prayer that allows children to nurture a lifelong conversation with God
• Equips parents and adults with components that correspond to the structure of the children’s program
• Opens every unit with the story of a saint
• Presents doctrine, Scripture, and Tradition through engaging four- to eight-page sessions
• Connects the lesson with their living faith by offering opportunities for reflective prayer, links to liturgy, reading God’s Word, and much more
• Provides three prayer opportunities in each session as well as additional prayer services
• Encourages knowledge of the faith by providing an extensive supplement, Prayers and Practices of Our Faith
• Provides clear, concise preparation for each session
• Addresses various learning styles through variety of lesson options
• Offers extensive online resources and support
• Models different ways of praying with opportunities to put them into practice
• Includes reproducible blackline masters with activities and assessments
In the first year of adoption, a free guide is included with every 25 children’s books purchased.
Online resources for program users
• Family E-Newsletters
• Additional assessments for each session
• Detailed session-planning tool
• Hundreds of additional activities
• Activity Finder searchable by grade level, subject, or learning style
• Sunday Connection linked to readings and activities
• Seasonal resources
• Articles and activities for families
• Additional prayer resources
About the Author
Barbara is Vice President for Catechesis and Faith Formation for Loyola Press. Her role involves her in the development of faith formation resources and services designed for the benefit of parishes and schools. Prior to accepting her position at Loyola Press, Barbara served as the Associate Executive Director of NCEA's Department of Religious Education, working primarily in service to members of NPCD, NCEA's national membership association serving parish catechetical leaders. Her experience also includes diocesan and parish work in Religious Education and Youth Ministry as well as extensive teaching experience at high school and college levels. She completed her Doctor of Ministry degree at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL. She also holds a Master of Divinity degree from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO.
Jim Campbell is Staff Theologian for Loyola Press. His role includes planning and development of catechetical and faith formation materials to be used in parishes and schools. Jim also reviews material from the text editorial and trade divisions. Jim has been a teacher, writer, and administrator in the field of catechesis for over 30 years. He has served as Consultant for Curriculum Development for the Office for Catechesis in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was Director of the Orange Catechetical Institute, the adult ministry formation program for the Diocese of Orange, California. Jim has taught religious studies courses at Chapman University, Orange, California and the Aquinas Institute of Theology, Dubuque, Iowa. Jim was the General Editor for Harper’s New American Bible Study Program. He has written Mary and the Saints: Companions on the Journey, Understanding Scripture: The Genesis Creation Story; Stories of the Old Testament: A Catholic’s Guide and Serving the Catechetical Mission of the Church, all for Loyola Press. Jim has a Doctor of Ministry in Christian Education and Master of Arts in Theology from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. He also has a Master of Arts in European History from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
Read an Excerpt
Welcome to Finding God: Our respons to God's gifts
A Deeper Relationship With God and the Catholic Church
“The desire for God is written in the human heart.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 27)
We desire to know God in a personal way in order to find meaning in our lives. This is the aim of catechesis as expressed in the General Directory for Catechesis: “to put people, not only in touch, but also in communion with Jesus Christ” (GDC 80). Loyola Press carefully crafted Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts to help Catholic school catechists and parish catechists as they invite children and the significant adults in their lives into a deeper relationship with God and the Catholic Church in service to the world.
“There must be a better way to help children and adults enter into a deeper dialogue of faith.” This simple sentence sparked a conversation about faith formation that grew to include theologians, teachers, catechists, catechetical leaders, pastors, and professors. A burning desire to honor the role of the catechist—and an Ignatian commitment to recognize God and his love in all things—turned that conversation into a flame. Together, we took up the challenge to create a vehicle that would support all people who nurture a lived faith. Thousands of hours were spent creating tools and crafting resources that would spark meaningful dialogues and offer experiences that would authentically pass on the beauty and truth of our Catholic faith one person at a time. Being better together and holding to this simple call, we made the work that was named Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts.
The Inspiration Behind the Title
The title, Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts, reflects the inspiration of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and describes what Catholic faith formation calls us to do: recognize the presence of God in the sacraments and in our communities of faith, and realize the presence of God in our experiences of God’s creation and in our lives as people for others. May all of your efforts as a catechist help others to recognize God in all things.
“The desire for God is written in the human heart.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 27)
“The desire to share the faith is written in the heart of the catechist.”
An Authentic Expression of Our Catholic Faith
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts reflects a vision of our Catholic faith grounded in Scripture and Tradition and an Ignatian recognition of the presence of God in all things. The expression of that vision is based on our Catholic belief that effective catechesis
- reflects the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
- centers on the person of Jesus Christ
- proclaims the liberating good news of salvation through Jesus Christ
- leads the Christian into the world in mission and action
- addresses the needs of the culture in which it is presented
- invites believers to reflect on personal experience in light of growing in relationship with God
- leads to full, conscious, active participation in the liturgical life of the Church
- creates a climate of prayer and nurtures a faith that is expressed in prayer
The What and the How of Faith Formation
To foster effective catechesis, the Church has provided the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Directory for Catechesis. Put simply, the Catechism might be considered the “what” of our beliefs as Catholics and the General Directory for Catechesis might be the “how” of effective catechesis.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, provides us with a clearly stated synthesis of Catholic teaching explained in four major parts, or “pillars”:
- The Profession of Faith (Creed)
- The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (Sacraments)
- Life in Christ (Ten Commandments and Beatitudes)
- Christian Prayer (Prayer)
The General Directory for Catechesis
The General Directory for Catechesis, published in 1997, serves as a complement to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The GDC reminds us that catechesis is “the process of transmitting the Gospel, as the Christian community has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it, and communicates it in many ways” (GDC 105). Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts provides a process for transmitting the Gospel that is supported by the principles of the GDC.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts coherently presents the Church’s doctrine and Tradition “which are safeguarded by the bishops who teach with a unique authority.” (“Guidelines for Doctrinally Sound Catechetical Materials,” United States Catholic Conference)
Direct references to the CCC and GDC are included in the Catechist Preparation section of each session.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts is an authentic expression of the Catholic faith, found to be in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church by the Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism.
A Parish Community Gathered in Lifelong Faith Formation and Prayer
Every moment of every life is an opportunity to grow in a personal relationship with God. Each moment of each day God invites us to share in his love and his gifts. Our response to God’s invitation is reflected in our relationships with others and in the way we serve and respect the dignity and beauty of all creation.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts is rooted in the belief that a thriving parish gathers in community to nurture a lived faith for every person—that the shared relationships of all people of faith are the true support for catechesis. Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts weaves together experiences in prayer, Scripture, Catholic social teaching, and liturgy for children and adults—as individuals, as families, and as learners on a faith journey.
We nourish a relationship with God through prayer—traditional prayer, reflective prayer, liturgical prayer, and praying with Scripture. Experiences of prayer in Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts model and invite us to pray from within the truths we explore each time we gather. Our growing bond as a community helps each of us to enter into deeper communion with Jesus Christ through prayer.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts takes to heart the challenge that “easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all . . . ” (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation 22) Scripture sets the foundation for the truths that are reflected upon in each gathering of adults or children. The authentic teaching of the Church is revealed through both Scripture and Tradition.
Catholic Social Teaching
Our Catholic faith moves us to concern for others and a commitment to social justice. Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts calls each of us to participate as people for others. Our faith is shared in our commitment to the principles of Catholic Social Teaching: Life and Dignity of the Human Person; Call to Family, Community, and Participation; Rights and Responsibilities; Option for the Poor and Vulnerable; The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers; Solidarity; and Care for God’s Creation.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts echoes our belief that the celebration of the Eucharist is the "source and summit of the Christian life" (CCC 1324). Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts helps children connect their faith to the celebration of faith at Mass and invites all of the faithful to join in a more meaningful participation in the Church’s sacramental and liturgical life.
“Every moment of every life is an opportunity to grow in our personal relationship with God.”
“A thriving parish gathers in community to nurture a lived faith for every person.”
To Pray Without Ceasing
Saint Paul considered prayer so important that he told us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As people of faith, we mentor each other to pray without ceasing and to know prayer as “a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God” (CCC 2558). We learn that prayer is a mutual revealing—we open ourselves to God and listen as he reveals the vastness of his love for us. As adults, we look for opportunities to share this lifetime nourishment of prayer with our children.
Mentoring Children Into a Life of Prayer
Adults support a child’s prayerful, personal response to God by sharing their own very personal relationship with God and all of his creation. As catechists, we lead children to a personal relationship with God by helping them understand our Catholic faith and providing opportunities for them to talk about their faith with other children as well as adults. We mentor children to pray without ceasing by praying with them and by cherishing prayer as a deeply important, always present opportunity to grow in relationship with God.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts invites adults and children to create a climate of prayerful faith sharing. The truths of our Catholic faith are affirmed and explored as the context and foundation of a personal relationship with God. We acknowledge that faith formation “includes more than instruction: it is an apprenticeship” (GDC 67). Catechists and all people of faith mentor children by “doing,” by gently modeling and guiding children into the Catholic way of life, a life filled with the nourishment of meaningful prayer.
Three Opportunities for Prayer in Every Session
We learn to pray by opening ourselves to God. In Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts we invite adults and children to open themselves to God’s presence and to respond in prayer—traditional prayer, praying with Scripture, liturgical prayer, and personal reflective prayer.
Opportunities to pray are carefully woven into each session:
We invite children to join in a prayer of petition to ask for God’s help on their faith journey.
We pray with them again in a reflective prayer that flows naturally from Scripture and Tradition. In this prayer, we guide them into sacred time and space, ask them to quiet themselves to enter into conversation with the Lord, or offer an opportunity to take to heart the basic prayers of the Catholic Church.
When they are about to be sent forth to act on what they have learned, we pray together in gratitude for God's gifts.
In these ways children grow in their own personal and prayerful relationship with God.
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
We mentor children to pray without ceasing by cherishing prayer as a deeply important, mutually revealing relationship with God.
Adullt and Famiilly Faiith Formatiion
Developed from the start as a parish-wide program for catechesis, Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts provides a wealth of support beyond the children’s program for the program director, pastor, catechists, and facilitators who gather together adults, families, and children in faith formation.
Comprehensive yet concise, the Director Guide provides an overview of the program structure, catechist in-services, and materials for sessions with catechists, adults, and families participating in the program.
The Pastor Guide offers ways for the pastor to positively influence the quality of catechesis in the parish.
Written by Jane Regan and Mimi Bitzan, five ready-to-use gathering sessions each year over a four-year cycle engage adults in meaningful conversation and prayer related to the themes of the children’s program.
Toward an Adult Church
Jane Regan, co-author of Gathering Sessions, provides sound background and practical suggestions in her book Toward an Adult Church.
Gathering Together and Sacred Times
Sacramental preparation becomes family faith formation when using Gathering Together and Sacred Times with familes preparing children for Reconciliation and Eucharist.
To further support family faith formation, Gathering Sessions, the Pastor Guide, Parent Newsletters, and Video Sessions reflect the themes of the children’s program:
God Jesus The Church The Sacraments Morality
A Parent Guide to Prayer
A perfect resource for parents, this guide can be used as they pray with their children.
Family Learning Guide
Families use the Children’s Books and this guide to work together on faith formation at home.
Children’s Book Parent Pages (20 per year)
Take-home pages provide parents with background and activities to stay truly involved in their children’s faith formation.
Parent Newsletters (5 per year)
Parent newsletters, by Tom McGrath, offer parents inspiration and motivation for personal and family faith formation. (Also available in Spanish.)
Raising Faith-Filled Kids (with Discussion Guide)
Tom McGrath provides practical, from-the-heart advice on children’s faith formation.
Videos with Leader Guides to Support Adult and Family Faith Formation
Videos for adult and family faith formation spark meaningful dialogues as adults meet to view topics of central issues such as “Why We Go to Mass.”
The Finding God Web site provides support for directors, catechists, parents, and children using the program and offers additional activities in English and Spanish.
Children’s Faith Formation
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts offers catechists the materials needed to mentor children’s faith formation within a climate of prayer. Soundly grounded in Scripture and Church Tradition, the content has been designed to support catechists of all experience levels and to offer all children meaningful faith experiences that are age-appropriate and relevant to their young lives.
Each Grade includes:
Brimming with fine art, illustrations, and photography, each Children’s Book presents the truth and beauty of our faith in an engaging and age-appropriate way.
Providing complete catechetical background and clear plans, each Catechist Guide offers step-by-step support as we help children deepen their understanding of their faith and build a meaningful relationship with God.
Scripture Stories and Guided Reflections (Spoken Word CD)
Dramatized recordings of Scripture Stories bring the Bible to life for adults and children alike. Recorded Guided Reflections offer support in mentoring children into a life of prayer.
Vocal, Instrumental, and Reflective Music (Music CD)
Songs of our faith recorded by the internationally known LA Children’s Chorus draw children to listen and sing.
Reflective music offers calming beauty as we guide children in prayer.
Posters and Blackline Masters
Posters, Reproducible Activities, and Assessments serve as valuable tools and offer ways to extend each session and assess learning.
Five Overarching Themes
God Jesus The Church The Sacraments Morality
God is our Creator and loves us as our Father. Jesus came to tell us about God the Father and saves us through his life, death, and resurrection. The Holy Spirit shares the life of the risen Jesus Christ and forms the community of the Church. We know Jesus through personal prayer and by worshiping God together, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. We can thank Jesus for the gift of himself and the Holy Spirit by obeying the Commandments, caring for one another, and caring for the world.
God loves each of us and we are called to act on God’s love for us by loving one another, by living as Jesus wants us to live. As we prepare for the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, we give special attention to examination of conscience, how to make a good confession and importance of preparation to receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.
God creates us good and calls us to live in community. We emphasize the role of Jesus calling us to a new way of life—what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus and how close Jesus wants us to be with our Father. We learn how each of the sacraments deepens our relationship with God and how the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are the foundation for the moral choices we make as we grow to be like Jesus.
God calls us to lead a moral life. He revealed the Ten Commandments to provide us with the parameters to live a life for God and others. Jesus taught us the Beatitudes and their relationship to living a Christian life. We give special attention to Sacraments of Healing and Sacraments at the Service of Communion as part of the moral dimension of our faith.
Strengthened in sacramental life of the Church, we are better able to live like Jesus in making choices for God and others. We enter into a new way of life when we celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation. Through the sacraments we live more fully in the Holy Spirit as members of the Church, united in diversity under the magisterium. The fullness of our life in Jesus Christ will find completion at the Last Judgment when we face our Savior.
We explore the history of salvation—from Creation, through the Old Testament, to its fulfillment in Jesus—as we share stories of our ancestors in faith: Abraham, Moses, David, and Solomon. We recognize the importance of the prophets as witnesses for God and their relevance to our own time. As followers of Jesus, we explore the meaning of the Psalms as the prayers of Jesus and the themes of Wisdom Literature that teach practical ways of living for God in everyday life. We find our connection to Christian worship from its roots in the Old Testament, and we learn of the special connection between the celebration of Passover and the celebration of the Eucharist. Important themes of Catholic Social Teaching call us to holiness, to care for the earth, and to act in the ways of justice.
Inside the Children’s Books
God’s Invitation, Our Response
Each session of every Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts Children’s Book creates an environment in which children can recognize God’s gifts, encouraging a response that arises from a deep sense of gratitude. Extraordinary fine art, folk art, illustrations, and photographs were sought out and selected to represent the rich diversity of the Church, to connect children to our Catholic identity, to articulate our Catholic heritage, and to develop Catholic literacy. All Children’s Books follow the same organizational structure:
The Opening Prayer
A prayer as children open their books helps establish a prayerful climate for guiding children to a personal relationship with God.
Inside a Unit
Each unit begins with the story of a saint and explores one of five overarching program themes: God, Jesus, the Church, the Sacraments, and Morality in four sessions and a Unit Review.
Each unit features a saint whose response to God’s love relates to the unit theme.
Sessions engage children in deepening their understanding of the Catholic faith as they explore, reflect on, and respond to God’s Invitation.
The Unit Review provides a faith summary, a prayer service, and multiple opportunities for children to review and discuss what they have learned.
Inside Every Session
Each of the 20 core sessions is covered over a five-day week. The five unit review sessions are covered over a four-day week. The sessions engage children by starting from typical moments in their own lives and inviting them to join in prayer. As children explore Scripture and Tradition, they discuss their faith and deepen their relationship with God in reflective prayer. Each session ends with a discussion of how to act upon what they have learned, and closes with a prayer of gratitude for God’s gifts.
Children pray for God’s help on their faith journey.
Scripture is fully incorporated into each session.
Discussion and activities lead children to explore their faith more fully.
Reflective prayer draws children into conversation with God.
Children apply what they’ve learned and pray in gratitude for God’s gifts.
The Year in Our Church
Seven additional sessions highlight seasons and feasts of the liturgical year.
Prayers and Practices of Our Faith
A final section serves as an age-appropriate reference to Catholic Prayers, Traditions, Beliefs, and Music, and also includes an extensive Glossary (English and Spanish).
Special Features in Every Children’s Book
Reading God’s Word Link To Liturgy Did You Know?
Meet a Saint/Meet a Holy Person Sacred Site
Inside This Catechist Guide
Each Catechist Guide offers support for new and experienced catechists as they use Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts with children.
The Effective Catechist
Pages EC1–EC24 of this Catechist Guide explore the role of a catechist as a mentor to children as they learn more about their faith and grow in a prayerful, personal relationship with God. Hints and suggestions throughout this section show us the ways an effective catechist might use Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts.
Each of the five units begins with a two-page overview that identifies the focus of the unit and shows how the sessions are connected.
- Prayer opportunities in the unit
- Catholic Social Teaching themes in the unit
- Focus of the unit
- Description of the unit saint
- Description of the sessions
- Captions identifying fine art
Session Preparation Each session begins with four pages to help you prepare. The first page is a 3-Minute Retreat that invites you to reflect prayerfully in preparation for the session.
- A short Scripture reading
- A brief reflection on the Scripture reading
- One or two questions for reflection
- A prayer
The next two pages provide background information on Scripture and Tradition.
- A brief description of the Scripture and Tradition that serve as the basis of the content
- The Scripture passages in this session
- References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
- A quotation from the documentary tradition of the Church
- An outline of the themes of Catholic Social Teaching
- A description of the prayer or prayers in the session
- References to the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC)
The fourth page of Catechist Preparation is a Get-Ready Guide.
- Session title and theme
- Suggested action to take before the session
- An outline of the session content with outcomes for each step of the catechetical process
- A list of required and optional materials
- Online resources
Step-by-Step Through a Session: A Four-Step Catechetical Process
Faith formation is most effective when the concepts being presented connect with the life of the learner. The catechetical process is a four-step process that helps make the connection between the life of the child and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts these four steps are Engage, Explore, Reflect, and Respond.
Each session of Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts incorporates the following four steps that lead us and the children, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to an increased awareness of God’s invitation to love him and one another.
God’s Invitation, Our Response
This introductory step engages children in discussion or activities that relate the session theme to their lives.
Five to ten minutes
This step explores the teachings of the Church through Scripture, stories, and activities.
Twenty-five to thirty-five minutes
To help children internalize what they are learning, this step allows them to reflect prayerfully on God’s invitation and their response.
Ten to fifteen minutes
After reflection the children identify how they can respond to God’s invitation as they live each day.
Ten to fifteen minutes
Step One: Engage
Allow 5 to 10 minutes for this part of the session.
The Engage step is an opportunity to open the session by engaging the attention of the children. This step serves as a way to provide the children with a transition into this special time.
- An activity or question inviting the children into conversation about an aspect of their lives that is connected to the theme of the session
- Engaging photographs to stimulate conversation
- Opening prayer of petition
Step Two: Explore
Allow 25 to 35 minutes for this step in the session.
In the Explore step the content of the session is presented in the context of a story or Scripture passage, the life of a saint or a holy person, or an aspect of the richness of Catholic tradition.
- Step-by-step instructions and suggestions for helping the children access the content in a variety of ways
- Optional activities suggesting ways to adapt the session to the time available and offering a variety of approaches
- Icons highlighting special features
Catholic Social Teaching Music CD Scripture passage Spoken Word CD
- Comments on the features relating them to the focus of the session
- Discussion questions (with possible responses) and activities to further engage the children
- Option: Blackline Master Suggestions for an appropriate time to use a Blackline Master found at the back of this Catechist Guide
- Option Suggestions for additional activities to extend the session
- FYI Additional background information related to the session provided where appropriate
Step Three: Reflect
Allow 10 to 15 minutes for this step in the session.
The Reflect step provides the opportunity for children to become more aware of God’s presence in their lives. The reflective prayer presented in this step is more than just words; it is time spent forming a relationship with God. See pages EC6–EC9. The Reflect step always relates to the focus of the session and invites the children to internalize the concepts presented in the Explore step.
This step uses various forms of prayer: traditional prayers that are often taken to heart (memorized), psalms, saints’ prayers, songs, or guided reflections that encourage children to talk and listen thoughtfully to God.
The side notes help to create a prayerful atmosphere, to create and use a prayer center, and to guide the children in reflective prayer.
The Review session in each unit includes a Prayer Service that invites the children to communal prayer.
- Traditional prayers, such as the Lord’s Prayer, are often taken to heart (memorized).
- Prayer Services engage the children in structured communal prayer, an essential part of our liturgical tradition.
- Guided reflections lead children into sacred time and space so they can talk and listen to God.
Step Four: Respond
Allow 10 to 15 minutes for this step in the session.
The Respond step encourages children to demonstrate how the concepts learned in the session can make a difference in the way they live as they respond to God’s invitation to love him and each other in their daily lives.
- Faith Summary A brief statement recapping the main content of the session
- Possible responses to the review questions to help you assess children’s understanding of the concepts presented
- Words I Learned An opportunity to review new words introduced in the session
- Prayer A closing prayer of gratitude
- Three features that invite the children to consider how they can apply what they learned to their lives
- Side notes for the Respond step often continue to the following page.
Step Four: Respond (continued)
The last page offers you some tips for providing closure to the session.
- Side notes for the Respond step often continue from the previous page.
- Go in Peace Suggestions for bringing the session to a close, often including a few words to give the children a thoughtful sendoff
- Plan Ahead Tips for planning upcoming sessions
- 3-Minute Review Space to write a brief evaluation as "notes-to-self" for future reference
- Thank-You An expression of appreciation for your service
- Raising Faith-Filled Kids A take-home page for parents, offering an adult perspective on what children are learning and activities to nurture family faith formation
Each unit ends with a six-page Review session that summarizes the content of the unit and includes a Prayer Service.
- As with the core sessions, each Review session begins with an engaging opening activity.
- The Faith Summary page reviews the content of the entire unit.
- Additional activities, Options, and FYI features add flexibility and depth to the Explore step of the Review session.
- A variety of review activities enables you to reinforce and assess children’s understanding of the key content as stated in the outcomes on the Get-Ready Guide.
- A Prayer Service provides an opportunity for communal prayer focused on the theme of the unit.
- A variety of activities on the Living My Faith page helps you assess the children’s understanding as they apply what they’ve learned to their lives.
As a Catholic school catechist, you seek to assess the formation that is taking place in the children and to offer feedback leading to further growth.
Because children learn in a variety of ways, a variety of forms of assessment is needed. In Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts assessment takes the following forms:
A formal assessment asks the question What do you know/understand? A formal written assessment (quiz) is included within each unit’s Review session (as a Blackline Master). The quiz items are consistent with the learning outcome statements in the Get-Ready Guide. This quiz also provides an opportunity for children to do a self-assessment.
Formal assessment provides you with an opportunity to identify which concepts need reinforcement, to affirm for children what they have learned, and to identify where specific assistance is needed.
Assessment of faith formation differs from assessment done in social studies, math, or science. In academic subject areas, knowledge and skills pertaining to the subject matter are assessed and used as a basis for determining a grade. In faith formation, assessment is used to discern growth into a way of life, namely discipleship. The assessment of knowledge in faith formation is part of the larger assessment of the child's formation into a life of liturgy, morality, prayer, and missionary activity.
Informal assessment asks the questions What can you do with what you know, and how do you do it? In Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts this takes the shape of the following:
Ongoing Assessment—Each session offers many opportunities to assess children’s grasp of concepts by observing their participation in discussions, group work, and their service to and care for others.
Specific Tasks—Many opportunities to evaluate verbal (oral and written) and nonverbal (drawn, crafted, etc.) expressions and responses are incorporated throughout the program.
The Year in Our Church
The Church celebrates the cycle of seasons and feasts that invites us, year after year, to deepen our faith commitment. Inviting children into these celebrations helps them grow in the Catholic way of life.
Each four-page seasonal session uses the same four-step catechetical process:
Seasonal sessions can be incorporated into your schedule at the appropriate times. You can use each session either alone or as part of another session.
A Blackline Master of the Liturgical Calendar allows children to mark the seasons of the year in our Church.
Sessions focus on these seasons and feasts:
- Holy Week
- All Saints Day
Prayers and Practices of Our Faith
The section at the back of the Children’s Book contains a wealth of information.
Knowing and Praying Our Faith
Traditional prayers and ways of praying
Celebrating Our Faith
Liturgy and the sacraments
Living Our Faith
Catholic beliefs and practices
Songs of Our Faith
Lyrics and music for songs on the Music CD
Understanding the Words of Our Faith
Glossaries in English and Spanish
In addition to the prayers and practices in the Children’s Book, the Catechist Guide contains the Blackline Masters, the scripts for the Audio Scripture Stories, and the Recorded Reflection Scripts.
Recorded Guided Reflection and Scripture Story Scripts
The Effective Catechist
Go and Make Disciples
Jesus said these words to his disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20) That call has remained alive throughout history. The church responds to that call today through our bishops, our pastors, and ourselves as people of faith.
What Is Catechesis?
Catechesis (from the Greek word meaning “to echo the teaching”) is the Church’s ministry of teaching and forming people in faith. True catechesis is the process of nurturing the Catholic faith and creating an environment in which faith can flourish. Each of us nurtures the Catholic faith simply by being a living example of faith.
Vocation of a Catechist
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts uses the term catechist to refer to those who serve in the parish religious education program as well as those who serve as teachers of religion in Catholic schools. As a Catholic school teacher, you are responsible for teaching a variety of subjects throughout the day. Faith formation, however, is more than a subject to be taught—it is an invitation to a way of life. Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts recognizes and affirms that teachers of religion in Catholic schools are indeed catechists, called to form disciples of Jesus.
Our vocation as catechists opens us to grow in our own faith. Knowing that God is with us always, we freely accept the responsibility of mentoring others to find a deeper, more personal relationship with God.
As catechists, we assist pastors and bishops in guiding people to a living faith. We follow God’s call to be disciples of Jesus and to proclaim his Good News through our words and actions. We grow in a deeper understanding of our faith and explore what it means to live as Catholics. We share in the community of the Church more fully by sharing with others what we know as people of faith. This School Catechist Guide is your companion on this mission. It will help you to grow in your own faith and to understand the hope that Jesus’ message brings to the world. It will be your guide to help you effectively pass on the Catholic faith to others.
“And behold, I am with you always.”
“Knowing that God is with us always, we freely accept the responsibility of mentoring others to find a deeper, more personal relationship with God.”
A Catechist’s Role
As catechists, we are a community of more than one million people in the United States who are dedicated to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We work with adults, families, and children, passing on a lived faith one person at a time. We pray for grace in this mission. Sometimes it is the very children we are guiding who teach us through their examples of faith and love. We wonder at times what qualifies us to be catechists. We pray that we might be effective as we answer this call.
Qualities of an Effective Catechist
As catechists, we long to share the truth and beauty of our faith, yet, especially at first, we worry over our human limitations. As we grow as catechists, we realize that this combination of faith and humanity shared honestly makes our work personal and authentic. Each catechist shares faith in a very personal way. Effective catechists have these qualities in common:
- a desire to grow in and share our faith
- an awareness of God's grace and the desire to respond to that grace
- a commitment to the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life and moral teachings
- a strength of character built on patience, responsibility, confidence, and creativity
- a generosity of spirit, respect for diversity, and a habit of hospitality and inclusion
Knowledge and Skills of a Catechist
Nothing in life prepares us to be catechists as fully as our life experience as faith-filled adults. As catechists, we yearn for the knowledge and skills that will help us gently nurture children to cultivate a lifelong relationship with God. We ground our efforts as catechists in these fundamentals:
- a basic understanding of Catholic teaching, Scripture, and Catholic Tradition
- honest and caring relationships with children
- effective teaching techniques and strategies
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts offers background and preparation in Church teaching, Scripture and Tradition, prayerful reflection, and session presentation support within each Catechist guide.
“As catechists, we yearn for the knowledge and skills that will help us gently nurture children to cultivate a lifelong relationship with God.”
“Sometimes it is the very children we are guiding who teach us through their examples of faith and love.”
The Work of a Catechist
Within a parish many roles join together to nurture a community gathered in lifelong faith formation. Pastors, principals, and religious education directors guide and support catechesis throughout the parish. Parents guide and support their children’s faith formation. Our role as catechists is to join with pastors, principals, religious education directors, and parents in serving the faith formation of the children.
As catechists, we share our faith with children and accompany them on their faith journey, We care for children and support them as they grow in their own personal relationship with God and the Catholic Church. We guide children in their faith formation by teaching the truths of the Catholic faith, by being a model of Christian life, by praying with them, by calling them to service of others, and by giving them opportunities to discuss their learning with us and each other.
Serving as a Catechist
The call to catechesis is an invitation to serve. True catechesis is based in mutually revealing relationships: our relationships with God, with others, and with all of creation. Our service is a response to God’s invitation:
- to deepen our own individual and personal relationships with God
- to continue learning and growing as a person of faith
- to contribute to the faith formation of others
- to support pastors, principals, and religious education directors as they guide and support us
- to recognize and be grateful for all of God’s gifts
To support catechists in this role, Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts provides pastors, principals, and religious education directors with defined opportunities for training and faith formation to aid our growth as catechists, parents, and Catholics.
“Our role as catechists is to join with pastors, principals, religious education directors, and parents in serving the faith formation of the children.”
“We care for children and support them as they grow in their own personal relationship with God and the Catholic Church.”
The Parish as a Faith Community
A famous African proverb says that “it takes a village to raise a child.” For Catholics that village is the parish community. To rephrase the proverb, it takes a parish to form the faith of a child. To place the proverb in context, we might say that it takes the whole parish to form a living faith community—one person at a time.
The General Directory for Catechesis calls for the parish community to be “the living and permanent environment for growth in the faith.” (GDC 158) As catechists, we work with the parish staff and each other to bring catechesis to the center of the parish faith community by invitation and example. Together we plan experiences and opportunities to involve the parish community in the catechetical process
How to Support the Parish as a Faith Community
Put Faith Into Action
Work with your principal to select activities and service opportunities in which children, families, and adults can participate together.
Invite and Extend Support to Others
Encourage children to extend support and express care for others. Involve the children in activities such as designing and sending cards to parishioners—both adults and other children—who are sick or housebound. Encourage children to acknowledge others who are celebrating milestones in their lives. Invite parishioners to pray for and to honor the efforts of children of the parish.
Invite Parish Participation
Plan with your principal to invite and involve parishioners and parish staff members to serve as guest speakers and interviewees on topics and themes related to what the children are learning.
Think Public Relations
Publicize the parish work the children are doing. Work with your director and catechetical team to select appropriate ways to display children’s work, post photographs of their activities, and include announcements in the parish bulletin about special events.
Connect to Parish Worship
Expand upon the Link to Liturgy feature and the seasonal sessions in the children’s book to help lead the children to greater participation in the liturgical life of the parish. Keep the children and their families informed of the parish liturgical schedule.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts provides many opportunities for involving the parish community in the catechetical process.
“It takes the whole parish to form a living faith community—one person at a time.”
“Concretely, the community becomes a visible place of faith-witness. . . . It constitutes itself as the living and permanent environment for growth in the faith.”
The Family as the Domestic Church
As catechists, we recognize and honor the role of the family in children’s faith formation.
Since the early days of the Church, the family home has been considered a holy place. The home offers children the first proclamation of the faith and helps them learn human virtues, a life of prayer, and Christian charity. The Catholic Church reinforces this image by referring to the home as “the domestic church.” (CCC 1666)
Parents share their faith with children in many ways—by reading Scripture, celebrating traditional family rituals, gathering the family for prayer, fostering communication, and faithfully living the gospel through social action. In doing so, they help to create a community of grace and prayer and a “school” for learning the Catholic way of life. We help parents recognize their own value and nurture their children by acknowledging them as leaders of the domestic church.
Together with the larger Christian community, the parish nurtures the domestic church and challenges us to live the Gospel in each moment of our daily lives.
How to Support Family Faith Formation
As directors and catechists, we seek out ways to support family members of all ages—both as individuals and as a family together. We seek out even the smallest opportunities for supporting family faith formation.
- Prayer Pray for the parents of your children regularly, both privately and with the children when appropriate. Encourage children to pray for their families and for all the significant adults in their lives.
- Communication Maintain regular contact with family members through phone calls, notes, and updates. Be available to parents should they wish to contact you. Encourage parents to take an interest in their child’s learning.
- Honor Families Always Speak often and with respect to children about the value of families and the role of elders in teaching us about our relationships with God and each other. Encourage children to pray for all families in the parish.
- Invitation Invite parents to become involved in major activities such as a family day, a field trip, or a guest panel. Invite parents with expertise in areas such as art or music to assist you as you work with children.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts supports adult and family faith formation. Support for family involvement extends the effectiveness of the family in raising faith-filled children.
“As catechists, we recognize and honor the role of the family in children’s faith formation.”
“Support for family involvement extends the effectiveness of the family in raising faith-filled children.”
Praying With Children
Faith is a living relationship with God that, like any relationship, requires communication to remain healthy. Another word for this communication with God is prayer. We invite children to pray in the context of the truths explored in the session and to respond gratefully to God’s gift of grace.
As catechists, we know that praying with children can be an intimidating experience for some adults. Before you pray together, talk with children about prayer and about the place of prayer in your own life. Sharing prayer with reverence and sincerity each time we pray with children is the best way to model that each of us is called to develop our our own personal relationship with God.
- Begin prayer with children by inviting them to still their hearts and minds so as to focus quietly on God’s presence.
- As you pray traditional prayers, reverently pray each word, contemplating its meaning.
- As you lead children in reflective prayer, speak slowly, with feeling, and pause often so that children can reflect on what you’re saying.
- After praying with children, give them a few moments to pray silently in their own words.
“Sharing prayer with reverence and sincerity each time we pray with children is the best way to model that each of us is called to develop our own personal relationship with God.”
As we mentor children to “pray without ceasing,” we guide them to know that they can strengthen their personal relationship with God by praying almost anywhere. Yet we want them to know prayer as something other than the hurried, task-oriented communication that makes up much of our busy days with others. Making a special place for children to gather in prayer shows them how much we value prayer and our relationship with God. Allowing children to participate in preparing the place where they pray together shows them how much we value them as people of faith.
Preparing a Prayer Center
Creating a prayer center helps everyone to grow in an awareness of the sacred. Invite children to help you create this sacred space. A prayer center can be a simple table draped with a cloth to show the liturgical season. On the table you can place a Bible, along with a crucifix, statue, icon, or another religious object. As we reserve this setting as a focal point, we demonstrate the value of prayer. If space permits, use it as a place for all to gather for prayer.
Enthroning the Bible
We show reverence for God’s Word by “enthroning” the Bible—respectfully placing it in an open position in the prayer center. Enthroning the Bible becomes real to children if they are involved in placing the Bible in its open position. Invite them to participate in a procession led by a child holding the closed Bible high while children following sing a song or an “Alleluia.” A second child might receive the Bible, open it, and reverently place it in the prayer center for all to see.
Taking Traditional Prayers to Heart: Memorization and Prayer
One of the ways that we sustain the “memory,” the oral history, of the Church is through the memorization, or “taking to heart,” of traditional prayers. Though we can and often do pray in our own words, traditional prayers are special in the same way that family heirlooms are. They have been passed on from generation to generation, linking children to basic truths of our faith, supporting personal prayer, and allowing groups of people to unite their minds, hearts, and voices in prayer. When children are taking traditional prayers to heart, it is important to be sure that they understand the meaning of the words in the prayers.
Prayer Services in the Review Sessions
Structured communal prayer is an essential part of our liturgical tradition. Classroom prayer services call children to unite with their peers in group prayer. In liturgical tradition, specific roles, such as Leader or Reader, are included in most prayer services. We guide children to participate actively in group prayer by encouraging them to try various roles at some time during the year, by explaining the purpose of each role, and by allowing them to rehearse and prepare beforehand.
“Making a special place for children to gather in prayer shows them how much we value prayer and our relationship with God.”
“One of the ways that we sustain the ‘memory,’ the oral history, of the Church is through the memorization, or ‘taking to heart,’ of traditional prayers.”
How to Lead Children in Reflective Prayer
The only way to learn how to pray is by praying.
One of our greatest privileges as catechists is the opportunity to pray with children. In the Reflect step of each session of Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts, we pray with children, often using a reflective prayer that flows from the focus of the faith lesson of that session. As we share reflective prayer, we lead children to use reflection and imagination, to engage in prayerful conversation with God, and to recognize his presence in their daily lives.
The catechist notes for each session provide the words and the way to guide children to pray reflectively. In addition, each unit also has a recorded guided reflection on CD to use to prepare for, and to join together in, prayer with the children. Scripts for the recorded guided reflections are provided at the back of this catechist guide. Listening to these reflections beforehand will provide you with an example of how to lead reflective prayer—attending to quality of voice, pacing, and the message.
Getting Ready for Reflective Prayer
Invite the children to focus on God’s presence. Establish a quiet, prayerful, and comfortable environment and mood to help them overcome the distractions of the everyday world.
Consider the following as you join children in reflective prayer:
Encourage a Comfortable Posture
If possible, move the children to the prayer center and invite them to find a position in which they can be comfortable yet alert. If space is limited, invite the children to get comfortable in their seats. Encourage children to close their eyes or to focus their attention on a symbol or a picture.
Invite Deep Breathing
Take two or three minutes to help children learn to relax and breathe deeply. Ask the children to rest their hands and to slowly, silently breathe in deeply and then breathe out gradually. Help them establish a rhythm to their breathing by counting slowly to three as they breathe in and asking them to breathe out as you count to three.
Use Reflective Music
Reflective (instrumental) music can help by covering distractions and providing a soothing setting in which to relax. Reflective music selected for this purpose can be found at the end of the Music CD for each grade.
“One of our greatest privileges as catechists is the opportunity to pray with children.”
“As we share reflective prayer, we lead children to use reflection and imagination, to engage in prayerful conversation with God, and to recognize his presence in their daily lives.”
Leading Reflective Prayer
Begin the reflective prayer with an invitation to reflect, or meditate, on an aspect of the theme of the session, often through a Scripture passage or a traditional prayer. Reflection time with children can be as brief as a few minutes or as long as 15 minutes.
Through a series of age-appropriate “directions” in this catechist guide, you invite the children to engage their imagination and enter into a setting where they can encounter Jesus, dwell on his words, and converse with him.
Speaking Slowly and Pausing
By speaking slowly and pausing for emphasis after each line of the reflection, you invite the children to pray more reflectively.
Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts uses an approach inspired by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, inviting us to pray by using the gift of imagination—sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. We thereby create a setting in our minds, a welcoming place—whether it be a biblical setting or a place of our own choice—to enter into conversation with Jesus. Saint Ignatius said that such conversation should resemble “the way one friend speaks to another.” (The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius #54)
However you use the guided reflections, you may provide reflective music (tracks at the end of each Music CD) in the background.
Allowing Quiet Time With God
As the reflective prayer comes to a close, invite the children to spend time in silence with God, being aware of his presence. This is called contemplation.
To conclude the children’s prayerful time with the Lord, you can now invite them to rest in God’s presence. Allow one or two minutes for silent prayer, depending on the responsiveness of the group.
Finally, a few gentle words provide a gradual transition, taking the children into the next activity.
The children’s thoughts and reflections in prayer are theirs alone. We show respect for their conversation with God by letting them keep these thoughts to themselves.
“Invite the children to engage their imagination and enter into a setting where they can encounter Jesus, dwell on his words, and converse with him.”
Preparing the Learning Environment
When Jesus planned a special meal with his apostles during Passover, he sent Peter and John ahead of him, saying, “Go and make preparations for us.” (Luke 22:8) In the same way, preparing the physical space for faith formation is important.
The seating arrangement for faith formation may look different from the seating arrangement for other subjects. Desks lined up in uniform rows may not be the most conducive arrangement. If possible, seating arrangements such as a circle, semicircle, or clusters of tables can communicate that the time spent in faith formation is different from the time spent in other subjects. Create a seating arrangement that fosters a sense of community.
A focal point with symbols that express the presence of the Word of God and communicate a sense of the sacred helps to create a prayerful atmosphere. A prayer center, which serves as such a focal point, may consist of a small table placed prominently in your classroom and covered by a cloth. The cloth could be the color for the liturgical season (see page 201 for colors of the liturgical seasons). On the table, place a Bible and one or more of the following: a bowl of holy water, a crucifix, a religious image or statue, a plant or flowers, or a candle. If space permits, the prayer center can serve as a gathering space for reflective prayer.
Try to include visuals related to the session topic—such as posters, photographs, religious images, and statues—to engage the children. If you are using a room that needs to be returned to its original condition, think portable; for example, folding display boards. Take advantage of other equipment available to you: chalkboard, easel, overhead projector, CD player, television, and VCR and DVD players. Also, display the children's artwork if possible.
Material and Supplies
Finding God: Our Respons to God's Gifts provides a variety of "off-the-page" activities that often require materials and supplies such as paper, glue, scissors, magazines, markers, and crayons. Arrange and organize your material and supplies so that they will be ready when needed.
Sometimes rooms can be too hot or too cold, too dark or too bright. Plan to arrive early enough to make sure that light, heating or cooling, and ventilation in the room are comfortable.
“Whether you are conducting your session in a home, in a catechetical center, or in a traditional classroom, prepare the physical space.”
Preparing for the Session
Jesus speaks of building a house on rock (Matthew 7:24–27) to teach about the importance of having a firm foundation for our lives. As a teacher, you know that preparation and planning serve as part of that firm foundation. In faith formation, preparation and planning enable you to develop a clear focus for the session; identify your expectations for the children; be more relaxed, flexible, and confident in delivery; and effectively engage children.
To help you in your planning and preparation, Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts provides a Catechist Preparation section for each session (see pages PO28–PO29). As you use this resource to prepare effective sessions, keep in mind the following:
Pray and Reflect Use the 3-Minute Retreat to take a few moments to reflect prayerfully before you prepare your session.
Place the Session in Context of the Unit
Consider how the session develops the theme of the entire unit and how it connects with previous sessions. Likewise, look ahead to see if you need to make any preparations for future sessions.
Understand the Background
Read and reflect on the Catechist Preparation section to deepen your understanding of the Scripture and Tradition that you will be presenting. Be sure to read the session’s Scripture passages beforehand to become familiar with their focus.
Look Over the Get-Ready-Guide
Use the Get-Ready-Guide to get an overview of the session and to see how the Engage, Explore, Reflect, and Respond steps flow smoothly and connect effectively. The guide identifies the session outcomes, that is, what the children will know or be able to do as a result of the session. It also lists the required and optional materials you will need to lead the session, depending on the amount of time available to you.
Visualize the Session
As a final step, examine the directions in this catechist guide and visualize yourself presenting this session. This visualization will provide you with a sense of timing and flow and will help you to adapt and create contingency plans should anything unexpected occur.
Your First Day
Beginnings are always important. Here are some tips to help you make your first day a good experience.
Before the First Day
Advance preparation is a key ingredient to a successful session. You can get ready for this session by carefully reading the Catechist Preparation pages and the catechist notes for Session 1 (see pages 1a through 10). Gather the materials and supplies that you will need for the activities and options in the session. Your catechetical leader may be able to provide you with some of the materials and a place to store them. Also arrange with your catechetical leader to visit the room you will use. While there, visualize the best seating arrangement for your group, and, if possible, arrange desks, tables, and chairs. Obtain a list of the children’s names and prepare name tags or name tents, which you can use to indicate the seating arrangement. Creating a welcome sign to display in the room will let the children know that they are important and that you are pleased to spend this time with them.
On the First Day
Be sure to arrive early enough to make you last-minute preparations and allow yourself time to relax. As the children arrive, enthusiastically welcome each child as he or she enters the room. Take a few moments to introduce yourself and meet the children, getting to know their names and helping them get to know one another. After the children are seated, take some time to establish a few simple guidelines for cooperation and behavior.
As You Begin-Presenting the Books
You can help the children understand the value of this important resource by making this a special and sacred time. Begin by inviting each child to come forward to receive a book as you call him or her by name and say: May your life be changed by recognizing God in all things. When the children have resumed their seats, introduce them to their books by calling their attention to the title, Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts, and explaining what it means. Tell the children that the children’s book and catechist manual will help to guide them through the session and into a deeper relationship with God. Then direct them to open their books to the first page. Slowly and prayerfully read each of the first four pages (beginning with “As I open this book . . .”) aloud as a group. When you’ve finished, encourage the children to look through the pages and ask questions or reflect upon what they have read.
“Beginnings are always important.”
Communication Skills and Presence
The Gospel of Mark tells us that when Jesus spoke to the crowds, they “were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.” (Mark 1:22) Jesus possessed the quality of positive presence, a quality that refers to the ability to communicate a sense of enthusiasm, confidence, authority, hospitality, and sensitivity. While presence may seem to be a rather elusive trait, it is a skill that can be acquired and improved upon. Here are a few of the elements of positive presence to pay attention to:
Body Language and Movement Around the Room
Since as much as two thirds of all effective communication is nonverbal, make sure your body language communicates your enthusiasm for proclaiming the Good News. Likewise, moving around the room instead of sitting in one place is an effective way of engaging children.
Studies have shown that making eye contact actually increases brain activity! Eye contact can assist in conveying your message by enabling you to identify the children with wavering attention and to establish a connection between you and the children.
Facial Expression and Confidence
Since our faces, more than any other body part, reveal emotions, opinions, and moods, it is important for you to maintain a facial expression that shows how enthusiastic you are about the Good News of Jesus. Be aware also of how your face communicates your feelings about the children and your role as their catechist. To communicate a sense of confidence is important so that you exemplify what it means to trust in God’s grace.
Saint Puaul teaches us that, through Baptism, we have been "clothed . . . with Christ." (Galatians 3:27) While Saint Paul is not enforcing a dress code, he does capture the notion that how we live outwardly should reflect Christ's presence within us. Your outward appearance should communicate to the children that you believe that this time is special and that you consider it a priority and a privilege to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Voice: Volume, Variety, Pace, Tone, and Clarity
Voices are just as unique as faces. While some vocal qualities are genetic, you can develop vocal habits that can be used to your advantage. Speak loud enough for all to hear but not so loud as to be annoying. Speak slow enough to be understood but fast enough to avoid boredom. Speak clearly enough to avoid confusion. Speak with confidence and enthusiasm to inspire and with variety to avoid monotony.
“Moving around the room instead of sitting in one place is an effective way of engaging children.”
Asking Questions and Leading Discussion
Jesus often used questions to engage people in discussion: “What is your opinion about the Messiah?” (Matthew 22:41); “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29); “Whose image and name does it bear?” (Luke 20:24). Jesus understood the connection between questioning and learning.
Asking effective questions allows you to ascertain what children know both before and after information is presented. Questioning is also an excellent way to get their attention and to invite children to think, become engaged, and remain on task. The Catechist Guide provides you with many thought-provoking questions to engage children effectively. Here are some tips for asking effective questions:
Preparing Your Questions
Before the session look over the questions you plan to use and anticipate the types of responses children might give. Questions in Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts are simple, straightforward, and open-ended (cannot be answered with a simple yes or no). Be sure that any questions you prepare on your own follow this same model.
Asking a Question
When asking a question, pause and then, if necessary, repeat it. While awaiting a response, patiently allow time for the children to think (usually 3–4 seconds); resist the temptation to answer your own question. Direct a question to the whole group. Don’t allow everyone else to avoid thinking about an answer by calling on one child before you pose the question.
Awaiting a Response
If the group is having difficulty answering a question, rephrase it and move around the room, making eye contact as you await a response (usually 3–4 seconds). Allow a few hands to go up since the same child is often the first to put his or her hand up. Then, if no one appears ready to give a response, call on someone and invite him or her to answer as well as possible and then proceed to engage others in the same manner.
Reacting to Responses
Affirm acceptable responses and invite other children to help if someone responds with incorrect information or has no response. Show enthusiasm for the responses so children feel encouraged to respond to further questions. Invite quiet children to participate by presenting them with nonthreatening questions.
Discussions are an important means of assessing children’s understanding of a topic. The discussions promote active engagement in learning and allow the children an opportunity to express themselves. Initiate discussions by asking questions that go beyond retrieving information and invite individual thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Invite more than one response to a question and then ask for reactions to the earlier responses. Occasionally summarize what you heard and invite more discussion. Encourage respectful listening and assure confidentiality.
Keeping Children Engaged
When children are not engaged, discipline problems are more likely to occur. Keeping children engaged is the primary task of the catechist and, when done effectively, maintains discipline, which comes from the same root word as disciple, meaning “one who follows.” To help children follow Jesus, you may wish to use some of these strategies for keeping them engaged and for responding when and if they become disengaged.
Create an Engaging Atmosphere
Create a comfortable and orderly atmosphere. Establish a few rules or guidelines for your group, display them, explain them, and enforce them consistently. Keep children on-task from the moment they enter the room. Vary the activities and keep children involved by calling on those with wavering attention, by assigning tasks and responsibilities, or by asking questions to reengage them.
Prepare, organize, and provide clear expectations. Have all materials ready before the session and wait to distribute them until directions have been given and are understood. Check your seating arrangement and adjust it as needed. Children are more likely to become disengaged when they feel anonymous, so learn and use their names.
Reinforce and affirm good behavior. Show respect, understanding, and a sense of humor when appropriate. Clearly identify any specific improper behavior you intend to address. Speak and act with confidence, firmness, and calmness. Avoid unwanted side effects by not panicking or losing your temper. Remain fair and flexible. Avoid using an ultimatum that would “paint a child into a corner” with no way out. Consult your principal, catechetical leader, parents, and colleagues in serious situations.
Use Nonverbal Communication
Move your gaze to all areas of the room and make eye contact with every child. Often eye contact alone can correct improper behavior and reengage a child. Move around the room and attempt to be present and proximate to all areas of the learning space. Avoid interrupting a session to confront misbehavior. Instead, use nonverbal communication such as tapping on the back of the chair, tapping on a table or desk, or standing next to or behind a child who seems disengaged.
“Show respect, understanding, and a sense of humor.”
Getting to Know a Second-Grade Child
As children mature, they become increasingly capable of comprehending more complex ideas and concepts. As catechists, we show our respect for God’s creation by accepting all people for who they are and mentoring them as they grow in their personal relationship with God. Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts links faith formation to a child’s developmental level as a second grader by using language and activities appropriate to his or her age.
Profile of a Second-Grade Child (Ages 7–8)
The second grade, ages seven though eight, can be considered part of the golden age of childhood—a time of wonderful curiosity, changes, rapid growth, seemingly endless imagination, excitement, and enthusiasm. Though mostly positive and optimistic, some children occasionally can become moody and may prefer to spend time alone. Seven- and eight-year-olds love structure and order and work diligently at increasing skill in handwriting, computers, sports, and almost everything in which they are involved. This is also the time when many children prepare for First Penance and First Eucharist. With all the enthusiasm they have, these children are at a wonderful age for learning and faith development!
Psychological and Intellectual Development
Children at this age . . .
- love structure and routine
- love to hear stories and to be read to
- tend to learn best by doing
- have vivid imaginations and short attention spans
- like to work alone but, as the year goes on, increasingly will enjoy working in groups
- are increasing their vocabularies rapidly and enjoy asking questions
- have difficulty knowing the limits of their own abilities because these are expanding so quickly
- begin to use logic
- are interested in the natural world and in understanding how things work
“The second grade . . . can be considered part of the golden age of childhood.”
“With all the enthusiasm they have, these children are at a wonderful age for learning and faith development!”
Children at this age . . .
- consider the right course of action to be the one that allows them to avoid punishment
- begin to make moral decisions (although inconsistently) based on internal judgments
- have a fairly well-developed sense of right and wrong and begin to form a conscience
- need opportunities to develop a moral sense through their own experiences
- need clear and direct instruction as well as the opportunity to observe sound moral behavior in the lives of significant adults (in their own lives and in the lives of saints and holy people)
Children at this age . . .
- are truly the center of their own worlds
- like to spend significant amounts of time alone, engaged in their own thoughts and activities
- are sensitive, respond strongly to both encouragement and criticism, and need a great deal of affirmation
- have a tendency to underestimate the limits of their abilities but are able to recover quickly from mistakes and failures
- need a sense of security and structure
- rely heavily on parents, teachers, and significant adults
- have a well-developed sense of humor and enjoy riddles and puzzles
- consider being a part of a group, primarily of the same sex, extremely important
Children at this age . . .
- love to celebrate and enjoy ritual
- have a natural sense of wonder and are comfortable with prayer
- enjoy quiet and are capable of reflecting for short periods of time
- are capable of praying spontaneously in a conversational style
- see nature as a reflection of God’s love and greatness
- view the Church as a community of friends who help one another
- begin to appreciate the liturgical seasons, seasons of the year, and feast days
- are capable of taking simple prayers to heart
“Children at this age have a natural sense of wonder and are comfortable with prayer.”
Paying Attention to Special Needs
Among the children you serve, some may have special needs. Through the positive recognition of the differences in individual abilities, you can enhance the unity of the Body of Christ. Contact your principal for assistance and visit www.FindingGod.org for more information.
Here are some suggestions for helping children with special needs:
Orthopedic (Physical) Impairment
Adapt activities to fit the needs of those with orthopedic (physical) impairment; develop a buddy system; anticipate and prepare in advance for situations in which a child’s symptoms might be disruptive to the group; encourage social interaction; and use appropriate terminology when referring to physical disabilities.
Consider range of vision and lighting needs when seating a visually impaired child; provide large-print, audio, and manual materials; plan activities that use senses other than sight; allow the child to do work orally; and assign a partner for visual activities.
Deaf or Hearing Impairment
Seat the child with a hearing impairment near the front and face him or her when you speak; speak clearly, using a normal tone and pace; write key words and directions on the board; provide written materials; encourage social interaction; and work with your principal and the family to arrange for an interpreter if needed.
Speech or Language Impairment
Speak distinctly and in short phrases; use visual and written as well as oral instructions; work individually with the child or use an aide to work in a separate area with the child whose oral work needs attention; and allow extra time for the child to respond to questions and comments.
Social or Behavioral Problems, Attention Disorders, and Learning Disabilities
Work with the family and the principal to identify the type of disorder or disability; arrange the room to avoid distractions; provide structure and routine; give specific tasks that are interesting to the child; give, review, and clarify directions, expectations, and explanations; frequently monitor and affirm appropriate behavior; provide immediate feedback; develop nonverbal clues for unacceptable behavior; break down tasks into smaller, less overwhelming components; use flash cards; introduce skills one at a time; use visual aids and kinesthetic (movement, gestures) cues; request an aide for individualized attention; set up situations in which the child will experience success; frequently assess the child’s understanding.
Adapt activities to the child’s attention span and levels of coordination and skill; individualize learning with the help of an aide; simplify concepts and repeat periodically; arrange for gifted children to help the slower learners.
Challenge the gifted child through independent study, small-group work, enrichment activities, and discovery learning that is related to his or her interest; provide supplementary resources; use creative puzzles and games; ask the child to help with preparing session materials and with assisting slower or younger children; encourage high-level thinking skills.
On the feast of Pentecost, the disciples boldly proclaimed the Word of God to people of many nations (Acts of the Apostles 2:5–13). Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts celebrates the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of the Catholic Church and invites you to bring children of many different backgrounds together with the intention of building the Body of Christ. In doing so, you help the children to recognize themselves in the story of salvation history and to celebrate the Church’s diversity. This diversity is reflected and celebrated throughout the children’s book:
Fine art that appears in Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts depicts Catholic Tradition through a variety of ethnic and cultural images. As a result of extensive research, the illustrations of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Peter carefully and consistently reflect their Semitic heritage. Illustrations and photographs have been carefully designed and selected to depict people of various cultures, ethnicity, and economic status from all over the world so that the rich diversity of God’s family is represented.
Saints and Holy People
Great care was given to the selection of the saints and holy people featured in the children’s book in order to highlight the Church’s diversity. Through stories of the experiences of some of the Church’s great saints and holy people, Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts honestly examines the successes and failures on the part of society and the Church to recognize and celebrate ethnic and cultural diversity.
Exploring Cultural Traditions
Numerous examples of the rich variety of traditions, popular devotions, and prayer expressions of various ethnic and cultural groups are integrated throughout the program. In the Respond step of many sessions, children are invited to identify strategies for affirming all people’s gifts and for making their own communities and parishes more welcoming.
The songs chosen for Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts (Music CD) reflect and celebrate the diversity of the Catholic Church.
Adjusting for Learning Styles
Children learn in different ways and need to be provided with varied learning experiences. Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts incorporates approaches that focus on the following learning styles:
Some children learn best through reading, writing, and discussion. Have the children brainstorm ideas, quiz each other on new vocabulary and spelling, and summarize a session with a single word.
Some children have a good sense of rhythm and melody. Use music to create or enhance the desired atmosphere and encourage children to write their own songs or to write new lyrics for known tunes, based on the topic you are covering.
Some children tend to think in numbers and patterns. Ask the children to do surveys and interviews related to the theme you are covering, invent word or story problems about new material, or play questioning games such as “20 Questions.”
Some children tend to think in images and pictures. Summarize new learning by making posters or other displays and use diagrams, charts, and visual organizers to show a relationship between lessons.
Some children are well coordinated and enjoy using gestures, body language, and hands-on activities. Use athletic activities, role-play, simulation exercises, and other content-based games.
Some children are keenly aware of the natural world and learn best when content is related to nature. Create observation notebooks, use microscopes, classify and categorize things in nature, or organize a scavenger hunt.
Some children learn best by interacting with others. Peer-teaching activities, group projects, and small discussions are effective. You can also invite guest speakers to visit the class.
Some children are introspective and learn best when given time to process information. Have the children keep a reflective journal where they write regularly about what they are learning; incorporate independant learning activities and self-designed study projects into the curriculum.
(Source: This material has been adapted from the following book with permission from Kagan Publishing & Professional Development: Kagan, Spencer, and Kagan, Miguel. Multiple Intelligences: The Complete MI Book. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing, 1998. 1 (800) 933-2667; www.KaganOnline.com/.”)
To help you make the Word of God accessible to all children, whatever their learning style, Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts provides creative activities for you to choose from. These activities also help you to assess in an ongoing manner the children’s grasp of key concepts (see page PO38). Being aware of these activities and how to use them can greatly enhance your abilities as a catechist. Visit our Web site www.FindingGod.org for more activities.
Working With the Text
The Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts Children’s Book serves as the foundation upon which you can build your session. The session directions in this Catechist Guide suggest techniques for working with the text in order to engage children and focus their attention.
These techniques include the following:
- invite volunteers to read paragraphs aloud
- invite children to read independently and then summarize
- arrange children in small groups and assign paragraphs for each group to read and then summarize for the large group
- read aloud to the children as they follow along
- arrange a choral reading by dividing the large group into smaller groups to read assigned sections aloud as a group
This Parish Catechist Guide also provides numerous optional activities to work “off the page” (depending upon the time available to you) while building upon the content covered in the text.
Memorizing or “Taking to Heart”
Through catechesis we sustain the memory of the Church. When God gave Israel the Ten Commandments, he told them, “Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.” (Deuteronomy 6:6) In addition to helping the children to take to heart certain doctrinal formulas, the memorization of commonly known prayers of the Christian tradition, appropriate to their age, is beneficial. Although memorization offers an essential support to the faith life of children, it is important to help them understand the meaning of what they are taking to heart.
Speaking and Singing
The spoken or sung word allows children to assimilate, clarify, and understand concepts. Speaking and singing give them an opportunity to express themselves, articulate, and celebrate their faith while growing in the skill of social interaction.
guest speakers interviews lectures large-group discussions panel discussions questions and answers singing (rounds, hymns,Mass parts, nursery rhymes,folk melodies)
small-group discussions storytelling
Some children express themselves more easily in written form than in oral form. Writing is a powerful vehicle for self-discovery and prayer. Many of the greatest saints used writing to speak with God and to others, and to record their own thoughts. In writing, children have an opportunity to clarify their thoughts and to make visible the invisible.
acrostics crossword puzzles e-mails interviews letters litanies logs modern parables/stories newspaper headlines/stories paraphrases poems prayers questions and answers quizzes raps reports riddles skits song lyrics speeches stories slogans summaries telegrams Web pages
Role-Playing and Dramatizing
Through the dramatic stories of our faith, children come to understand themselves and others as they begin to internalize the Christian message. Jesus used simple but dramatic stories and parables to invite people to enter into relationship with the Father.
charades children’s literature choral readings dance dramatic readings gestures to songs mime pageants plays puppet shows role-plays shadow-play storytelling recorded Scripture stories on Spoken Word CD
Children naturally create and participate in games. Games allow children to build community, follow rules, and learn about cooperation and participation (as opposed to winning or losing), and to develop mentally, physically, and socially. Games encourage children to solve problems and to use their imagination. Of course, any game you choose should be adapted and used in a way that will reinforce or further the focus of your session.
bingo board games card games charades drawing games icebreakers mixers relays skill games spelling bees team games television quiz shows tic-tac-toe trivia games
Drawing and Art
Faith goes beyond words. Many people express their faith through art and drawing. Children can grow spiritually by expressing their inner thoughts and feelings visually. Drawing and art can also help children to become more familiar with religious concepts and relate these to their own lives.
album/CD covers banners booklets bookmarks bulletin boards bumper stickers buttons cartoons coats of arms collages comic books commemorative stamps dioramas displays doorknob hangers finger paintings fingerprint pictures from ink pads flyers greeting cards holy cards mobiles models from clay or dough mosaics murals paper dolls paperweights from rocks pennants photo albums with pictures and captions photo essays placemats plaques portraits posters sculpture sidewalk art with chalk silhouettes sponge paintings stained-glass windows texts lettered on objects (seashells, driftwood, rocks)
storybooks t-shirts yarn-and-cloth pictures
Although some children think and learn primarily through words, others do so through pictures, images, and sounds. Children who are visual-aural learners can develop a deeper appreciation of the message in each session when their visual-aural imagination is engaged.
bulletin boards CDs chalkboards colored chalk charts computers concrete aids DVDs flannel boards LCD projectors maps models movies music pictures Power Point presentations recordings scrapbooks slides transparencies video or audio cassettes
Table of Contents
WELCOME TO FINDING GOD: OUR RESPONSE TO GOD’S GIFTS
A Deeper Relationship With God and the Catholic Church PO6
An Authentic Expression of Our Catholic Faith PO7
A Parish Community Gathered in Lifelong Faith Formation and Prayer PO8
To Pray Without Ceasing PO9
ADULT AND FAMILY FAITH FORMATION PO10
CHILDREN’S FAITH FORMATION PO12
SCOPE AND SEQUENCE GRADES 1–6 PO14
INSIDE THE CHILDREN’S BOOKS PO26
INSIDE THIS CATECHIST GUIDE
Catechist Preparation PO28
Step-by-Step Through a Session PO30
Review Sessions PO37
The Year in Our Church PO39
Prayers and Practices of Our Faith and Catechist Resources PO40
The Effective Catechist
PART 1: KNOWING YOUR ROLE
Go and Make Disciples EC1
A Catechist’s Role EC2
The Parish as a Faith Community EC4
Family: The Domestic Church EC5
Praying With Children EC6
How to Lead Children in Reflective Prayer EC8
PART 2: CARRYING OUT YOUR ROLE
Preparing and Planning EC10
Your First Day EC12
Communication Skills and Presence EC13
Asking Questions and Leading Discussion EC14
Keeping Children Engaged EC15
Getting to Know the Grade 2 Child EC16
Paying Attention to Special Needs EC18
Celebrating Diversity EC20
Various Learning Styles EC21
Creative Activities EC22
Unit 1 God Loves Us
UNIT SAINT: SAINT ISIDORE THE FARMER 1
Session 1 God Creates Us 3
Session 2 God Gives Us Jesus 11
Session 3 God Is Our Father 19
Session 4 God’s Life for Us 27
Session 5 Review 35
Unit 2 Jesus Loves Us
UNIT SAINTS: SAINT ANNE AND SAINT JOACHIM 41
Session 6 Jesus Is Faithful 43
Session 7 Jesus Saves Us 51
Session 8 Jesus Calls Us to Love 59
Session 9 Jesus Cares for Us 67
Session 10 Review 75
Unit 3 All Are Welcome
UNIT SAINT: SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA 81
Session 11 We Worship God 83
Session 12 Celebrating Reconciliation 91
Session 13 The Sacrament of Penance 99
Session 14 Mary Shows Us the Way 107
Session 15 Review 115
Unit 4 Meeting Jesus
UNIT SAINT: POPE SAINT PIUS X 121
Session 16 New Life in Jesus 123
Session 17 Jesus Loves the Church 131
Session 18 Gathering for Mass 139
Session 19 Celebrating the Eucharist 147
Session 20 Review 155
Unit 5 Living Like Jesus
UNIT SAINT: SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS 161
Session 21 Being Like Jesus 163
Session 22 We Share God’s Life 171
Session 23 Following Jesus 179
Session 24 Making Choices 187
Session 25 Review 195
The Year in Our Church
The Year in Our Church 201
Christmas and Epiphany 207
Holy Week 215
All Saints Day 227
Prayers and Practices of Our Faith
Prayers and Practices of Our Faith 231
Knowing and Praying Our Faith: Basic Prayer 234
Celebrating Our Faith: Sacraments and Worship 246
Living Our Faith: Beliefs and Practices 264
Songs of Our Faith: Songs recorded on the Music CD 270
Understanding the Words of Our Faith:
English Glossary 297
Spanish Glossary 308
Recorded Scripture Story Scripts
Session 3 Trust in God (Matthew 6:25–34) 321
Session 6 Jesus With the Teachers (Luke 2:41–52) 322
Session 13 Jesus Heals (Mark 2:1–12) 323
Session 17 Inviting Jesus to Dinner (Luke 24:13–35) 324
Session 21 The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) 325
Recorded Guided Reflection Scripts
Session 2 Jesus Is Born 326
Session 6 Lost and Found 328
Session 11 The Vine and the Branches 330
Session 16 New Life Through Baptism 332
Session 22 Making Choices 334
Liturgical Calendar Blackline Master 336
Unit 1 Blackline Masters 337
Unit 2 Blackline Masters 351
Unit 3 Blackline Masters 365
Unit 4 Blackline Masters 379
Unit 5 Blackline Masters 393
Blackline Masters for the Seasonal Sessions 407