About this Blog

This project arises from religious education courses at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago but can be opened to other programs as well. Interested professors of religious education or faith formation should e-mail edaily@luc.edu if they want their students to be included.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Review of the Website www.catecheticalresources.com

This website from Ignatius Press is very helpful to the catechist. Under the resources tab, activities, lesson plans, or just games are divided into Preschool-Kindergarten, grades 1-3, 4-6, 7-8, and high school. There are 34 different topics to choose from scanning the whole range of catechesis. It is so user friendly. I find their materials to be doctrinally sound and the student reception enthusiastic.

I especially like their 29 page book on Baptism. This downloadable book covers all aspects of the sacrament and has many interactive pages of differing activities that are designed to educate the children on the sacrament in the 1st through 3rd grade levels.

I have used this site so many times as a stimulus for lesson planning as well as a springboard for creative focusing activities.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Christian Rap...Does it really work?

Within the last month, I attended a Youth Open Mic Night at my church, Vernon Park Church of God. This event featured a not only the talents of the youth that wanted to perform that evening but a Christian DeeJay, a rap group, and rock guitarist. What a combination huh?. At this event, I analyzed the reactions of the young people there and what I noticed is that they were not as drawn and enthused as the leaders might have thought.

This made me think of how some attempt to evangelize to young people with the use of popular culture. I believe it was Heft who displayed how young people believe that the Divine is not confined to the church setting. So, if that is the case, it is not necessary to use things in pop culture, such as rap, to draw young people. The concept of Christian rap has not been very successful throughout the years and I believe that it is partially a result of this. At the Open Mic event, it seemed that the young people were more concerned with the skill level of the rapper, in comparison with secular artists, as opposed to the message.

I dont want to be misunderstood. I am not saying that Christian rap is useless, but I am questioning it effectiveness in evangelization. Grant it, there are many young people that enjoy Christian rap, but it's growth in popularity hasn't been significant. Since rap is a very popular form of music in popular and secular culture, it would seem that Christian rap would have a similar success but, it hasnt.

Our Lady of La Vang

In writing a lesson plan for use with Vietnamese-American Catholics, I utilized this prayer to Our Lady of La Vang. The website from which I pulled the prayer tells the story of Our Lady of La Vang, who dates back to 1798 and her first appearance during a great persecution of Vietnamese Catholics.

Peter Phan, in a lecture at Seton Hall on Asian-American Catholics spoke to their "different way of being Christian." Phan mentioned Pope John Paul II's "snapshot of what he calls the 'Asian soul...." which draws a distinctive portrait of the Asian-American Catholic. However, I chose this website and this prayer for two other of their "different ways of being Christian." These are :
1. the Asian people's cultivation of popular devotions, of which commitment to Our Lady of La Vang is one
2. the " faith of Asian Churches having been tested in the crucible of suffering and even persecution." On June 19, 1988. Pope John Paul II in the canonizing ceremony of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, publicly and repeatedly recognized the importance and significance of the Lady of La Vang and expressed a desire for the rebuilding of the La Vang Basilica to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first apparition of the Lady of La Vang in August of 1998.

This website contains the history of Our Lady of La Vang as well as photos, paintings and drawings of her, in addition to the prayer. I found it to be a resource appropriate for use with Vietnamese-American Catholics.

The Latino Holiday Book

The Latino Holiday Book by Valerie Menard is a secular book of celebrations and traditions of Hispanic-Americans written by Valerie Menard and published in 2004 by Marlowe & Company. The book is patterned on the seasons of the year, which are titled in the table of contents using both their Spanish and English names. I resourced the chapter on the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, "the Revered Mother for a Native People" for an intergenerational lesson for Hispanic-Americans.

The chapter explains the context in which the Virgin appeared, discusses her "trendiness among mainstream consumers and non-Catholics"(TLHB p.158,) and shares a detailed story of Juan Diego's meeting with her. An analysis of the self-portrait of the Virgin on the tilma is described, followed by similar appearances of virgins or goddesses in Spanish and indigenous Aztec culture. The chapter concludes with a Prayer to the Virgin in Spanish, also saying that "the fact that she appeared to a recently converted Indian, that she spoke to him in his native language, and that her image reflects the mestizaje (mixing of the races) is culturally important. To people of all faiths and all economic conditions, the Virgin of Guadalupe offers hope."(TLHB p. 168.)

Charles Dahm, in his book, Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community, speaks of a community of teaching ministries. One element he discusses in teaching religion
is language, especially in teaching those whose first language is Spanish. "Pope Paul VI noted: "Evanglization loses much of its force and effectiveness if it does not take into condiseration the actual people whom it addresses, if it does not use their language...." (PMinHC p. 213-214) While TLHB is not a religion book, it does discuss Hispanic religious holidays, and it does incorporate some Spanish language making it appealing to those of an Hispanic background.

Dahm also discusses the importance of conserving and celebrating popular religiosity. Hispanics celebrate religious holidays as times of "social events and public demonstrations of faith." (PMinHC p.216) The lives of the saints are dramatized, the stories of the Bible are brought to life, the posadas are celebrated. The chapter on the Virgin of Guadalupe from The Latino Holiday Book does bring Our Lady of Guadalupe to life and gives enough resource material for others to use for celebrating her.

The Latino Holiday Book is an interesting, informative, culturally appropriate resource book to use in working with the Hispanic-American community. However, because it is a secular book, it should not be used as a primary resource for religious education needs. It is marvelous to use as supplementary material, but not as primary material for this purpose.

Catechetical Programs in the Spanish Language


After taking a course on faith formation, religious education and cultures, I would question those large religious educational publishing houses that simply translate the same course of catechesis into the Spanish language for Hispanic Catholic Communities. Since it is predicted that the Hispanic community will compromise 1/3 of the Catholic population in the U.S., I know that religious education programs have to do much more than merely translate what works for Euro-Americans into the Spanish language.


Charles Dahm (Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community, Paulist Press) points out the various contexts of Hispanic culture and what has worked in a predominantly Hispanic parish. Taking the directives of Gaudium et Spes that each human community, with its specific history and geography, has its own inheritance of wisdom and its own way of fostering basic human values (paragraph 53). As religious education instructors, one has to take all aspects of a community’s culture and ways of fostering basic human values into the plans for catechesis. 

Renewing the Vision

A framework for Catholic Youth Ministry 


In James Heft’s Passing on the Faith (2006; Fordham University Press), Christian Smith states that modernity’s differentiation of institutional spheres, rationalization of social life, materialism and naturalism embedded in capitalism and science, liberal disestablishment of religion in politics, and other disenchanting and secularizing modern social forces are often said to corrode religious sensibilities and undermine religious authority, making the religious socialization of the next generation all the more difficult. (p.55) Sociologist Nancy Ammerman raises the question, “Will our children have a faith to guide them?” (p.37)  Will they?

Even though “Renewing the Vision” is aimed at adolescents, I like to give this book to all the catechists that I work with from K-8th grades. 

This work, condensed from the bishops’ 1976 document, “A Vision of Youth Ministry”, is a concise treatise on what is needed in youth ministry. It defines 8 components can be used across the board in all ages of catechesis. In each of the 8 ministries: Advocacy, Catechesis, Community Life, Evangelization, Justice and Service, Leadership Development, Pastoral Care, and Prayer and Worship; goals are established that contribute to the YM’s vision and enhance the possibilities of lesson plans that include these well defined components. 

The last part of the book gives a guiding image for ministry with adolescents using the story of the walk to Emmaus Lk 24:13-35 with its emphasis on the relationship between young disciples and their Lord. A relationship that is characterized by presence, listening, faith sharing, and celebration. (p.49).  The Emmaus story will continue to guide the Church’s ministry with adolescents, but a new image is emerging, the image of young people with a mission. 

The NACOG Youth Camp

Every year, the National Association of the Church of God Anderson, Indiana, presents a youth camp meeting in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania (www.nacog.com). The purpose for this camp meeting is to empower youth holistically through instructional workshops, various speakers, and other camp actvitites. These various activities are also geared toward unity, worship, prayer, and other things.Youth from all over the country meet at this cand going to worship services tampground for seven days. As a one time attendee of this event, I experienced these activities. I remember singing around the campfire, going to workshops, and taking hikes which all related to prayer. It was a time in which we were away from our parents and came together in the middle of the woods in Pennsylvania to focus on prayer and a closer relationship with God.

Kenneth Hill, author of Religious Education in the African American Tradition, presents 5 models of religious education to African Americans: Kerygmatic, Holiness, Confessional, Afrocentric, Contemplative, and Liberation. In the Contemplative model, Hill states, “ Spiritual approach to AACRE emphasizes prayer, worship, and comtemplative life in action” (p. 128). Hill displays here, that this model of religious education, is effective because of its sense of community, utilization of songs, movement, and feeling. This model focuses on prayer very deeply.

The National Association of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) youth camp meeting, seems to be an effective activity according to Hill's comtemplative model. The focus on prayer and salvation is the method to this meetings success. It allows young people to be put in a place of solidarity and community simulataneously because it takes them away from their comfort zone and brings them into a community with other young people. Through song, dance, and other forms of worship, the camp meeting aims to reach out to young people. Through the lens of Hill, the NACOG Youth Camp is a success.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vacation Bible School Blog

Vacation Bible School is a religious education program that takes place in the summer. This program is usually held for 1-2 weeks. The duration of VBS varies among churches. Vacation Bible School has been a Protestant based concept almost since it's existence. In the past, Catholic VBS experience has been either non-existent or very limited. It is clear, that Vacation Bible School continues to be growing activity.Vacation Bible School education has been focused on children and youth for many years. Curriculum has been geared for children ages 5-18. Recently, however, the program has begun to add adult education as well. Again, this aspect of VBS varies among churches. Usually, participants are divided in to different classes by age. Even though, the same principles are taught to each age level, it is presents differently for all.

Fowler, in his work Stages of Faith, argues that there are 6 levels of faith in all parishes or churches: Intuitive-projective faith, Mythic-literal faith, Synthetic-conventional faith, Individuative-reflective faith, Conjunctive faith, and Universaling faith. With this in mind, it is clear that Vacation Bible is effective in it's mission.

One would think that because the classes are broken up by age, each stage of faith is covered. It is difficult to concluded that because the adult faith levels are not being addressed. In my church, there is only one class for adults. Grant it, there aren't many adults that attend because of work or other schedules, but because there is only one class for adults it is not addressing the various faith levels among them.

Blog of the Asian American Christian Fellowship

Peter C Phan is the author of Christianity with an Asian Face: Asian Theology in the Making. In the ninth chapter of his work, Phan displays how effective evangelization for the Asian culture is best carried out though inculturation, sharing with the poor and partaking in human rights. He shows that evangelization should be geared toward the total person.

The Asian American Christian Fellowship is a ministry founded in 1973 geared toward Asian American students on college campuses. The mission of the AACF is “ to reach into the university and collegiate community, primarily to those who are Asian Pacific Americans, with the life changing message of Jesus Christ”. This ministry, though discipleship, mentorship, and outreach programs, teach individuals biblical foundations within a culturally-sensitive context. One of their most important missions is to make discipleship of all nations. For this ministry, “nations” is defined as all “ethnos” or people groups.

If analyzing the effectiveness of this ministry through the lens on Peter Phan, it can be stated that the Asian American Christian ministry is being somewhat successful but in some ways ineffective. There is nothing in the website that mentions anything about service to the poor nor solidarity in human rights. There isn't any indication of inculturation either. As stated before, the AACF teaches biblical foundations within a cultural-sensitive context. In this way, the AACF organization is successful. They are identifying the needs of the Asian American community through evangelization.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Fill the Ark"

“Fill the Ark” A review of Heifer International and their website http://www.heifer.org/site

Heifer International is an organization dedicated to ending hunger and caring for the earth by creating an environment of stewardship.

Lenten activities generally focus around prayer, fasting, and alms giving. The activity of collecting funds for the missions or others in need is nothing novel, especially during the Lenten season. Heifer International has kid friendly ways to engage children of all ages and their families in comprehending the global need of their stewardship and creative and ways to encourage monetary donations by the use of their individually provided ARK shaped banks. The activity titled “Fill the Ark” provides a calendar with information explaining all the different animals that help other families by providing wool, milk, honey and many other products. The four week calendar provides experiences and tasks to encourage saving money in the ARK bank. Individually or as a larger group, funds collected can be specifically targeted for the purchase of animals for specific countries or for specific needs you wish to help fulfill. Currently there is a special need in aiding China. It is described as the Sichuan Earthquake Rebuilding Project. The site describes the situation in China as dire, many have lost their homes and livestock. Also there are the specific animals that when purchased assist those in specific regions. A flock of geese when purchased directly gives aid to a family in the Philippines with food from the eggs and fertilizer and as the flock multiplies they share and pass on the gift.

The two readings focusing on the Asian-American culture by Peter C. Phan indicate that the Asian Catholic Church can be described as the church of the poor. There has been much oppression from government forces along with many challenges of natural disasters. Much of the history has also shown little regard for the rights and role of women in society. Although there is no one generalization of Asian-American Catholics, some characteristics seem to flow from the influence of the teachings of the Buddhists, Taoists, and Confucius. Generally there is a respect and harmony with nature and all living creatures. A strong cultural bond and respect toward the elders and family also exists.

With these generalizations at heart, the Heifer International organization reflects many of the same values of the compassionate Asian culture, a global outlook for resolving hunger and peace to the earth along with respect and harmony of the environment. The concept of stewardship of humanity and of the earth resonates in both. Heifer International Mission statement reflects some of the essence of what is good in the influences from the Asian religions Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

“Heifer's Mission to End Hunger
Heifer envisions…
A world of communities living together in peace and equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet.

Heifer’s mission is…
To work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth.

Heifer's strategy is…
To “pass on the gift.” As people share their animals’ offspring with others – along with their knowledge, resources, and skills – an expanding network of hope, dignity, and self-reliance is created that reaches around the globe.”

In an era of fraud and uncertainty knowing where and how your gift is being utilized and how this gift will be passed on to others can be empowering for those on the giving and receiving end. Families can feel connected to a specific global area or cause for the recipient. The value of appreciating and sharing God’s gifts is evident in the Heifer International Mission.

Heifer International, Mission, Retrieved April 24, 2009, from heifer.org:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Making Cascarones-Spanish Confetti Eggs

A Review of the website “Speak Spanish Everyday! Living and Learning en Espanol”
http://speakspanisheveryday.com/category/spanish-holiday-activities/ and the activity titled “Making Cascarones-Spanish Confetti Eggs”.

Looking for an activity that would be connected to my topic of Lent and Easter and to be connected to the Hispanic culture I came across an activity of making Cascarones. The activity begins by briefly describing the history of Cascarones.

“Origins of Cascarones in Mexico - This is the time of year for more traditional casacarones. In 19th century Mexico, one of the few ways that young couples could show public affection was to crack a cascarn or two over each others’ heads at dances during carnaval before Lent, or Cuaresma. Over time, children adopted the custom during Lent. Now everyone is in on the fun right before Ash Wednesday, and some break them out again at Easter, or Pascua.”

Then continues with the activity of creating Cascarones. The site offered step-by-step instructions with clear photos on how to prepare the eggs, dye the eggs, and fill the eggs with confetti.

Chapter seven of Charles W. Dahm’s book, Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community, published by Paulist Press, 2004 was the reading for Week 12. In this reading Dahm describes how a parish in the Chicago area made strides in focusing on effective means of catechesis with an immigrant Hispanic population they served. Dahm indicates that for this culture catechesis is not generally most effective through formal classroom and official teaching but better developed by family experience, and festive celebrations that connect the wealth of customs that the culture grew from. Other successful forms of catechesis included a focus on devotions and prayers that bring together the historical stories and traditions to the present day.

The activity described in the website falls short in the description and history of Cascarones. To create an experience that would cultivate a rich sense of the fun and purpose of the use and celebration associated to cascarones, more would be needed. The website initially seemed to promote the sense that there would be a depth of information for someone searching for information about Hispanic culture. The activity as presented provides a shallow essence of the “why” of the activity and celebration. I would recommend this activity for this cultural group with added components to include scriptural reflections and more historical background.

Making Cascarones-Spanish Confetti Eggs (2009, April 1) Retrieved April 19, 2009, from speakspanisheveryday.com: Today!, http://speakspanisheveryday.com/category/spanish-holiday-activities/

Religious Consumerism and World Youth Day 2005

Blog 6


World Youth Day 2005 and Religious Consumerism…

“They slept in a dew-soaked field, packed head to toe, and awoke Sunday under heavy gray skies to hear Pope Benedict XVI urge his youthful followers to live a life of faith and work to spread it.”

Lamenting a "strange forgetfulness of God" in modern society, Benedict cautioned Sunday that religion could not be a "consumer product…. Religion constructed on a 'do-it-yourself' basis cannot ultimately help us," he said. "Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself.". (Pope Benedict XVI)

This makes me think of a concept I learned in undergraduate classes called cafeteria-style Catholicism. I think I’ll take a heaping teaspoon of the Creed, but go light on the whole divinity of life “thingie” I may not be okay with the entire pro-life platform; I’ll take a scoop of the Holy Trinity, but go easy on the Sacraments… I only want to be Confirmed so I can get married in the Church; I’ll take three cups worth of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but don’t ask me to follow you, Lord, without guarantees and assurances”. In our consumer society it is to easy to purchase too much of something useless, or to think we can always “get it later”. By and large, the youth of today do not think of what it means to be a part of something bigger than themselves; they are consumed with what they can acquire for themselves. They are not concerned about standing in solidarity with the anawin in our midst; they are concerned with whether or not to engage in illicit behaviors with other youth… and how to feel “more”.

Freedom granted by God "is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good," he told the crowd, offering the central moral prescription of his four-day appearance here. "This gesture is necessary even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it." (Pope Benedict XVI)

It is therefore imperative that we, as catechists to the youth of today, continue to foster self-esteem, self-awareness, and to help the children to concentrate on the Divinity within themselves, and in others; and to realize that God speaks freely and frequently to each of them. To continue to teach the youth in our care that they are “Wonderfully and beautifully created in the image and likeness of God”, that God has a special role for each of them (and no two are alike), that they need the fullness of their faith and to live that faith in “full and active participation” to fulfill the primal and spiritual need to connect to the divine and others in the homocentric Church and to enhance the sacramentality of life for all.
Blog 5

An excerpt from Dahm’s book, Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community, was the required reading for this unit. In it, Dahm illustrated how St. Pius V Parish has used cultural qualities of the Hispanic community and infused them into their traditional liturgies and ministry. Dahm believes it is fruitful to encourage those of the Hispanic culture to keep their rich and vibrant traditions and try and incorporate them into the American mainstream, without loosing the original meaning and expression of their forefathers. There is much to be said for keeping their cultural identity within the Catholic Church.

Lumen Gentium reinforces this cultural acceptance and inclusive nature of the Church “All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God” (LG, 49). Dahm’s assertion that the inculturation of Hispanics into the Church enriches and strengthens our collective faith… is valid. It is only through embracing one another’s cultures and differences that we truly live as Christ commanded: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35). That includes loving and accepting the diverse traditions of those who share our faith.

Tradition-awareness can impact the holiness of the Church and the disciple of believers because if we are to reduce our traditions to the least common denominator we have in fact reduced our faith, and as a direct result… the holiness of the Church. Rituals Symbols and Sacraments are essential dimensions of deeper consciousness, but they too are not the sum of their parts… they should be viewed in a universal sacramentality. We embrace all (inter-generationally, inter-racially, and in a non-gender specific way) when we embrace the message of Christ that each of us is a Child of God and worthy of respect and human dignity. It is the nuances of disparity that allow us to exist as ONE church.

USCCB, Phan and Me...

Blog #4 http://www.usccb.org/mrs/harmony.shtml#iii

Sharing Gifts and Promoting Harmony… Contemporary Asian-American Struggles

“We believe strongly that this is a moment of special grace for the Catholic Church in the United States. As Asian Pacific communities, we bring a strong sense of family with a loving respect for the elderly and a profound and fervent religious faith. We contribute a spirituality which is eastern [and] rooted in Asian Pacific cultures. We also seek to live in harmony with each other and with the whole of creation. We deepen and challenge our understanding of the meaning of the universal Church, enabling all of us to be a church which is complete and whole.”

There is much richness to be found in a healthy incorporation or inculturation of the Asian population into the Church. The sense of family and respect of elderly is something we of contemporary Anglo cultural norms are lacking in. It is evident that as Phan suggests there are still several struggles faced by Asian Americans: oppression, social barriers, and bigotry. However I feel that it is these contemporary challenges that allowed this rich culture to contribute as witnesses in true Biblical solidarity with those who have had similar challenges in the Gospel stories and those in current cultural groups. In our ability to focus on the suffering of these people we somehow denounce any ownership of their plight; conversely, if we bring to focus our sins of transgression and omission… we are accepting a role in the oppression and deprivation of life. Being empathically moved by the human suffering will not always lead one to actively denounce their abhorrent conditions. However, accentuating the sinfulness of OUR actions as we watch those inflicted with social, political, and economic strife seems to be the more direct approach to infuse a sense of accountability and hopefully will lead more people to ministering and aiding those in need.

It was Jesus’ mission to restore God’s people to covenant; the original intention of covenant, by providing a social vision based on equality and right communion with God. The historical Jesus was not a radical nor was he a reformer; so much as he was a “restorer”. He did not want to usher in a new sect of Judaism; he wanted integrity, respect, and honesty to prevail over corruption, he strove to eliminate economic and social disparity, he labored to repair the lack of cohesion and unveil the corruption in the Jewish faith, he wanted the anawin in our midst provided for and loved, and he sought to reestablish covenant by bringing healing and a fullness of devotion to God to the people he ministered. We are called to create a Church of harmony and equality where different cultural practices and traditions can be incorporated in the larger Church for an enhanced existence (spiritual, physical and psychological) for all.

“Harmony is central to the lives and cultures of Asian and Pacific communities. According to the bishops of Asia, "harmony embodies ‘the realities of order, well-being, justice and love as seen in human interaction. . . . Harmony is not simply the absence of strife. . . . The test of true harmony lies in acceptance of diversity and richness.'"

Quotes from: http://www.usccb.org/mrs/harmony.shtml#iii

Do I have a role in my Salvation?

Blog 3: http://www.simplyyouthministry.com/freebies-junior-high.html

Confident in Christ

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).

What's On The Menu?
Have you ever been inside your house and heard a strange noise? Even if you know all of the windows and doors are locked, you still feel unsafe. You get out of bed, turn on every light, and check all the locks. Even if everything checks out, you still feel a little unsafe. Isn't it amazing that even though God promises in His word that all who believe in Christ will have eternal life, we still feel like we are not "really saved," that if we don't keep checking the "locks" on our salvation it could be stolen or taken away. In this lesson, we are talking about having confidence in our salvation and the promise God makes to us when we choose to believe in Christ. Having this confidence gives you the peace of knowing that nothing can shake your salvation or change the fact that you are "saved."

Discuss salvation and what it means to be "saved."
Have you ever doubted that you are "saved"? Why or why not?
Have you ever been in a situation when you felt like you could lose your salvation? Why?
A promise is only as good as the honesty of the person who makes it. When we understand the total honesty of God, we can believe His promises. In order to have confidence that we are saved, we just need to believe God's promises! Let’s take a closer look at how to know we have eternal life . . .

The Main Course:
There is no better place than the Bible to find confidence in our salvation. Take a look at these passages and see what God has to say about our salvation, where it comes from, and who desires for us to have it and believe in it.
Read 1 John 5:11-12.
Who gives eternal life?
Where is eternal life found?
Who has eternal life?
According to Revelation 3:20 . . .
Where is Christ right now?
How does Christ enter your life?
What does Christ promise to do?
Read aloud Philippians 3:7-11(New Living Translation)
According to verse 7-8, what do we need to "lose" or throw away? Why?
What things in your life are worthless and stand between you and your walk with Christ?
Look at verse 9.
Do we need to do good deeds in order to be confident that we are saved?
Who do we need to trust? Why?
Check out verse 10-11. What is the only way to really know Christ?
Are you ready to do "whatever it takes" to experience life in Christ?
Check out 1 John 5:13 and John 20:31.
What reason does John give for writing this book?
What is the greatest thing that happens to us when we believe in Christ?
What is one thing we need to remember about God's promise to us?

Something to chew on:
If we trust ourselves and our feelings of doubt, instead of God and His promises, how will this affect our attitudes and actions?
If we put our trust in God, no matter how we feel, how does this change our attitudes and actions?
What is one thing that stands between you and Christ that you want to get rid of?
If you were to die tonight, are you confident that you would be in heaven with God? Or are you going to continue to let "stuff" get in the way of your walk?

Response: In this exercise students are asked to understand salvation as a tangible gift that requires the recipient to receive it in light of their Christian actions and life. There are many Bible verses that help substantiate the lesson plans objective. There isn’t as much youth interaction as I like in my lesson plans, but there is room for sharing and collaboration. This activity has the potential (if properly led) to reach James Fowler's fourth stage which is the point at which the adolescents assume responsibility for their own faith and lifestyles… I am not a big fan of the word "saved" in this context and might find a different way to express salvation... that better connects with the youth.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Evaluation of the Midwest-APYACC in Light of Phan’s Christianity with an Asian Face

The Midwest Asian-Pacific Young Adult Catholic Conference, or APYACC is being held this summer at Loyola University Chicago’s Lake Shore Campus. This conference is for Asian American young adults and all those who work with them. It is a time to come together to discuss three important concerns of Asian American young adults: intergenerational dialogue, being Asian-Pacific and American, and Being Roman Catholic today.

An excerpt from Phan’s book, Christianity with an Asian Face, published by Orbis Books, was the reading for this week. Phan explains that human development is one of the main issues for Asian American Catholics. The preferential option for the poor is especially important to this community because of the oppression and poverty found in so many Asian countries. Even in America, Asian Catholics are under-represented in the hierarchical structure of the Church. Not only do we need to address the poverty and oppression in the Asian countries that this group of people are immigrating from, we also must address how they are being treated within the American Catholic Church.

APYACC presents a great opportunity for dialogue with the Asian American community. The focus of the conference includes putting Asian American identity into dialogue with both the American and Catholic cultures. This is precisely what Phan suggests is necessary. Without this dialogue, the Asian American Catholic community could continue to be an unheard and underrepresented minority. By having conferences such as APYACC this community is able to make their voice heard. This is a wonderful platform for discussing ways to effectively minister to the Asian American Catholic community. Anyone who works with this group of people should attend this conference.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Anglo-Americans - Material Culture

Anglican Theological Review
Through the discussion of many books and resources a fairly unanimous conclusion between them is stated, affluenza is an issue with which Christianity must learn to deal. In considering wealth and material cultures, the various books in the review all offer opinions of the dangers or spending and some go so far as to describe spending as an addiction. In such a material culture, the church is surely affected and Christians are influenced.

Offering – Done Sunday Mornings
The obvious activity that comes to mind when considering spending is the contribution or offering done every Sunday morning. Often discussed as a sacrificial act of worship, every Sunday morning since I can remember, I have hear talk of members of a local church giving money as the basket was passed around. May times there would be a discussion about how materially blessed Christians were and how all blessings came from God and the offering was an opportunity to “give back a portion” of those blessings.

I often wonder if Christians were as concerned about spiritual blessings as we seem to be with material blessings, if we would be blessed equivalently exceedingly. God’s material promises to Christians seem limited yet the amount of material blessings possessed is much greater than what is promised; if focused were turned to spiritual things would the same hold true? I believe the conversations that occur around the offering are an important step in the direction of material consciousness, but I also believe they could be taken further to consider more of the point mentioned in the books reviewed above.

Hispanic Culture - Family and Community

Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community – A Community of Teaching Ministries
– Charles W. Dahm
By promoting ideas of family and respect for diversity, Dahm discusses important stresses and ways in which to address Hispanic culture. By placing an emphasis on youth education, topics of social justice, charity, and respect can be taught to communities in the context of cultural values. Understanding these issues is one way Dahm suggests approaching Hispanic cultures.

A Family Culture of Faith – Home Bible Study Material
Focusing on ideas of being pilgrims in a foreign land and making use of “this world is not my home” language, a series of home Bible studies I have from when I was in high school calls my attention to aspects of immigration and community. The material was written by different people from a local congregation and intended to be used in home Bible studies, several families would meet in each other’s houses twice a month for the studies. The general idea was to create a community of people, the church that “lived in the world, but were not a part of the world.”

Comparison and Analysis
What strikes me in thinking back on the home Bible studies is the similarity between what the lessons were intended to do, while using somewhat different language to achieve it. While Dahm discusses ideas of family and unique aspects brought in by each individual and culture, our studies looked at ideas of being the family of God and respecting the gifts each brought to the family. The ideas of being in a new or strange land are not uncommon in religious circles in discussing ‘the world’ and a Christian’s place in it. Where Dahm emphasizes the importance of a cultural family, the studies discussed of a church family.

Good Friday--a different view (Asian)


This article from catholicnews.com highlights Pope Benedict’s choice to have Archbishop Menamparampi write the mediation for the Stations of the Cross for this Lenten season.  Archbishop Menamparampi is from Asia and has worked for non-violence and emphasizes the need to resolve things peacefully.  The author of the article suggests that the Pope chose this man to include Eastern Christians and to emphasize the way the Gospel can shed light on the beliefs of other faiths.


This text looks at what makes Religious Education and Evangelization effective to the Asian culture.  There are three central keys to making this education as relatable as possible.   The first is interculturation which allows the church to be present in the lives of its people.  There must also be a dialogue with other Asian religions—dialogue provides mutual understanding and can allow greater growth.  There must also be service to the poor—it is never solely about ME, but about the greater world community.  Phan recognizes that it brings new challenges to incorporate other cultures into faith, but the results will provide a rich diversity and opportunities.


This article does reflect some of the keys of Phan’s article.  The dialogue is certainly there—the Archbishop tied in Eastern influences into this mediation including references to Hindu scriptures and Ghandi.  And because this meditation is being used in such a public forum, it allows non-Asian people to recognize the values of another culture.  And Asian Christians are allowed to feel that their culture is incorporated into their faith. 


Phan - Cultural Sensitivity

Peter Phan, in Christianity with an Asian Face, Asian American Theology in the Making, speaks of issues facing and important to the Asian American Christian community. Aside from the generalized manner in which such a work would necessitate, Phan’s analysis of this culture appears both academic and insightful. Phan suggests several struggles faced by Asian Americans, oppression, injustice, poverty, social barriers, have allowed them to sit in solidarity with those facing similar issues. In addressing ministry to these cultures, Phan emphasizes the importance of giving consideration to how members of these cultures are enculturated and establishing relationship appropriate to cultural values.

When considering activities of outreach from my personal religious experience I think of “Gospel Meetings” held at congregations twice a year. These were weeklong meetings, somewhat of a carryover from old southern tent meetings, intended to reach into the community with a series of lessons and lectures, Bible classes and sermons, on Bible topics, often discussing doctrine or topical studies. The Saturday before the meeting began we would meet at the building and canvas the area, handing out pamphlets, talking to people, knocking on doors, and hanging flyers at businesses. Due to the location of our congregation we would walk through neighborhoods where “cultures” of people seemed to be. What we called “little China” was an apartment development which housed about 90% Chinese immigrants. “Little Africa” was the mostly black community, “little Mexico” was the street where mostly Hispanics lived. As kids we thought we were being clever, as teenagers we knew not to call them those names in front of our parents, and finally as college students we realized we got very little response from those communities.

Considering how the points made by Phan in his research makes me consider what could have possibly been done more affectively in my congregation growing up. While we were very interested in explaining ourselves to the community around us, we did very little to allow aspects of the community around us to explain itself to us. Or congregation was primarily white, upper middle class Christians; our members who were minorities did represent each of the populations in the community and the percentages we equivalent, but even still, the traditions were very much those of upper middle class Anglo Americans. While I do not recall it ever being a point of contention, I now wonder if it was, and even if it truly was not, I must believe the lack of time spent learning and discussion the cultures in the community created a situation where opportunities to reach people were lost.

Prayer cross

Experience the magic of the prayer cross. If don’t have TiVo and you actually watch commercials still you probably have seen the prayer cross. It is a cross made with brilliant genuine crystals layered in fine sterling silver. It features a secret center stone, which when held up to the light, reveals the entire Lord’s Prayer. It makes the perfect gift for any occasion. You can take the Lord’s Prayer with you where ever you go. It is available in adult or children sizes.

The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies. By Robert E. Lane This article is summed up in its opening sentence. “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also” Jesus cautioned.

Advertising and product placement can be seen everywhere even in the church. Lane states that the problem is a rootless society structurally dependent in a variety of ways upon ever-escalating levels of material acquisition at the expense of human happiness, community, and moral significance. When religious marketing becomes a way a furthering our material acquisition it fails the community and fails at furthering happiness.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

An Evaluation of “Como Celebrar la Semana Santa” in Light of Dahm’s Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community

The Como Celebrar la Semana Santa, or How to Celebrate Holy Week resource can be found at TheCatholicCompany.com. The purpose of this resource is to provide information to Spanish speaking Catholics about the various practices that take place during Holy Week. The pamphlet contains informational articles about things such as what to do with a blessed palm frond and an explanation of the oils that are blessed at the Chrism Mass. In addition, the pamphlet also includes some material of an inspirational nature by drawing a connection between Jesus’ and the reader’s Lenten journey.

Dahm’s book, Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community, published by Paulist Press, was the reading for this week. Dahm describes the way that the St. Pius V Parish has adapted their ministry to be meaningful to the growing community of Hispanic immigrants. He describes the different ways that the various ministries at the parish have been changed in order to accommodate the needs of the Hispanic community. The parish has taken measures to preserve and celebrate the Hispanic culture, form communities, and encourage its members to take pride in and responsibility for their neighborhood.

The resource is intended to inform the average Catholic about some of the traditions and rituals of Holy Week. It also attempts to tie into the reader’s faith by providing some ways in which she can connect to Jesus. While this activity is written in Spanish, it is simply a translated version of the same pamphlet that is published for English speaking Catholics. It does not make any attempt to incorporate the rich Hispanic traditions and customs of Holy Week. Therefore, this pamphlet, while informative, does nothing to promote Hispanic culture, which as Dahm points out, is vital for the health of the Hispanic Catholic community. Because of this, I do not fully endorse this pamphlet. I believe that it could be improved if a truly Spanish version, which incorporated the Hispanic culture, was published. Even though this resource is intended for a Spanish speaking audience, it does nothing to promote the Hispanic culture. Simply publishing existing materials in Spanish does not make them appropriate for use with the Hispanic Catholic community.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Review of ISAAC (Asian Americans)


ISAAC (acronym for Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) is an organization created to uplift and strengthen Asian American Christian communities across the country. The website offers resources for communities as well as networking opportunities. There are also workshops and events across the country sponsored by ISAAC communities that are advertised on the site. The main foci of the organization are research, teaching, networking, and consulting. The hope is that Asian American congregations can be strengthened and that traditional seminaries, denominations, and organizations can increase diversity and ability to work with the Asian American community.

In his book Christianity With an Asian American Face, Peter Phan discusses three main factors necessary for evangelization and education of Asian American Christians. These are enculturation, dialogue with major Asian religions, and service to the poor.

ISAAC seems to have a great focus on enculturation. There are many resources reaching out to every kind of Asian Americans in an attempt to bring Church to who they are as a community. By serving the Asian American Christian community and providing networking opportunities ISAAC is making an effort to serve the poor of the Asian American community, but there are not many places on the website the provided opportunities for the communities to serve the poor. Lastly while there is not a sense of any dialogue with other Asian religions, there is a great sense of dialogue between the varied Christian religions with strong Asian American representation, including a forum with representatives from many major religions on Christian faith and activism.

Review of ISAAC (Asian Americans)


ISAAC (acronym for Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) is an organization created to uplift and strengthen Asian American Christian communities across the country. The website offers resources for communities as well as networking opportunities. There are also workshops and events across the country sponsored by ISAAC communities that are advertised on the site. The main foci of the organization are research, teaching, networking, and consulting. The hope is that Asian American congregations can be strengthened and that traditional seminaries, denominations, and organizations can increase diversity and ability to work with the Asian American community.

In his book Christianity With an Asian American Face, Peter Phan discusses three main factors necessary for evangelization and education of Asian American Christians. These are enculturation, dialogue with major Asian religions, and service to the poor.

ISAAC seems to have a great focus on enculturation. There are many resources reaching out to every kind of Asian Americans in an attempt to bring Church to who they are as a community. By serving the Asian American Christian community and providing networking opportunities ISAAC is making an effort to serve the poor of the Asian American community, but there are not many places on the website the provided opportunities for the communities to serve the poor. Lastly while there is not a sense of any dialogue with other Asian religions, there is a great sense of dialogue between the varied Christian religions with strong Asian American representation, including a forum with representatives from many major religions on Christian faith and activism.

Review of Religious Consumerism in general

All you have to do today is go to Google and type in “Christian Book Store”. No fewer than 61 million hits come up. But, rare is the site you click on whose main purpose is to sell books for gaining knowledge and understanding of one’s faith. While all of them will offer these books, the big sellers on their pages are the gifts and accessories, including music, movies, knick knacks, jewelry, socks, ties, etc
The excerpt we from the “Anglican Theological Review” reviewed several books on the subject of consumerism. Throughout the reviews much focus was placed on the nature of our society to seek solace in spending, which does not in fact create happiness. The author concluded the reviews by noting that ultimately we are all seeking to be loved and know we are loved. The author states that “God’s love is both free and abundant.”
But is God’s free and abundant love being advertised by the Christina mass media? Or are we being told that in order to really know God’s love, or show others that we know God’s love, we must have plaque with the 23rd Psalm in our front yard or a WWJD bracelet? One would think that the Church is the place where you can escape the consumerist agenda. And maybe it is. But how can you truly escape it when the place you go to buy a bible also tries to sell you a tea set to remind you that the Lord is always faithful?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Asian Review

The article reviewed this week is entitled "Asian Bishops Propose New Church," by Tom Kyle. In this article, Peter Phan is quoted as discussing how the Church and God have become less central in our lives - He is not our top priority anymore. God is in the middle of our lives with everything else surrounding it - but He is not the tops.

At one time, the Asian Catholic was a Western Catholic philosophy transplanted into the Asian world. It did not flourish. A new movement/group emerged in order to move the Asian church into a new way of being church: the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC). The FABC called for meeting with JP2 in order to discuss their church; a church built on activism, promoting the care of the poor, and giving witness to injustice. The one issue the Pope and the FABC do not agree with has to do with Jesus Christ as the only Savior. The FABC believes that with that limited belief, there can be no communication with other religions. The Pope holds strong to JC as the only Savior.

The reading this week, Christianity with an Asian Face, Asian American Theology in the Making, by Peter Phan. Mr. Phan discusses the Asian Christian person as one that is in solidarity with the people it serves. Those people that are touched by poverty, injustice, oppression, and such sadness, should be reflected by the Christians serving and teaching them. Phan also discusses the relationship between doing works of social justice, being one with the universe, and the relationship to body, mind and soul.

Both articles establish the same premise of working and preaching to the poor by being poor. The people of the Church are the people in the streets - they are the same people, sharing the same injustice. The main theme is to make the gospel message visible through giving witness. Giving witness is the best way to show others what being a Christian is. Not all people have to live in the most horrific conditions though. Likewise, the Pope is right in remaining firm that the Christian belief is that Jesus is the only Savior. There is no other and we can still be open to communicating with other religions.

Review of Aprendemos Sobre la Misa by Gerard Moore (Hispanic)

Aprendemos Sobre la Misa (We Learn About the Mass) is a book published by Liturgy Training Publications, written with young Hispanic children in mind. The books guides a child through the parts of the mass including prayers that are said by the priest and by the congregation; gestures of sitting, standing, and kneeling; and a guide on how to approach each part of the mass in order to get the most out of it.
In his book Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community, Charles W. Dahm, O.P. describes the needs of the Hispanic Community in Parish life. He mentions the need for faith formation to be a family event, one in which the family is the center. He also discusses the importance of language awareness for newer immigrant families who may not speak English well, or who are not as comfortable speaking English as their native tongue. Lastly, Dahm focuses on the need for respect for the diverse nature of people and communities.
This book helps greatly with the first two. It offers the opportunity for children to learn about the mass with their parents. The books is easy to follow and can be used during the liturgy and in conversations to follow. It is written in Spanish, an is a fair translation. My concern however is with the respect for diversity. The book was not written with the Hispanic community in mind. It was written in English, and then translated into Spanish. While the translation is done very well, it does not translate over cultural lines. It is very much a Euro-American approach to the liturgy written in Spanish.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Living Stations of the Cross

Living stations of the cross/Passion Plays can be seen at many parishes around the Lenten Season.  For Hispanic communities, it proves to be a traditional and emotionally moving experience that always manages to catch the public's eye (newspaper articles, newscasts, etc).  It is a Stations of the Cross that invites ALL the senses, allowing people to see, hear,  smell and imagine what the Passion Story must have been like for Christ.  

The assigned readings really emphasized the importance of culture when conveying faith and tradition in a Hispanic-American context.  Obviously, culture is important, but Dahm asserts that to a people who may be new to the American culture (with an emphasis on the immigrant experience), language and way of life, it's imperative to keep something comfortable/known at the forefront.  The article suggests that in order to encourage evangelization, opportunities should be made for leadership and power in their faith communities. 

The Passion Play/Living Stations has become a tradition for many Hispanic-Americans.  In terms of the article, the experience allows the the community to express themselves in a way that incorporates their culture and they beliefs.  The experience also encourages involvement of the community themselves--they are not watching a group of White males participate; they, themselves, are organizing a participating in the experience.  The Passion Play/Living Stations is a great activity/experience for Hispanic-Americans and lines up with what Dahm states in his article--culture takes the forefront.

Blogging in Belize!

While on a service trip in Corozal, Belize with 9 high school juniors, I knew I wanted to include some sort of evening prayer.  While in Belize, we were working to build a home for teachers at a local high school.  The school is so isolated, many teachers live at the school during the week and commute home on the weekends.  Since the living conditions are currently so poor, teachers typically leave after one year, depriving the students of any consistency.  Funding and starting to build this house will directly affect the student's education.  In providing evening prayer, my goal was two-fold: I wanted the students (and chaperones) to be able to unwind after a day of intense physical labor, but more importantly, I wanted us to be able to reflect on the work we were doing and connect it to our faith and way of living.  

I used a resource that was labeled as a "Service Reflection Toolkit."  This "toolkit" had pages and pages of information, guiding questions and activities to use with groups doing service.  The toolkit began with explanations of the importance of reflecting on service that is completed.  Activities are then divided into sections: 15-60 second activities, 1-5 minutes, 5-30 minutes, and so on.  There were also longer-term projects and an entire section with journaling methods and questions.  Overall, a very lengthy and informative toolkit of ideas.

I really appreciated this resource.  By no means was I able to use all of the info (nor would I want to use some of the ideas presented), but  I was able to pick and choose what I felt would work with the small group I was leading.  I created my own outline for the week and was able to adjust according to our group dynamics.  I especially appreciated this resource's variety of suggestions for reflection.  It was not simply a list of activities, but provided so many different ways to reflect and interact--perfect for high schoolers who never want to be told "write about your feelings today."  This resource would benefit anyone who was looking to "spice up" their reflection process--it offers enough varied ideas so that there is something for everyone.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Christ was born in Asia! (Asian-American)

Description: A review of the USCCB article…"Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith" found here: http://www.usccb.org/mrs/harmony.shtml

This article written by the USCCB gives insight into the “heartfelt pastoral concern” that exists for our Asian brothers and sisters in the United States. It stresses harmony among ethnic diversity. Specifically, the ethnic diversity that exists among those from different Asian and Pacific homelands who speak varying languages, have many different religious beliefs, and experience different ecclesial structures. This diversity gets transposed into American culture when Asians journey and make the United States their new home. Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, etc…all bring their own unique cultural experiences and faith traditions to our shared continent. As a result, great effort must be made to build community amidst diversity and promote a greater harmony built on a foundation of love.

Summary: The text lays out elements that are important in Religious Education and Evangelization in the Asian Culture. Inculturation, Dialogue with Asian Religions, and Service to the Poor are three central elements when attempting to “preach” the Good News to this ethnic group that the 1st chapter stresses. The latter “preferential option for the poor” is noted as being the fundamental direction for Asian Catholic Church focus. Many Asians have been (or are) themselves poor, and thus readily identify and find Christ within this focus.

One of the most interesting things when reading this USCCB document occurred when I read the opening paragraphs in which it read, “Christ was born in Asia”. It’s not something one hears EVERY day, so it struck my interest and got me through the somewhat lengthy text. I invite you all to read it yourselves…as we are reminded in it that the Holy Land is a small part of Western Asia.

In the USCCB document the bishops lay out a threefold dialogue of religions, culture, and the poor. This, as expected, falls in-line with the article we were assigned to read this week. Being myself a member of what could be considered a “poor” people, I heavily identify with this theology and the “preferential option for the poor”. I can see parallels between Asian theology and Hispanic theology. Perhaps, in my own life, this is one of the reasons I have been so inspired with Franciscan spirituality.

Anyway, in ending, I invite you all to discover the very diverse Asian American culture; and, to see how extreme diversity can work toward building community in harmony. Our Asian brothers and sisters can teach us all a thing or two about faith, and I am grateful that I was asked to be reminded of that this semester…

Las Posadas (Hispanic)

Description: A review of the Hispanic Las Posadas tradition. A description can be found here: http://www.secaucus.org/oursaviour/lasposadas.html

Las Posadas is a traditional 9 day celebration in which we recount Mary and Joseph’s journey and trials (due to the census of Caesar Augustus) when they were trying to find lodging to give birth to Jesus back in Bethlehem. The pilgrim participants in this event might wear costumes in which some dress as Joseph and Mary. Candles are carried at this night celebration, and there are songs and prayers said before and after each house that Mary and Joseph try to gain entry in. Of course, they are refused entry until the FINAL house. –A shortened version is also common in some areas (e.g. busy college campuses), where the Las Posadas tradition can be celebrated in a single night.

Summary: The assigned reading really seemed to touch on the Mexican immigrant experience. The article discusses how best to convey faith belief and tradition to this ethnic group, one who already brings such as wealth of tradition and belief that is different from the typical American Catholic practice. The article touches on some very real concerns within the Hispanic population, such as how to respect diversity and how to help empower the Hispanic people into their own leadership roles in the parish and larger faith community.

The “immigrant experience” is not necessarily an experience I truly identify with being of a later generation of Hispanic American. This is not to say I do not identify “somewhat”. I am an immigrant here in Chicago, coming from San Antonio, TX. Before this, I was an immigrant to Bentonville, AR working for the HQ of the company everybody loves to hate…“Wal-Mart”. In each and every place I have moved to, I have experience a different set of subtle cultural differences…and have myself had to adapt to the “norm” while still maintaining my own uniqueness that I brought with me. –This, I think, is the struggle that is conveyed in the article…and that is lived out daily by the newly immigrant Hispanic Population. So, as one can imagine, the Las Posadas tradition is a very special tradition. One, in which only those who have ventured far from where they were born and grew up might appreciate.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas at San Antonio Las Posadas was a particularly memorable tradition we did in our Campus Ministry. It was a much shortened version, as in 1 night we would go to the student apartments and visit several homes and run through several “planned” rejections….before arriving at the house that would let us in. That is, let Mary and Joseph in. Afterward, we would enjoy some Mexican hot chocolate and snacks together of course! ---But the true point I think, is that it made our Catholic campus community stronger. We bonded with one another, and had the great opportunity to reflect on the Gospel.

I’ll end with the understanding that many of you might still not have a picture of what the heck I am talking about in trying to describe Las Posadas! But that’s OK. Perhaps at the very least, I have sparked some sense of curiosity. One that will hopefully in the future bring you to experiencing this truly FUN tradition for yourself in-person... –Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, April 10, 2009

RCL Benziger's Faith First for Families Site

Four years ago, our entire diocese began to use RCL's Faith First Legacy Edition for Kindergarten through grade 8. (This was back when it was still just RCL, before they absorbed Benziger and Silver Burdett Ginn.)

A big selling point of Faith First was their website faithfirst.com. It contains links for students, catechists, religious education leaders, whole community catechesis and families. It is their link for families, found at http://faithfirst.com/html/family/family.html
that we're going to explore.

There are fourteen links on the Faith First for Families site, half for parents to use on their own and half for the parents and children to use together. These links are especially helpful for families using the At Home Family Guide for home-schooling, as it gives them extra resources These links appear to be updated at varying times over the course of the liturgical year.

The parent links include: Just for Parents, currently an excellent list of 10 reasons why your family should eat dinner together; Make a Difference; Gospel Reflections, which was being updated and thus was unavailable; an excellent piece called Questions Kids Ask, (also available in Spanish) which has a terrific response to "What makes Catholics different from other religions?"; an About Your Child section that explains where your child is physically, cognitively, relationship- and religious growth-wise; Saints--which lets you know where the current saint can be found in the Faith First Legacy Edition books; and Current Events, with a pertinent, yet outdated article on the Respect for Life theme evidently written in October of 2008.

The family together links are: Bible Stories, which also includes a background to the story for parents, as well as where in the text series the scripture occurs; Story Time, a children's story I found puzzling as it was unconnected to anything else on the site; Family Prayer; an informative Tour of a Church; Games, which were very simple with out-dated graphics; Movie Reviews by Kids, all of which were done by one young person, and which were also outdated; and Family Meal Prayer.

James Fowler's Stages of Faith, The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning presents a continuum of faith development with six stages. Stage one is generally ages three to seven; Stage two is up until puberty; Stage three--typically adolescence, although some adults may remain stalled here; Stage four---the point at which the late adolescent or adult must take responsablity for their own lifestyle, beliefs, etc; Stage five--"dialogical" faith, rare before middle age; and Stage six--rare at all.

On the purely parent side of things, the website challenges the parents even up to Stage 5, especially in parts of the Just for Parents link and the Current Events link. It would be beneficial if the Current Events could be that=>Current, however. On the family together side, while it's touted as being for K-8, I saw nothing that would truly engage a youth beyond Stage 2, except perhaps the Church Tour, but that is a one-time-only activity. The Prayers were well written, and would draw in adults, at any stage, but the Games and Movies skewed very young, and, again, outdated. In this day and age, it is vital to stay current with technology and information.

Overall, and especially for parents looking for background information to help them to stay informed as Catholic Christian parents, I would recommend the RCL Benziger Faith First for Families Site. Keep checking back on a regular basis to see their updates!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Where do your TRUE values lie? (Euro-American)

Description: A review of the article: “Do you take your values Christmas shopping?” found at: http://www.uscatholic.org/culture/social-justice/2008/07/do-you-take-your-values-christmas-shopping.

This article addresses a true concern in American society. Specifically, what is the true meaning of Christmas? Are we all about the shopping and spending, about the fancy gifts and the pictures with ‘Santa’? Or, do we stop and consider that the coolest toy might be made under horrible working conditions by people that are way underpaid and undervalued? And, do we allow ourselves to have the true spirit of Christmas robbed from us by having a horrible shopping experience? –This article gives good insight into such questions and reminds us rightly that this season is a time (as Christians) that we “prepare for Christ’s coming”. We can keep Christ in Christmas by giving charitable donations, making more meaningful homemade gifts, limiting the amount of gifts given, and most of all remembering to PRAY during this most joyous time of the year!

Summary: The assigned reading for this week takes a look at American consumerist culture. A look at how we have become a culture that thrives on overspending and on acquisitions of material possessions that we think make us “happy”. As one article in the text states, “we are tempted to feel that buying something will solace our suffering [and]…remedy the past” (article 2). Given that America has enjoyed great economic prosperity in the past…it is easy to see how we have fallen into such a lifestyle and mindset. However, given the modern economic condition that we face…it stands to benefit each of us if we STOP and consider whether what we value materialistically is what is truly important in our individual lives…and for our common future.

The loss of Christ in Christmas has long been a concern of mine. Year after year, I am reminded of how much of a consumerist society we truly are. Society…presses you to say “Happy Holidays”…and looks down on those who say “Merry Christmas”. As if we are somehow being un-inclusive or insensitive by mentioning and having a joy for Christ. –It’s as if we have to “mask” our faith in order to celebrate it openly. Just look at Easter…it is all about candy and the Easter Bunny for many. Why can’t it just be about Christ? Anyway, this article makes some good points. I encourage you all to read it as you have time. It might shed some light on the many secular-consumerist people you know ;-)

“Hail Mary, Full of Grace!” (Intergenerational)

Description: A review of an Intergenerational Rosary Activity from Loyola Press: http://www.loyolapress.com/rosary-activity-center.htm. In this activity people of all ages can gather together to make a rosary, which is a “prayer that engages both the hands and the heart” (p. 3 of activity). They can greater learn about the lives of Jesus and Mary through the mysteries of the rosary. Importantly, they can offer their own perspective from their life experience on how the stories told in the mysteries speak to them at their particular age.

Summary of Fowler: Fowler runs through his Stages of Faith Development. There are 6, not including a pre-stage in our infancy. As one quickly understands, they are progressive and built upon on another. As we mature in our faith, we aspire toward each new faith stage…with the ultimate end of at least reaching stage 5. Stage 6, is rare, and usually attributed to those with a fully mature spirituality such as Ghandi….and those who respond to “the call of radical actualization” (p. 44).

I find this Rosary activity very useful, as all ages can bring insight into the mysteries being prayed. As an example, when Mary visits Elizabeth and is pregnant…---a young pregnant woman reading this will probably have different emotions than the teenage girl who hears it…and definitely different from the 60 year old woman who hears it again. Yet, ALL can come to a common shared faith experience of prayer and love through the rosary. All three of those women would likely be in different stages of Fowler’s faith development. And yet, all of them would find a rich and deep individual meaning in this prayerful practice done in community. –So, I today thank Mary for such a gift…and echo again the angelic blessing: “Hail, Mary…Full of Grace!”

World Youth Days (Young Adults)

Description: This past summer of 2008, I attended World Youth Day (WYD) in Sydney, Australia. It was not my first WYD attendance…and it will not be my last as I plan on being there in Madrid, Spain during the summer of 2011. For those unfamiliar, WYD is a multinational event for youth and young adults ages 18-35. That being said, many people a little younger…and a little older than this (as guides or for their own spiritual growth) attend frequently. World youth day was started in the 1980s by Pope John Paul II and is Catholic-Christian focused. The youth gather from around the world in a host city, such as Sydney, and spend a week participating in liturgical and catechetical oriented events and celebrations. Optionally, young adults can also spend a week before “WYD proper” living with a host family and immersing themselves in a totally different culture. The culmination of WYD involves making a pilgrimage to a Cathedral in the host city and participating in an overnight vigil that is followed my morning mass given by the Pope.

Summary of Heft: Heft looks at the life of young adults in his text. He seems to have a good grasp of what they are experiencing by asking themselves various life questions…such as “What am I going to do with my life?” When he speaks on this, he refers to those in their undergraduate years, but I would suggest that those young adults beyond undergrad age still ask themselves “versions” of that same question. These young adults are spiritually hungry, and many “do not believe that organized religion is the only way to access the Divine” (p. 105). As Heft goes on to state, “they do not want to confine or compartmentalize the spiritual dimensions of the lives to congregations or to specific times and places” (p. 105).

Heft has an ending section on discussing Young Adults (YAs) called “Lessons Learned” (pp. 119-122) in which he offers the following: a) “YAs want to feel that their presence is valued”; b) “YAs want a sense of ownership in their congregations”; c) “YAs’ interests in religion are multifaceted”; d) YAs thrive when they are ‘met where they are’”; e) “YAs welcome opportunities to feel emotionally affected”; f)”YAs respond to a theoretical and practical balance between the particular and universal”.

My experience is that World Youth Days dives head first into addressing Hefts "Lessons Learned". I think Pope John Paul II understood the youth, and wanted them to be more greatly involved in their faith. The continuation of World Youth Days beyond his death is a testament that the collective Catholic Church also feels the same in regards to young adults. There is nothing like being a part of a crowd of a million+, all from different cultures, speaking different languages, coming together in a universally understood faith experience that occurs every 3 years at World Youth Day. I strongly recommend this as something to consider in forming those in their later-teens, 20s, and 30s. So…IF YOU HAVEN’T GONE….MAKE TIME TO GO! --And, I'll see you in Madrid!

Creating a “rap” from the Bible (Youth)

Description: I found an interesting activity for “youth” in the Catholic Youth Bible Activities Manual (ISBN 0-88489-560-2) that turned Chapter 2, passages 1-4 of Hebrews into a rap song. The students were first asked to divide into groups, read the passage, and discuss “why the Hebrews needed a call to pay attention”. After this, each group would develop a rap song based off the passage, being attentive to beat, volume, mood, etc…in an attempt to maintain the original message found therein. Lastly, the students perform the rap and then discuss amongst themselves the need to pay attention to God’s word…and evaluate any and all distractions that inhibit us from doing so.

Summary of Heft: The Heft text speaks on the modern problem of youth being “absent from traditional congregations” (p. 1). He addresses the question of “[how] religious traditions can pass on [faith understanding and practice] to their next generation of believers”. Those of Gen X, Gen Y, or the Millennials. Getting these youth involved is vastly more complex given our modern consumer-driven and digital culture. The need exists then, especially in a place like the United States, to find creative ways to translate faith understanding to each successive generation.

Heft does give suggestions as to how we can better transmit faith these generations. First, he says a central key is getting parents more involved in their faith…which will in turn get the children more involved. Secondly, people need to engage and ask the youth what they believe. Youth need guidance and “practice talking about their faith” (p. 70). A third suggestion is to nurture religious practice in their lives. Finally, Heft suggests that we (as religious educators) stop listening so religiously to the prevailing “learned” experts on modernity (e.g. sociologists, psychologists, etc.)….and instead listen to the “historical and theological wellsprings of one’s own religious faith” (p. 72).

In short conclusion, I think the activity described above could be useful in drawing out the question of “what do you believe?” in the youth. Parents could also participate in this activity in some way. --Making the faith interesting and relevant in the youth’s lives is important from my point of view, and using “rap” (something modern) to get a point across and to transmit faith is an activity worth consideration. Any modern way in which we can translate faith understanding and practice to our youth culture should be at least open for consideration…

Monday, April 6, 2009

An Evaluation of “Stuff Love” in Light of Wallace’s Consumerism and Christian Community

The Stuff Love activity was taken from the study guides offered at the Practicing Our Faith website, and can be found here. This activity is intended for use with teenagers. The purpose of the activity is to identify the reasons why consumerism is rampant among Americans. The activity is built on Luke 12:13-21 where Jesus says that a persons’ life is not about the abundance of her possessions. The activity consists of the scripture, a few points about who might be responsible for American consumerism, and reflective questions about consumerism.

Wallace’s article, Consumerism and Christian Community, published in the Anglican Theological Review, (also available here) was the reading for this week. In her article Wallace reviews a handful of books about the problem of consumerism in America. She highlights the fact that this culture judges people’s worth by the amount of money they make and the type and amount of stuff that they own rather than their character (584). Wallace then suggests that the counter-cultural message, found in Church, that we are loved by God could ward off the penchant, which is driven by this culture, for looking for love in the wrong places of stuff and money (587).

The activity places consumerism in the light where it can be examined, which is what the American teenager needs. It is likely that she is not aware of the extent to which consumerism has an effect on her life. However, the activity is rather flat, dull, and impersonal. The questions for reflection do not draw the participant into examining the influence of consumerism on her own life. Rather, they approach the topic in a broad and impersonal manner. As it stands, I do not recommend this activity for use with the Euro-American teenage culture. In order for this activity to be successful, it needs to engage the participants on a personal level and challenge them to take some sort of action regarding consumerism in their lives. A hands-on or movement focusing activity to draw the participants in would also be helpful. Without these changes, I do not believe that this activity would be successful.

"People of Faith"

The parish where I am a Religious Education Leader is celebrating the saints in a special way during the 2008-09 liturgical year in preparation for a mission on the saints November 1st & 2nd. Hence, I am on the lookout for new-to-me saints resources. The Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers published by St. Mary's Press, 2009, is one such source. It contains engaging profiles of "People of Faith" interspersed throughout the book.

Brother John of Taize in Passing on the Faith published by Fordham University Press in 2006, shares the story of the success his community has had among young people for more than sixty years. He focuses on prayer and community, universalism, trust and simplicity. Of these, simplicity and the routine aspect of Taize prayer refer to the "People of Faith" component of The Catholic Connections Handbook.

The prayer at the Taize community happens three times a day every day, when the bells start ringing. This is a routine that the young people can count on. I would draw this parallel to the saints' stories in the Handbook: all of them appear in the same format, which is=> the bottom lower half of two facing pages with a color drawing of each "Person of Faith" on the left hand page. This is a routine the young people can count on, too.

Secondly, Brother John talks about the simplicity of Taize. He says it is simple because that is the only way they can welcome so many people. The stories of the lives of the "People of Faith" are simple, too. Virtually all are two or three paragraphs, again, with a color drawing. Though short and simple, they are engaging, and are well designed to draw in the middle school audience.

I highly recommend The Catholic Connections Handbook for Middle Schoolers "People of Faith" stories for those looking for new resources of the saints to share with the middle school crowd.

Justice for Immigration

This is a review of the USCCB’s work entitled “Justice for Immigrants.” This information, available at the USCCB’s website and justiceforimmigrants.com outlines the Roman Catholic Church’s social justice position on fighting for better immigration laws and standards. They discuss the “earned legalization” policy, which allows those already in the country the ability to stay; to continue to be productive. The largest influx of immigrants are of Hispanic descent. Better control over the immigration issue would combat unscrupulous employers. Better immigration laws would keep families together.

This week’s review is from Charles W. Dahm, Parish Ministry in a Hispanic Community, by Paulist Press. One chapter of the book is the focus this week, chapter 7, A Community of Teaching Ministries. The subject is the religious education of the youth. It discusses faith in the family and how critical that is. It discusses promoting social justice, peacemaking, and respecting diversity. This book is a good starter resource for working with the Hispanic population.

The text’s focus on peacemaking, social justice, and diversity are in-line with the Bishop’s Justice for Immigrants proposal. The Bishops want people to fight for the underprivileged and the article somewhat addresses that. The Bishop’s position is to fight for justice and they don’t encourage illegal activity. They encourage people to peacefully fight for justice for all. I would recommend supporting Justice for Immigrants as a resource and supporting the Bishop's proposal as a fair way to approach the immigration condition we face.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Review of “Growing In Justice” Prayer Celebration Activity

The publisher RCL Benziger’s website http://www.rclweb.com/ offers resources for their faith formation series “Blest Are We”.

The activity is a prayer service designed for fifth graders to be implemented during the Lenten season. The focus is “Growing in justice through God’s forgiveness.” The activity suggests setting the environment with a prayer table covered with a purple cloth, a Bible, and a candle. Prior to the prayer service the activity indicates to have the children list the most important things in their lives and discuss them. Then ask them to consider what was most important for Jesus. Then discuss should these things be important to them, too?

The prayer celebration then begins with music then a reading from Philippians 1:8–11, followed by a leader’s prayer, a litany of penitential petitions read by students. All praying the Act of Contrition and a final song draws the conclusion to the celebration.

This week’s readings from the article in the “Anglican Theological Review” on Consumerism and Christian Community reflects on the crazed consumption ideology of the American culture. The article suggests we “are constrained from healthier choices… because we lack courage, wisdom, and social support.” (Anglican Theological Review p. 585). Addressing the important things in an adolescent’s life and reflecting upon the true treasures is significant in cultivating their relationship with Christ. Providing a format for the discovery what is true joy in life and contrition for the awareness of blatant power of consumption is a worthwhile activity for this audience. The activity is basic and would be most effective if it was developed and personalized to fit the individual character of the audience. The penitential petitions could be edited to reflect the immediate issues of the group along with use of current music that would be relevant to the group and topic at hand.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A review of the resource: CATECHIST Magazine

Audience: Intergenerational

Resource: CATECHIST Magazine, February 2009 issue, Vol. 42, No.5. Peter Li Education Group, Dayton, Ohio.

Catechist magazine is a publication that is available monthly during the academic year from September through May. The February 2009 edition highlighted on the front cover, “A Lenten Supper – An Intergenerational Event”. The article connected to the front magazine cover banner is authored by Cullen W. Schippe is titled “Now Is an Acceptable Time – A Recipe for an Intergenerational Event.” The article gives a very wide parameter for the topic and guideline regarding how to plan the event. The first paragraph defines an intergenerational event as bringing together all members of a parish to provide a common catechetical experience. The outline included a sample schedule, with the encouragement for flexible design to fit your needs and interest of the audience.

The title of the article seemed awkward. The generalities were positive in the sense that you can plug in your own specifics. The one specific provided in the article was a timeline of the event, which generally resembled a way to implement Groome’s five movements. The schedule provided looked like this:

6:30 Welcome and Gathering
6:40 Presentation
6:55 Responses, Comments, Testimonies, Questions
7:10 Our Shared Meal
7:40 Learning Activities
8:10 Summary
8:20 Prayer
8:30 Collection, Dessert, Dismissal

For a catechist with less experience or initiative this resource would be too vague. As a CRE I found this article to be useful. It was helpful to see a simple design that has the potential for success with planning and community interest.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a Montessori approach to Religious Education. The program has three developmental levels, with each level building upon previous levels. The curriculum stems from liturgical and biblical concepts in the Church, and the presentations for each level are presented in a three year cycle. Children receive the greatest benefit after being in each level for three years. In 1981, James Fowler wrote a book entitled Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. In this book, he details six developmental stages we go through in our faith lives. The first three stages are primarily age related, while higher levels may or may not be reached, depending on the faith development of the individual. The CGS program is an ideal program for recognizing the faith development of a person. Each of the three levels for children are age related and follow very closely the first three levels of Fowler’s stages of faith. Another strength of the program though is the formation for catechists. It allows for further faith development into the higher stages of adult faith.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stations of the Cross with Pope John Paul II

Audience: young adults

A review of the resource: The Stations of the Cross with Pope John Paul II, Joseph M. Champlin. Liguori, 1994.

During Lent praying the Stations of the Cross is a devotion that takes one through the events of Jesus’ suffering and death. There are fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross beginning with Jesus being condemned to death and the fourteenth station Jesus is laid in the tomb. Contemporary versions have a fifteenth station; The Resurrection. Pope John Paul II officially added the fifteenth station according to Joseph M. Champlin on Good Friday, 1991. On that Good Friday in 1991, Pope John Paul II also adapted some of the other traditional stations. This booklet takes the adaptation that the Pope created and provides a rich pilgrimage to follow Jesus’ steps. The format is a balance of traditional and contemporary. There are illustrations that are deliberately focused on the adapted stations of John Paul II, along with psalms and reflections that enrich the image of each station. The booklet serves as an enriching variation on an age-old devotion as one is reflecting on the self-giving love that Christ suffered for us.

Pope John Paul II had a connection with the youth, he established world youth days, and his global travels provided a sense of belonging to young adults. In section four of In Passing on the Faith: Transforming Traditions for the Next Generation of Jews, Christians and Muslims, James L. Heft provides the reader with insights from Brother John of Taizé in understanding youth and prayer traditions. Prayer and community in Taizé along with a searching for a deepening of their faith has been the constant strong hold for decades. Young adults responded to the authenticity of the Taizé community. John Paul II was authentic in his connection and commitment to young adults and his Stations of the Cross has a wide appeal to the meditation dimension of the prayer. Reflections focus on what is essential in accepting the love and passion of Christ. The Passion of Christ is the ultimate of witnessing. Brother John said, “Our community’s deepest aspiration is to make accessible the sources of trust, so that people, especially the young, can live their lives rooted in this trust.” (Heft, 160). The Stations of the Cross is a rooted and trusted devotional prayer. This resource that is based on the adaptation of the Good Friday pilgrimage of 1991 by John Paul II serves a young adult audience well, because of the trusted relationship the Pope had established with this group and the contemporary fresh version it presents of the Stations of the Cross.