The Diocese of Des Moines

Adolescent Catechesis Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Letter: Bishop Pates' Letter Commitment to Adolescent Catechesis-May 2010


Pastoral Plan: Commitment to Adolescent Catechesis-May 2010


Bright Spots in Adolescent Catechesis:
Start with the End in Mind!
A friend of mine in Papillion Nebraska who works with Confirmation students makes sure she communicates to students and parents how a practicing Catholic intentionally behaves. All information and formation is presented in a way to nurture growth in putting one’s faith in action. This is a list she has borrowed from Dr. Mike Carotta from his book, Nurturing the Spiritual Growth of Today’s Adolescent.
• honoring the gift and goodness of all life
• taking time to be with God
• taking time to be with the people of God
• seeking and seeing God in the ordinary
• living a forgiving life living a life for giving
• living a lifelong spiritual journey
• embodying Catholic tradition


She asks parents to complete an assessment individually, about their teen, and about their family in all of the above areas with the following focus:
• Identify one or two things that you want to do individually and as a family to practice your faith more intentionally: asking teens for suggestions.
• After a few months reassess the practices again and discuss what impact they had on you and your family


Many Models for Adolescent Catechesis
The Diocese of Rochester New York did a survey of parishes and schools to determine the current state of catechesis. There are some fascinating results along with things we knew all along about teenagers.


Be careful of reading too much into this survey: it was conducted in 2001-2002 and a lot has changed in 8 years. With that said below are a few ideas of adolescent catechesis models. I put the web address at the bottom of this article if you would like to look at the results.
• traditional youth night gathering
• weekly or daily “classroom” model
• summer intensive—vacation Bible school/camps
• super Saturdays – large monthly/quarterly events
• retreat programs—day, overnight, weekend
• service learning—work camps, urban/rural plunges
• mini-courses—topical themes covering 4-6 weeks
• multi-parish programming
• technology based—on-line, podcast or CD ROM
• mentoring/spiritual direction model-one on one or small group


Comprehensive Themes for Adolescent Catechesis

What are the comprehensive ministry themes of Renewing the Vision and what assessments and action plans are necessary for the parish community to consider? Many of these themes are already embedded in great catechetical programs, but there are some minor adjustments that may need to be considered for adolescents.

Developmentally Appropriate – recognizes differing needs, skills, experience, and aptitude of younger and older adolescents assessments are vital for the catechetical leader, youth ministers and volunteers to know before they ever enter the program

• the RCIA interview model is a great

• assessment to discover where each student is at regarding knowledge of the faith and beliefs of the faith

• remember that this is not a catechetical session or an opportunity to indoctrinate, the team is trying to discover where each person is at in her/his faith journey
Family Friendly—see parents as allies in youth ministry, and incorporates parents in youth ministry communication and activities (when appropriate)

• assessments for the family is equally as beneficial as any of the sessions you will have for the students
• The RCIA interview model, perhaps at the same time you are with the student, is very helpful
• ask about times that are helpful for them for formation (pass this on to your adult formation leader/team), family and event scheduling, openness to being a volunteer (have Virtus and background screening forms available), and how they prefer to receive periodic updates about their child and the process
• Intergenerational – connects youth to the broader church community, fosters relationships between younger and those more seasoned in their faith

assess the parish community to find out those organizations or individuals who would be open to helping young disciples apprentice in the mission of the Church or who would like to work with youth in small group sessions (mentoring)
• Multi-Cultural – recognizes, incorporates, and attends to the differing needs of youth and families from all cultures within parish, sensitizes the entire parish to the multicultural reality of the parish and greater community
o assess the parish community to find those organizations or individuals who would be open to helping young disciples apprentice in the mission of the Church
o this also includes those who have a disability or special needs of any form
• Community-Wide Collaboration – understand the context in which youth live—the community—seeks to partner with agencies (schools, other faith traditions, neighborhoods, police, hospitals, and youth-serving agencies, etc.) to meet commonly held goal of positive and healthy youth development

• assess the community to find organizations or individuals who would be open to helping young disciples apprentice within the larger community
Leadership – fosters (calls forth, trains, and supports) both youth and adult leadership within youth and parish ministry
• assessment of parish, school, diocesan or community leadership opportunities which helps the young disciple grow their leadership skills
• assess the volunteers to find out what skills and resources they need to help young disciples grow in leadership – it does no good for the pastoral council to have a high school member if no one give that young person any responsibility
Flexible/Adaptable Programming – utilizes various methods, formats, activities, and schedules (days of the week, time of day, time periods, classroom model, retreats, online discussion, Internet, gathered groups, activities at the parish, activities off-site, variety of leaders, various prayer styles, music, and educational materials, etc.) to meet the needs of the youth and parents in the parish.
• assess schedules of students, volunteers, school activities parent’s schedules and church schedules to offer flexible opportunities for delivering outstanding faith formation.


Just as good lesson planning lays the foundation for an excellent catechetical session (most of the time anyway), good assessment of your parish and community structures can insure the student, parent and volunteers have a fruitful experience with adolescent catechesis.

High School Parish Catechetical Models:
Below are three possible models for adolescent catechesis that a friend of mine shared with me. She is from Boston and we participated in the Institute for Lifelong Faith Formation through the Center for Ministry Development. She learned about it from the NCCL.


High School Religious Education - Model Proposals for Parish Implementation
• Systematic, on-going, and intentional catechesis for older adolescents grades 9-12
• Give our young people a sound opportunity to experience a profound encounter with the person of Christ and the skills to articulate it in faith
• Empower our young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today
• Draw our young people to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community
• Develop the confidence to live day to day lives as young women and men of faith confronting a world that would suggest otherwise


Model I Outline
• 4-6 week pods with a large group gathering on the 7th week
1st semester: two 6 week pods and two large group gatherings
2nd semester two 6 week pods and two large group gatherings


Model II Outline
• Summer School Model
Summer Institute I – Intensive one week institute that covers semester one
Summer institute II – Intensive one week institute that covers semester two


Model III Outline
• College catalogue design
Core classes that all will be required to take
Electives running simultaneous during the semester
Small groups of no more than 10 to a section
Group according to availability and choice
Example times offered
T-Th Zero Hour 6:30-7:30 am
M-F Lunch 11-12 or 12-1pm
M-Th After School 3:15-4:15pm
Weeknights &Weekends as needed




Preparation for Implementation - Curriculum
Using the Spiral method
Year One All Grade Levels
1st Semester – The Revelation in Jesus Christ in Scripture
2nd Semester - Who is Jesus Christ?
Year Two All Grade Levels
1st Semester - The Mission of Jesus Christ (The Paschal Mystery)
2nd Semester - Jesus Christ’s Mission Continues in the Church
Year Three All Grade Levels
1st Semester Sacraments as Privileged Encounters with Jesus Christ
2nd Semester Life in Jesus Christ
Year Three All Grade Levels
1st Semester Option C: Living as a Disciple of Jesus Christ in Society
2nd Semester Option D: Responding to the Call of Jesus Christ


• This model starts all adolescents at whatever point they enter 9th grade. For example, if the adolescent enters 9th grade on year three of the program the semester the topic is sacraments.
• There can be a modification offered to have a short introductory class for freshmen focusing on Jesus Christ and revelation.
• Confirmation class schedules are also separate in this model.
• Although this model is primarily the responsibility of the catechetical leader, it requires a youth minister or a network of volunteers for the to offer ministerial opportunities to supplement the class sessions
• The topics and ministerial opportunities require a commitment of 16 to 24 hours per semester (4 to 6 hours per month or 4 to 6 hours per day in summer school)


Preparing for Adolescent Catechesis
A few things you can be doing now to prepare for adolescent catechesis in the fall:

• start scouting for adult or young-adult volunteers who will help with the program

o they may not be able to help every week but can they provide: food, snacks, help prepare the prayer area, assist with secretary duties, marketing, or be a part of the catechetical team
o coaches many times make great catechists and are a hit with high school kids – perhaps approach her/him and see if she/he might be able to do something for your adolescent program
o ask your shut-ins to pray for the young disciples and the new program that is starting this fall: who knows they may volunteer some help from home

• consider putting together a core team of high school students and parents who can help you with planning the look and logistical dynamics of the program

o this needn’t be a big group: many times the smaller the better

• if you haven’t done so yet, ask for a school calendar from all the schools who feed into your program

o look to see what days/months are heavy with activities and which ones are lighter
o perhaps consider two 5 Week Sessions or a Saturday Retreat Session for flexibility with their school extra-curricular activities

Successful Parish Structures for Adolescent Catechesis
This week I am bringing to you successful adolescent catechesis parish schedules that may be something you will wish to consider as you plan for this fall. These suggestions are only suggestions for adolescent catechesis and do not include confirmation preparation. Confirmation guidelines and suggested schedules will come out separately from our department at a later date.


Weekly Structure (Wednesday or Sunday Evenings 6:00 to 8:30)
• Ministry Structure

o Week 1 is catechetical regarding the USCCB Framework semester
o Week 2 is mission/service oriented focused on planned activities within the parish such as

• creating blankets for Ronald MacDonald House
• visiting or performing at a retirement center
• working with shut-ins on home improvement projects
• creating birthday cards for senior citizens
• cooking food for homeless shelters, senior citizen shelters, funeral dinners
• create a tutoring hour for middle school students within the parish
• help with maintenance or on the grounds of the parish
• train for a liturgical role or music ministry role in the liturgy
• partnership with Catholic Charities in Des Moines/Council Bluffs

o Week 3 is catechetical regarding Catholic Social Teaching
o Week 4 is Youth Mass with a social component following (to build community)
o Week 5 (when it happens) Q&A session with questions focused on youth specific subjects

• St. Albert High School and Dowling Catholic High School Students are welcome to come to all week’s activities but are exempt from week 1 of each month. Public school students would participate every week.

• Structure of Evening

o 6:00 to 6:30 pm – light supper sponsored by different parish ministries or groups of parents (on Week 4 the Youth Mass is first followed by food and then the social activity)
o 6:30 to 6:45 pm – opening prayer
o 7:00 to 8:20 pm – Catechesis/Mission Activity/ Q&A Session
o 8:20 pm – closing prayer


Five-Week Mini-Sessions (Wednesday or Sunday Evenings 6:00 to 8:30 pm)
• Ministry Structure

o Week 1 – Mini Rally with Youth Mass/Music/Dinner and Activity
o Weeks 2-6 is catechetical regarding the USCCB Framework semester
o Weeks 7-8 is mission/service oriented (see list above)
o Week 9 is catechetical regarding Catholic Social Teaching
o Week 10 Q&A session with questions focused on youth specific subjects
o Week 11-15 – Repeat Weeks 2-6
o Week 16 is mission/service oriented
o Week 17 – Closing term celebration with Youth Mass/Music/Dinner and Activity

• St. Albert High School and Dowling Catholic High School Students are welcome to come to all week’s activities but are exempt from weeks 2-6 and 11-15. Public school students would participate in either weeks 2-6 or weeks 11-15. All students would participate in weeks 1, 7-10 and 16-17.
• Structure of Evening (same as above except nights that begin with the Youth Rally in Weeks 1 & 17)


**Please work closely with your school regarding key dates that interfere with the schedule including: conference nights, football play-offs, special concerts, the night before Thanksgiving, finals, Christmas break, ITBS schedule, spring break and graduation. It is also helpful to know the dates for dances in case you are meeting on weekends. I would suggest you ask each high school you work with to provide you with a school calendar.**