The Heart of Catechesis
From the very beginning, the Church’s missionary mandate has been to make disciples of all nations. This mandate was given to the Apostles directly from Christ. This same mission continues today to be the most central task of the Church. In Evangelii nuntiandi Pope Paul VI says, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize” (#14). Within this great vocation of evangelization, we find the sacred task of catechesis.
In his very first apostolic exhortation, Catechesi tradendae, Blessed Pope John Paul II gave the Church a very clear instruction on the task of catechesis in our time. The heart of catechesis is to lead and guide the youth not only in instruction of the faith, but also, and most importantly, into a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Blessed Pope John Paul II teaches us “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy with Jesus Christ” (#5).
The whole goal of youth ministry is to not to help youth “like going to church.” The whole goal is to lead youth into a life-long, personal relationship with a real person – Jesus Christ. Every task of youth ministry should have as its center Jesus Christ. Every retreat, trip, activity, and conversation should point to and flow from the heart of Jesus.
Systematic and Complete Catechesis
To serve the goal of leading youth into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we must present the faith in a systematic way. We take as our model of teaching the model Jesus used in his own ministry. He did not reveal the truth all at once as to overwhelm his disciples and those he encountered along his journey. He taught gradually and in stages. He slowly and methodically revealed the truth over time.
As Christ taught, so should we. Our catechesis must be systematic. Systematic catechesis
requires a structured plan and a goal. It must never be haphazard and improvised. Our catechesis must also be complete. We must never leave out parts of the faith out of fear, laziness, or lack of knowledge. It is the sacred duty of all catechists to pass on every part of the faith, not just those parts that are comfortable or straightforward. Simply, catechesis must make sense and gradually, one step at a time, lead the youth into full knowledge of the faith and a deeper relationship with Christ.
Catechesis and Culture
Discovering new ways to instruct the youth in the faith is critical in today’s culture. Effective catechesis, especially to youth, engages their culture. It is important for catechists to be familiar with current cultural trends and events to help make the Gospel message accessible to the youth. The goal of catechesis and culture is not only to engage culture, but also to ultimately transform it.
Although the truths of the faith are unchanging, the culture in which the youth live is constantly changing. This rapid change presents a challenge to those who work with youth to continually find new ways to communicate the Gospel message. Engaging culture, specifically in the form of technology, allows for the youth to translate the faith into a language they understand. It is important to remember that the integrity of the faith must never be compromised in order to engage culture.
Catechesis and Life Teen
Life Teen resources aim to present the truths of the Catholic faith in a relevant format for high school youth. The format of the Life Teen resources is designed to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional, educational, and social needs of high school youth. The Life Teen curriculum is designed after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops “Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age.” In accordance with the Curriculum Framework, Life Teen recommends that a 4-year (or 8 semester) catechetical plan be implemented in each parish to ensure that complete and quality catechesis is offered to every teen involved in a Life Teen program. While you do not have to use the semesters in the order that we present them, each book will topically build on each other and work together to create a systematic curriculum. Below is an overview of the entire 8-semester plan:
- Sacred Scripture
- Person of Christ
- Paschal Mystery
- Social Justice
Go, Make Disciples
Today, more than any other time in the Church, it is imperative that those called to pass on the truths of the faith, especially to the youth, renew his or her own commitment to the mission of making disciples. The task of catechesis requires both humility and boldness. We at Life Teen are committed to praying for you and offering our support. It is an honor to serve in the vineyard of youth ministry with you. We pray that this resource allows you to more effectively reach and form teens into disciples of Christ. Now go and make disciples!
Semester Planning Guide
The goal of this resource, the Curriculum Guide, is to help you provide systematic and complete catechesis for your teenagers while providing opportunities for evangelization and transformation. Since May 2007, Life Teen has published two rounds of their 8-semester curriculum. This Semester Planning Guide is designed to help you use the previous two Scripture semesters, along with the semester contained within this book to successfully plan your semester of Life Nights.
When planning your semester on Scripture, it is recommended that you combine these Catechetical Life Nights with Issue and Social Life Nights as well. Typically, a Life Teen parish doing Life Nights every week will have two (2) Catechetical, one (1) Issue, and one (1) Social Night during the course of a month. You can find Issue and Social Life Night outlines in Spotlight, another resource within the Life Support shipment. You can also find previous semesters and additional Issue and Social Life Nights online at catholicyouthministry.com/download. Pay attention to the calendar when planning out your semester; be sure to connect the Life Nights with what is going on in the teens’ lives as well as the life of the Church. For example, if there is homecoming or prom during the semester have a night addressing peer pressure. Similarly, if Advent or Lent begins during the semester, have a night helping teens enter into the liturgical season.
These Life Nights are not necessarily designed to work “straight out of the box.” They are planning guides that can serve as starting points in the planning of your Life Nights. In your planning, take into consideration the needs of your teens and the resources of your parish. For example, the teaching outline for each night is filled with more information than a typically teenager can absorb during a 10-minute talk. By giving the presenter more than enough information, he or she can create an engaging and informative presentation of the faith tailored to the needs of the teens at your parish.
As you begin,use the guide on the following page as a starting point for planning your semester. Three different Scripture semester outlines have been suggested for you. All three options combine each of the Scripture semesters. The individual semesters can also be used as well. Each option will give the name of the Life Night and which Scripture semester the night is found in. Use the blank spaces to fill in which Life Nights you will do and fill in which Issue and Social Life Nights you will do as well. You may have more blank spaces than nights you will do during your semester.
Thank you for your dedication to the young people of your parish. We at Life Teen are here to serve you in your mission of leading teens closer to Christ. We pray that this Curriculum Guide will allow you to more effectively reach and form your young people as vibrant, active and holy Disciples of Christ.