Look for the September issue of the newsletter on August 15!
Greetings from Pflaum Publishing Group!
This issue of the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Newsletter focuses on preparing children to celebrate the Easter season. But preparation is only the first step. Activities in this issue also take the next steps—encouraging children to share the good news of Easter with their families and to live out the good news throughout the year.
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This issue of the newsletter is available online at pflaum.com/pgwnewsletter. Look for the September issue of the newsletter—the first for the 2012-2013 school year—in your inbox on August 15.
Previewing the April/May Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Newsletter
This issue of the newsletter features ideas for April 1, 2012, Palm/Passion Sunday, through May 6, 2012, the 5th Sunday of Easter.
- April 1—When Jesus comes to Jerusalem, the people greet him by laying their cloaks and palm branches on the road before him. They shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:1-10)
- April 8 and 15—Mary Magdalene discovers that the stone has been rolled away from Jesus’ tomb and runs to tell Peter. Peter and another disciple find the tomb empty, but they do not yet understand that Jesus must rise from the dead. (John 20:1-9)
Jesus appears to his friends, breathes on them, and they receive the Holy Spirit so they can forgive sins. A week later he comes to his friends again, and this time convinces Thomas that he has risen from the dead. (John 20:19-31)
- April 22—Jesus appears to his disciples, who at first think he is a ghost. But Jesus convinces them that he has risen from the dead and promises them that they will receive power from on high to be witnesses to all that has happened. (Luke 24:35-48)
- April 29—Jesus tells his followers that he is the good shepherd. He will lay down his life for his sheep and bring other sheep into the fold so that there will be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:11-18)
- May 6—Jesus says that he is the vine and his followers are the branches. Those who follow his teaching will bear much fruit. (John 15:1-8)
This Month’s Features
- Saint of the Month—May 1 is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. What better patron saint for workers than Joseph, who provided for his family by the work of his hands? Children will enjoy learning about the man who taught Jesus to be a carpenter.
- Student Activities—Seeds children find an important Bible verse on an Easter egg hunt. Promise children act out the Easter story and make crosses as a reminder of the new life Jesus won for them through his death. Good News children use the experience of flying a kite to explore how they are connected to Jesus. Venture children work in teams to learn about the signs of their faith and play a game to share what they learned. Visions students create WWSD (What Would the Spirit Do?) bracelets as reminders of the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.
- Family Focus—The Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Family Pages offer activities and resources that parents can use at home to help their families grow in faith! The Spring Family Pages focus on Holy Week, Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost.
Go to the Family Pages at pflaum.com/familypages and choose pages to send home with students or suggest pages for parents to download and print.
- Catechist to Catechist—Would you like to find a creative, active way to teach children to pray the rosary? Learn how DRE Donna Stachulski brings children and parents together to become a living rosary.
Saint of the Month
Saint Joseph the Worker (1st century)
Only a handful of saints have more than one feast day on the Church calendar. One of them is St. Joseph, husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus, and carpenter of Nazareth. (The others are the Blessed Virgin Mary, Peter, Paul, and John the Baptist.)
On March 19, the Church honors Joseph as the husband of Mary and the foster father of her son, Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give us the picture of a man who was obedient to God’s will and devoted to his family. He is the patron saint of husbands, fathers, and the universal Church, as well as many other groups and causes.
In 1955, Pope Pius XII established the second feast of St. Joseph. On May 1, he would be honored as St. Joseph the Worker. Traditional art shows Joseph as a simple woodworker, planing a plank of wood as young Jesus plays with the falling wood curls.
Modern scholarship tells us that a carpenter in the first century could also be an artisan or craftsman who worked with metal or stone. They point out that carpenters in the area of Nazareth were probably in high demand because Herod Antipas was rebuilding the city of Zippori, which was only three miles northwest of Nazareth.
The date and title of the new feast in honor of St. Joseph were carefully chosen. In 1889, the International Socialist Congress had designated May 1, May Day, as a day to protest for workers’ rights, such as an eight-hour work day and safer working conditions. While these were worthy goals, the day recognized the workers, but not the Creator of the universe. Pope Pius wanted a day to focus on work as a way to glorify God and to share in God’s work of creation. He wanted a day to highlight the dignity of human work. The dignity of work and the rights of workers are key elements of Catholic social teaching.
What better patron saint for workers than Joseph, who provided for his family by the work of his hands? Joseph not only worked as a carpenter, he also taught young Jesus the skills of his trade. Many years later, Jesus was still known as the carpenter’s son. (Matthew 13:55)
- St. Joseph worked hard because he wanted to have bread for his family to eat. Seeds children will enjoy a classic folk tale that teaches the lessons of hard work and responsibility.
Many versions of The Little Red Hen have been published. You’ll be able to find one you like in a school or public library, or local bookstore. Though the retellings vary somewhat, the moral of the story is “no work, no bread.” The Little Red Hen works hard to turn a wheat seed into flour—without help from her lazy friends. But when they smell the fresh bread baking, they are all eager to help her eat it.
After reading the story, ask: Do you think it is fair for the Little Red Hen to eat the bread herself? If you were in the story, would you help the Little Red Hen plant and cut and carry the wheat? Make the dough and bake the bread?
Ask children if they would like to work like St. Joseph did. Remind them of the melody of the song “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.” Invite them to sing and act out new verses about St. Joseph’s work: “This is the way we saw the wood, saw the wood, saw the wood. This is the way we saw the wood, so early in the morning.” You may also add other verses: sand the wood, sweep the floor, hammer the nails, paint the stool.
Since all the children helped with the song, you may want to reward them with fresh bread or rolls.
- St. Joseph supported the Holy Family by the work of his hands and by putting the needs of Mary and Jesus before his own. Help Promise children see how a family works together, and sometimes has to sacrifice, for the things they need. Encourage their efforts to help their own family.
Read aloud A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams (New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 1984). In this story, a young girl helps her family work toward the goal of buying a comfortable chair for her mother.
Help children focus on the story. What work did Rosa’s mother do? (She was a waitress.) How did Rosa help her mother? (She washed the salt shakers.) What things do families need? (food, beds, dishes, chairs, and so on) What are things a family may want, but not need? (a new rug, a bigger car, a plasma TV, and so on) What did Rosa’s family want? (a really comfortable chair) Why did they want the chair? (Rosa wanted her mother to be able to rest after working hard all day at the diner.) How did they get the chair they wanted? (They worked together and saved their money.)
Brainstorm with children for ways they could help their mom or dad. Could they stop pleading for things they don’t really need? Could they bring mom or dad comfy slippers when they come home after a hard day at work? Could they make lemonade for their family when they are working in the yard or cleaning the house? Could they help put away groceries?
Help children cut out construction-paper shapes of a chair like the chair Rosa’s family bought. Have each child print on a chair a job or action he or she intends to do to help the family. Ask children to give the chairs to their moms or dads with big hugs. Send home a brief note explaining the lesson. Suggest that parents keep the chairs for a day when they are stressed or tired or simply need help. They should then return the chairs so their child can deliver on his or her promise.
- St. Joseph was a manual laborer, someone not always so highly esteemed in our society. Help Good News children understand the importance and necessity of all kinds of work.
Read aloud ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! by Diana Cohn (El Paso, TX, Cinco Puntos Press, 2004). It tells the true story of a janitors’ strike in Los Angeles from the point of view of a young boy whose mother cleans office buildings at night. Despite the fact that her work is hard, she takes great pride in doing it well. When she needs more money for the grandmother’s medicine, however, she joins a strike and shows her son that if people work together, they can make a difference.
Ask children to name the jobs or chores around the house that nobody likes to do. Be sure they come up with things they could actually do. (take out the trash, separate recyclables, clean a bathroom sink, sweep a porch or deck, sort or fold laundry, help do dishes, and so on) Make a master list on the board or on newsprint. Give each child a construction paper cut-out of a trash can. Ask each child to choose a chore from the list to do for his or her family and to write the job on the trash can, take it home, and put it where family members will see it.
- St. Joseph was paid for his work as a carpenter, either in coin or traded goods. But it is easy to imagine that Joseph helped his neighbors with repairs or made a cradle for a new baby, not for money, but because he saw a need and wanted to help. Venture children can understand a different aspect of work. Doing the work of Jesus, the work of a disciple, is not work for pay but working to help other people. Help children learn about this satisfying kind of work. Here are some options.
Invite someone who works at a local soup kitchen or food pantry to speak to students about donations, personnel, clients, and why they choose to do this work.
Involve students in a food drive in your parish or community. They could help by making posters, moving and sorting donations, and using their allowance money or giving up their favorite snack to buy groceries to contribute.
Have children do some research on local soup kitchens, food pantries, and other service organizations. They should try to find out how many volunteers and paid workers they have; how many people are fed on a normal day; and if either of these numbers has increased this year. What do these statistics show?
Arrange for children to help out at a soup kitchen.
- Saint Joseph fled to Egypt with his family to protect Jesus from the death threats of King Herod. While there, Joseph had to find work to support his family in a foreign land.
Help Visions students become aware of the hardships faced by displaced workers. They must deal with a language barrier and racial discrimination. Yet, many immigrants continue to come to the United States in search of a better life. Their dream depends on a job that will support not only them, but also help their family back home.
Have students do research into their own history. Why did their ancestors come to America? What kind of work did they do, and what kind of living and working conditions did they experience?
As an alternative, students may choose to report on the people who are currently arriving in your city or state looking for a better life. What kind of work is available for them? What challenges do they face?
Have each student write a prayer petition for unemployed workers and their families. Give each student a focus for his or her petition: not losing hope, being open to new opportunities, seeking education, helping others in need, thanking God for what they have, for their children, for their marriages, for employers, and so on. When everyone has had a chance to finish writing, lead students in offering their prayers of petition.
“Jesus Appears to His Friends,” April 22, 2012
Seeds children will be be able to:
- learn a Bible verse
- express happiness that Jesus is with us
- share the good news with others
Materials: Plastic Easter eggs, one for each child; strips of paper; small wrapped candies; sidewalk chalk; construction paper, if needed; copies of Seeds for April 22, 2012, one for each child
Preparation: Cut paper into 2” x 5” strips. Be sure to have one strip for each child. You will print one or two words of a Bible verse on each strip. Together, the words will reveal the entire Bible verse. For example, if you have 11 children, you will have 11 strips of paper, each with one word of the following verse: Jesus was with them again. He said, Peace be with you. If there are 12 or more children, you could add more of the words from Luke 24:36. If there are fewer than 11 children in your class, print two words on some strips of paper. Number the strips of paper so the verse can be put in correct order. Place a strip of paper and a wrapped candy in each Easter egg. Before class, hide the Easter eggs around the area in which you will meet with the children.
- Greet children and invite each child to look around the room for a surprise. Ask children to return to you and form a circle after each finds one surprise. If there are more eggs than children present, play "I Spy" to locate the remaining eggs.
- Ask children if they are surprised to find Easter eggs. Easter was April 8, wasn’t it? Explain that Easter is so important and wonderful that the Church celebrates for eight weeks! The celebration is called the Easter season.
- Invite children to open the eggs. Let children eat their treats while they help you put the words of the Bible message in order. The numbers will help them. Read the Bible verse. Ask the children to repeat it. Say it again. Ask the children to repeat it.
- Ask children to share how this Bible message makes them feel. (happy, good, peaceful) When all who wish to have shared, respond: We can be glad that Jesus is with us today and always!
- If the weather is nice, take the children outdoors. Let them use sidewalk chalk to express the happiness they feel because Jesus is with us. Tell them that everyone who comes to Church and sees their drawings will know that Jesus is with us. You will want to print the Bible verse alongside their drawings.
- If it is rainy or chilly out, have children make their drawings on construction paper. Display the drawings and the Bible verse in a common area where parishioners, and especially parents, can see them.
Grades K-1 (Promise)
“Jesus Is Risen,” April 8 and 15, 2012
Promise children will be able to:
- retell the Easter story
- see the cross as a sign of life
- share the good news with others
Materials: Wooden craft sticks, two for each child; modeling material; sequins and beads; foam stick-on shapes; small plastic flowers in spring colors; glue; markers; copies of Promise for April 8 and 15, 2012, one for each child
- After reading the rebus story on pages 2 and 3, direct children to look at the first page of Promise. Invite them to retell the story pictured there. Ask them to find and name signs of new life in the picture. (butterfly, bunnies, flowers, birds, eggs, sunrise, water, and growing plants)
- Have children act out the Easter story as you narrate the scenes for them: It is early in the morning. You are Jesus’ friends. You are going to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Ask, How do you feel? Tell children to show their feelings with their faces and the way they walk.
You look inside the tomb. It is empty! Ask, How do you feel? Remind children to show their feelings with their faces and actions.
Jesus is alive! Ask, How do you feel? What do you do? You run to tell everyone the good news.
- Give each child two craft sticks. Have children form a cross shape with the sticks and glue the sticks in place. While the glue sets, talk about the cross of Jesus not only as a reminder of his death, but also as a sign of the new life he won for us. (If time is short, prepare the cross shapes ahead of time.)
- Invite children to decorate their crosses with colorful materials, such as sequins and beads. They can use glue to secure the decorations. While the glue dries, have each child take a small lump of modeling material and make a base for his or her cross. Ideally, the base will be flat on the bottom and mounded on the top.
- Direct children to press their decorated crosses firmly into the bases, so they stand upright. Invite children to add flowers to the bases of the crosses.
- Encourage children to take their Easter crosses home to share with their families and to retell the Easter story for their families.
Grades 2-3 (Good News)
“We Are Connected to Each Other,” May 6, 2012
Good News children will:
- use the experience of flying a kite to explore how they are connected to Jesus
- name the “strings” that keep us connected to Jesus and to each other
- display their kites to remind them to stay connected to Jesus and to other people
Materials: A kite for each child or materials to make a kite for each child; a small ball of string for each child; strips of paper about 2” x 12,” one for each child; markers; copies of Good News for May 6, 2012, one for each child
Preparation: You can find instructions for making a simple kite at www.instructables.com/id/A-Garbage-Bag-Kite. You will need garbage bags, sticks or dowels, scissors, ribbons, and string. If you choose to make kites, be sure to make one before class, both to familiarize yourself with the process and to use as a sample. Enlist the help of parents or other volunteers to assist the children in this activity.
- Depending on your timeframe, give each child a kite or materials to make a simple kite. Talk about the dynamics of kite flying. Let children who have flown a kite share their experiences. Ask children why they need string to fly a kite. Try to get someone to say the word connected.
- Give each child a small ball of string and have children securely tie the string to their kite. Continue your discussion. What if the string breaks? (You would lose the connection and the kite could fly away or get caught in a tree.) What if the kite rises too high up into the sky? (You could roll up the string and pull it closer to you. You are still connected.)
- If possible, take the children to a parking lot or playground and let them try to get their kites airborne. Be sure the area is clear of power lines.
- Find a comfortable place to sit down outside or return to your meeting space. Discuss the image of the vine and branches on page 3 of Good News. How are we connected to Jesus? How are we connected to each other? Use page 1 to further illustrate this important concept. What if our connection to Jesus is broken? (We could get lost or get into trouble.) How can Jesus pull us closer if we start to get too far away from him? (through the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, through prayer, through the help of other people) How can we stay connected to each other? (through the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation, through the grace of God, through acts of love and kindness)
- Give each child a strip of paper and marker. Ask children to print carefully on their paper the message: We are connected to Jesus and to each other. Have them tie their strips of paper onto their kites like a tail. Encourage children to take their kites home and hang them in their rooms to remind them to stay connected to Jesus all summer.
Grades 4-6 (Venture)
“Scavenger Hunt for Faith,” April 8 and 15, 2012
Venture children will be able to:
- recognize signs of faith
- work in teams to learn what these signs tell them about their faith
- play a game to share what they have learned
Materials: Pencils, 3” x 5” index cards, copies of Venture for April 8 and 15, one for each child
Preparation: On each index card, write one of the words or phrases from the squares and ovals on pages 6 and 7 of Venture. For each word or phrase taken from the squares, draw a square at the top of the card. For each word or phrase taken from the ovals, draw an oval at the top of the card.
- Distribute the index cards. If there are fewer than 22 children in your group, give some or all the children more than one card. Be sure children who have more than one card have cards marked with the same shape, either squares or ovals.
- Ask the group to form two teams, Squares and Ovals, according to what shape is on their card or cards. Ask members of each team to work together to list on the back of each index card two facts about the sign of faith on that card. Give children an example to get them started. For usher, ask, How is an usher a sign of our faith? (An usher is a parishioner who volunteers to help out at Mass, and who greets fellow parishioners as they arrive for Mass. Other answers are possible.)
- When teams have had a chance to finish, play a “Signs of Faith” game. Take the role of a game show host. Ask children from the Squares team questions from the Ovals cards, and vice versa. For example, How does the holy water font remind us about our faith? If a child from the Ovals team is not able to answer, ask a member of the Squares team to read the facts his or her team has written on the “Holy water font” index card.
- Play until all the Squares and Ovals cards have been discussed, or as long as time permits.
Grades 7-8 (Visions)
“What Would the Spirit Do?” May 6, 2012
Visions students will:
- identify the presence of the Holy Spirit in their own actions and in the actions of others
- choose ways in which they can lead and be witnesses of Jesus
- create WWSD beaded bracelets
Materials: Bibles; small alphabet beads and a variety of beads in various sizes and colors; individual zippered plastic bags, two rolls of .5mm stretch elastic, scissors, shallow dishes
Preparation: Purchase beads and bracelet-making materials at a craft store or online.
- After reading page 6 of Visions, ask student how they think they can prepare themselves to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit. (by being quiet and still in a beautiful or calm setting in nature or in church, by praying or meditating) Ask: At what times do you think you may be able to feel or hear the Holy Spirit? Help young people to see that the Holy Spirit is present in the actions that people take to help others. What actions can you take to show others that the Holy Spirit is present in your home, school, and community?
- Allow young people the opportunity to share times when they needed the Holy Spirit to help them with a problem, or when they were fearful.
- Explain that sometimes we forget to ask for God’s help or we think we don’t need it. Tell students they will make What Would the Spirit Do? (WWSD) bracelets to wear to remind them that they always have the Holy Spirit to turn to.
- Demonstrate how to string alphabet beads to spell WWSD in the center of each beaded bracelet. Students can string these beads first and then complete their wrist or ankle bracelets with beads of other colors or shapes in patterns. Encourage each student to create his or her own unique WWSD design. Remind students to double knot their bracelets. See the instructions on the packaging of the rolls of elastic.
- End with the Prayer to the Holy Spirit. Encourage students to learn this prayer and say it often on their own.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, O Lord,
and our hearts shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the world.
God, who taught the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us by the same Spirit
to delight in what is right and always to rejoice in his consolation.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Check out the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Family Pages for activities and resources that parents can use at home to help their families grow in faith! The Spring Family Pages, which focus on Holy Week, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost, can enrich both the solemn and the joyous celebrations of the Church.
Go to www.pflaum.com/familypages aand log in to find “Saints of the Season,” “Feasts of the Season,” “Catholic Culture,” “Family Prayer,” and activities for children at each level of the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies. Choose pages to print and send home with students or send notes home suggesting pages for parents to download and print.
The Family Pages are a free service available to all families in schools and parishes that use the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies. On the Family Pages home page, click on “Tips for using these pages” for a sample letter you can send home.
Catechist to Catechist
Invite Children and Their Parents to Become a Living Rosary
Would you like to find a creative, active way to teach children to pray the rosary? And what if you could at the same time bring children and parents together for a prayer experience to honor Mary?
DRE Donna Stachulski invites children and parents to participate in a “Living Rosary” service during October and May, the months in which the Church honors Mary.
To prepare for the service, each class in the parish’s religious education program is assigned one mystery of the rosary. During one or two meetings prior to the service, members of each class work together to create a poster that depicts the mystery they have been assigned. Just before the service, large circles are cut out of colored poster board. Five circles are placed down the middle aisle of the church to represent the prayers that begin the rosary—one for the Apostles’ Creed, one for the Our Father, and three for Hail Marys. At the entrance to the sanctuary, ten paper circles are arranged in a loop to represent the beads of one decade of the rosary.
Click to resize image.
To begin the “Living Rosary” service, children and their parents process into the church. The group stops at each circle, first proclaiming the Apostles’ Creed and then praying the Our Father and the Hail Marys. When everyone is seated, they begin to pray the decades of one set of the mysteries.
To see the arrangement of the circles, click to enlarge each of the photos.
Click to resize image.
To begin each decade, the mystery is announced and described and the poster depicting the mystery is displayed. A child from the class responsible for that mystery brings up a lighted or battery-powered candle and places it on the altar or table where a statue of the Blessed Mother is displayed. As each of the ten Hail Marys for that mystery is prayed, a child, along with his or her parents, comes forward and stands on a circle until ten children and their families are standing on circles, representing the beads of a decade of the rosary.
With rosaries in hand, the children and their families pray the rosary and, at the same time, see the decades of the rosary appearing before them
Donna Stachulski is director of religious education at St. Linus Parish in Dearborn Heights, MI. A version of the order for the “Living Rosary” that Donna has prepared is available on page 12 of the print version of the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Newsletter.
What activities have worked well with your students? Share them with your fellow catechists and collect $100 if your idea is chosen as the Idea of the Month
. Your teaching idea can be a simple prayer experience, a catechetical activity, or any lesson or project appropriate for (or adaptable to) learners in kindergarten through sixth grade. To submit your idea, go to www.catechist.com/ideas