Greetings from Pflaum Publishing Group!
New! That’s a word heard often in September—new energy, new students, and 32 new lessons in the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies.
Let the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Newsletter help you make the most of each of these lessons and the most of your preparation time. In This Month's Features, support from experienced catechists is just a click away. Scroll down and sample what is offered.
Be sure to check out the Saint of the Month. Kids at each level of the Weeklies can celebrate St. Vincent de Paul’s dedication to serving the poor with an activity designed just for them.
To send future issues of this newsletter to an associate or to download a printable version, click on the links in the blue bar above.
This issue of the newsletter is available online at pflaum.com/pgwnewsletter. Look for the October issue in your inbox on September 12.
Previewing the September Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Newsletter
This issue of the newsletter features ideas for September 23, 2012, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, and September 30, 2012, the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Future issues will support the lessons for all the Sundays in the month.
- September 23—Jesus tells his disciples that whoever wishes to be first must be last and servant of all. (Mark 9:30-37)
- September 30—Jesus teaches an important lesson about including and accepting others. He tells his followers, “Whoever is not against us is with us.” (Mark 9:38-48)
This Month’s Features
- Saint of the Month—Young people will be drawn to the story of a young priest who was captured by pirates, sold as a slave, and then became known for his works of charity. The Church honors St. Vincent de Paul on September 27.
- Back-to-School Ideas—Welcome and reassure your students as they begin a new year.
- Class Management Tips—Manage the nitty-gritty with ease so you can focus on your students!
- Teacher Tips—Learn what to expect from children at different ages and stages of development. Discover how to set realistic expectations and how to avoid problem behavior.
- Student Activities—A welcoming song helps Seeds children learn the names of their new friends. Promise children participate in a ceremony to honor the Bible they will use throughout the school year. Good News children act “in the name of Jesus” by racing to give a drink of cold water to a friend. An art project helps Venture children experience what it means to be “with” Jesus. To be “servants of all,” Visions students find ways to help the youngest students in their schools and faith formation programs.
- PGW Online—Download and print activities and resources to reinforce your lessons, to focus your students’ attention, and to share with parents for use at home. Featured online this fall is an introduction to “The Year of Faith” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to begin on October 11. Engaging activities bring St. Kateri Tekakwitha, one of the new saints to be canonized on October 21, to life as a role model for Catholic children. And also new this fall, activities for Seeds and Promise children are now available in Spanish as well as English.
Go to pflaumweeklies.com/PGWOnline and choose pages to print to use in class or to send home with students. Or, send notes home to suggest pages for parents to download and print
- Catechist to Catechist—Names are important! Catechist Sharon Egan creates a “Pray for Me” poster to learn her students’ names in the first weeks of class.
Saint of the Month
Saint Vincent de Paul (c.1580-1660)
Pirates, slave ships, royal intrigue, and war were part of the life and times of St. Vincent de Paul, who was born around 1580 in Gascony, France. He became a priest in 1600, serving as a tutor in Toulouse. Then his life took a dramatic turn. Returning by sea from a trip to Marseilles in 1605, Vincent was captured by Turkish pirates. He was taken to Tunis and sold as a slave, finally escaping in 1607. He traveled to Avignon and then Rome to continue his studies, returning to France in 1609 on a secret mission to Henry IV.
In 1612, Father Vincent entered the service of a rich French family, the Gondi, as a teacher to their children. While in their service, he also came to the aid of the poor farmers on the Gondi estates. One Sunday he told his church congregation about a poor family whose father was too sick to work. Everyone took food to this family—so much food that they could not eat it all and there was no way to keep it from spoiling. From this, Father Vincent recognized the need for organized aid to the poor and began to work toward that goal.
Working in Paris among imprisoned galley slaves, Vincent de Paul found that conditions for slaves on sailing ships were brutal. Vincent ministered to the slaves on the galleys supervised by Monsieur de Gondi and to the convicts who were chained and crowded into dungeons in Paris. He converted many of them to Christianity. He established a hospital and was appointed by Louis XIII to distribute alms to the galleys.
Building on this success, Vincent founded the Congregation of Priests of the Mission, also known as Vincentians. These priests devoted themselves to needy people in smaller towns and villages. The work of the Vincentians was expanded when Vincent, with the help of Louise de Marillac, founded the Daughters of Charity. This religious community for women continues their work today with the poor in hospitals and prisons all around the world, and Louise de Marillac was proclaimed a saint in 1934.
At the request of the Archbishop of Paris, Vincent also founded the Ladies of Charity. These high-ranking, pious ladies ministered to the sick at the Hotel-Dieu, the oldest hospital in Paris, and also visited the prisons. With the support of these influential ladies, St. Vincent de Paul collected large sums of money to aid the sick, the poor, and orphaned children. He also became popular at the royal court in Paris and used his influence to distribute aid to provinces devastated by the Thirty Years War. He established soup kitchens that served 15,000 to 16,000 refugees of the war every day.
In addition to helping the poor of France, he also established seminaries and encouraged retreats for clergy at a time when training for priests was rare. Vincent sent priests to Ireland, Scotland, Poland, and Madagascar.
Vincent de Paul died in Paris on September 27, 1660, and was canonized in 1737. He was later declared the patron saint of charitable societies by Pope Leo XIII. In 1833, Blessed Frederic Ozanam founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the organization that works in Catholic parishes around the world to provide help for the poor.
- Help Seeds children to see that Jesus and other good people teach us how to love others. Draw a large heart on a sheet of poster board or butcher paper. Ask the children to identify the shape and what it means. Children this age should be able to recognize that a heart shape stands for love. Ask the children to name people who love them. Then ask: How do you know these people love you? Be sure each child who wishes to has a chance to share.
Point out that Jesus is the one who loves us most, and that Jesus shows us how to love others. He teaches us to share, to be kind, and to help other people.
Invite children to take turns using a sponge to make a heart print on the poster board or butcher paper. Have available several heart-shaped sponges. They can be cut from regular kitchen sponges or be purchased pre-cut from a craft supply store. Pour a small amount of poster paint in an aluminum pie pan. Show children how to dip a sponge lightly in the poster paint and then to press the sponge firmly on the paper. Be sure to caution children not to get too much paint on the sponge. When everyone has had a chance to make a heart print, set the poster board or paper aside to dry.
Ask the children to listen to a recording of the hymn “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” Explain that Christians are followers of Jesus. We are Christians, and we try to live and love as Jesus showed us.
Have children sit in a circle on the floor. Play the song again, and lead them in clapping along with the rhythm during the first verse. For the second verse, have children stand and pass a real or imaginary box around the circle. Tell them that this action represents working together and cooperating. For the third verse, have the children walk around the room holding hands with partners. By this time, they will be able to sing along with the refrain of the song.
As the song ends, lead the children back to the poster. Use a black marker to print the children’s first names near the hearts they stamped. At the top of the poster, write this title: “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” Display the poster in a common area in the school or church.
- After sharing the story of St. Vincent de Paul, invite Promise children to make a poster for their classroom or meeting space to show how they can help others.
Begin by drawing a cross on a sheet of poster board. Ask the children what the cross means to them. Allow all who wish to share their ideas, but be sure to point out that the cross reminds us that Jesus died on the cross out of love for us. Also point out that the cross reminds us of a prayer we say often—the Sign of the Cross. Ask the children to make the Sign of the Cross and pray the words that go along with the actions. Point out that when we love others people as Jesus did, and as St. Vincent de Paul did, we love in the name of Jesus.
Print the title “In the Name of Jesus” on the horizontal beam of the cross. Show the children that the cross creates four sections on the poster. Label the sections: Pray, Teach, Care for the Sick, Feed the Hungry.
Invite the children to draw images or find pictures in magazines to illustrate each of the four ways of showing God's love to others. You might want to ask children to form four groups for this activity, with each group having responsibility for one of the sections. When the children have finished, invite volunteers to take turns telling the group about one or more of the pictures they chose for the poster.
To make a border for the poster, have each child use a marker to trace his or her handprint along the edges of the poster. Ask children to print their names inside their handprints. Explain that this poster shows that they promise to love others as Jesus did and as St Vincent de Paul did. Display the poster in your classroom or meeting space as a reminder that Jesus teaches us to love others.
- After sharing the story of St. Vincent de Paul with Good News children, ask if St. Vincent did his work all alone. Help children to recall that St. Vincent de Paul recognized the importance of working with others to take care of people who are poor, sick, and hungry. That’s why he formed a congregation of priests called the Vincentians, and why he worked with a friend, Louise de Marillac, to found an order of religious sisters called the Daughters of Charity. It is also why many wealthy and prominent women joined together as the Ladies of Charity.
Lead a brief group discussion about why working with a group can be more effective than working alone. Encourage the children to offer examples from their own experiences. Help children to consider the good they could do if they formed a group to follow the example of St. Vincent de Paul.
Ask children to brainstorm to come up with a name for their group, such as Children of Charity, and a goal for their group. Then have children form teams of three or four persons to think of ways to accomplish the group’s goal. (praying together, working together, asking for help from larger groups or communities, such as school or parish)
Help children to prepare a charter for their group on a sheet of poster board or butcher paper. Include the name and goal of the group at the top of the charter. Ask members of the teams to share ideas they came up with for accomplishing the goal. Add these to the charter as they are mentioned. When everyone has had a chance to contribute, invite each child to sign his or her name as a pledge to work together. Display the charter in your classroom or meeting space. Because the Gospels and lives of the saints are filled with examples of caring for people who need help, there will be many opportunities in upcoming classes to refer to the group’s charter.
- Ask Venture children to share what they know about St. Vincent de Paul. They may be aware of the St. Vincent de Paul Society operating within their parish to help the poor. They may be aware that St. Vincent de Paul was known for helping the poor. Read, or tell in your own words, the story of St. Vincent de Paul.
Point to the fact that St. Vincent de Paul ministered to galley slaves and convicts who were imprisoned in dungeons. Ask the children to share their ideas of what it must have been like to be a galley slave or a prisoner in a dungeon. They have probably seen images in movies or cartoons. If children don’t bring this up on their own, be sure to mention that prisoners are often chained. Point out that a chain is a good symbol for attitudes and actions that hold people back and keep them from being free.
Provide strips of white or gray construction paper for making a paper chain. Also have available felt-tipped pens and glue sticks or tape. Invite a volunteer to print “galley slaves” on one of the paper strips. Invite a second volunteer to print “prisoners” on another strip. Link the two strips together to begin a paper chain of injustices. Have other children add links labeled for people who are hungry, sick, poor, homeless, abused, addicted, victims of war and violence, or victims of other injustices children want to name.
Challenge children to imagine how this chain could be broken. Ask them to name groups or individuals they know about who are working to help others, including the St. Vincent de Paul Society in their own parish. Invite students to break the chain of injustice by ripping apart a link of the paper chain with each example they are able to give.
Then ask children how a chain can be a symbol of positive characteristics and actions. (unity and strength) Challenge children to name actions or attitudes that could form a chain of justice and charity. Invite children to write these actions and attitudes on paper strips and link them together.
Display the chain of justice and charity in your classroom or meeting area. Encourage children to continue to add links to the chain. Point out that they can find new examples of positive attitudes and actions in the coming issues of Venture, as well as in their own families, parishes, and communities.
- After presenting the story of St. Vincent de Paul to Visions students, point out that care for the poor has always been the concern of God and God’s People. Care for the poor is stressed in Old Testament law, in the messages of the prophets, and in Jesus’ teaching. Today care for the poor is part of Catholic social teaching and is the goal of charitable organizations such as Catholic Charities and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Help students to internalize this teaching through a meditative prayer experience.
Invite students to take comfortable positions in places around the room or meeting space where they have access to a flat surface for writing. Give each student a 6” x 9” index card card and several markers. Print the words “The Lord hears the cry of the poor” on the board or on a sheet of chart paper, and ask students to copy the words onto their index cards. Point out that these words are based on Psalm 34. Explain that you are going to play a song based on Psalm 34. A recording of the song, “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor,” is available at ocp.org and also at www.mycatholicvoice.com/media/K1QKCw.
Ask students to listen carefully to the song and to draw some of the things that come into their minds as they listen. They may draw designs, write names or other words, or just doodle. Explain that they will be creating doodle prayers.
When the song ends, ask the students to put down their markers. Pause for a few seconds of silence and then say “Amen.” Invite students who are willing to share their doodle prayers. If students are open to it, display their art/prayers on a bulletin board so others in the parish religious education program can share their experience.
- Welcome Seeds and Promise children by decorating your classroom door or the entrance to your meeting space with a Bible theme or character and provide coordinating nametags for the first class. For a Noah’s ark theme, trace and cut out animal shapes to create nametags. Serve animal crackers and juice for a snack. Sing “Old Man Noah Had An Ark” to the tune of “Old McDonald,” using animal names and sounds.
- Before Good News children arrive for the first meeting, cover a bulletin board with newspapers framed with a colorful border. At the top, add the title, “Good News!” After pointing out that the word Gospel means “good news,” have students use markers to write sentences on the newsprint that show what good news means to them. Encourage students to bring in current news articles each week that reflect good news in the world and post these on the “Good News” bulletin board.
- Before meetings for Venture and Visions students begin, gather a selection of paperback books, CDs, and DVDs for a lending library. Enlist several students to help you shop for titles at used book stores and stores that sell used CDs and DVDs. Make sure that at least some of the selections in your lending library have religious themes or teach lessons. Students may also wish to trade books they have read over the summer or exchange video games they have played.
Class Management Tips
- Locate your art area near a sink for ease of cleanup. Art materials should be prepared and counted in advance with adequate, but not huge, amounts readily available. Provide a drying rack, counter space, or clothesline to dry artwork. Ask parents to provide old shirts for their children to use as paint smocks. Messy art is fun! Just prepare for it with newspaper on the tables and a plastic drop cloth on the floor. Or take your art activity outside.
- Take role-playing, music, and art activities outside for a change of pace. But when you decide to make the outdoors or a playground your classroom, make sure the area is free of hazards—unsafe toys, puddles, insects, animals, and unlocked gates. Check equipment for safety. You can have children act out Gospel lessons outdoors.
- Promise and Good News children are beginning to understand that their actions have consequences. They can be encouraged to make good choices and to solve their own problems. Allow them to come up with rules for their group rather than hand down teacher-generated rules. Help children to express their rules as positive statements about what they should do rather than as warnings about what they should not do.
- Venture and Visions students are able to put together guidelines for working well in their groups. Both Venture and Visions outline activities for creating these guidelines. See Venture for September 23, 2012, “Class Guidelines,” page 6, and Visions for September 23, 2012, “Visions Guidelines,” page 6. Consider making these activities part of your first meeting with your students.
- Seeds children may have difficulty separating from parents the first few weeks of class, so be prepared to help children join their classmates by having several inviting activities for them to choose from as they arrive at class. Have building blocks, puzzles, and art materials available.
- Promise children are at a good age to learn about prayer. They can stand quietly while a prayer is said, and they can respond with “Amen.” Help them to practice the Sign of the Cross, and plan to introduce other prayers that provide children with good opportunities to participate. Simple litanies are good examples.
- Good News children are beginning to understand that a church is the house of God and that they are children of God and part of the family of God, the Church. A good message for parents of children this age is that worshiping with their parish community and listening with that community to the Gospel on Sunday will reinforce the children’s sense of belonging to the Church.
- Venture and Visions students can be self-conscious in a new group. To make students this age more comfortable with one another, try a getting-to-know-you icebreaker. Have each student write his or her name at the top of a 3” x 5” index card. On the card ask each student to list five favorites—favorite food, pet, music, sport, and TV show. Then invite students to interview one another to find at least one person who has the same favorites.
“Jesus Gathers Us Together,” September 30, 2012
Children should be able to:
- recognize who teaches them about Jesus
- recognize their names and the names of friends
- learn a welcoming song that can become part of their Gospel story routine
Materials: Animal shapes, black markers, animal stickers, poster board, hole punch, yarn, scissors, lined chart paper, a Bible, the parish photo directory, copies of Seeds for September 30, 2012, one for each child
Preparation: Trace and cut out animal shapes or strips from the poster board to make nametags. Use a marker to label one nametag for each child. Punch a hole in each nametag and insert a piece of yarn so children will be able to wear the nametags around their necks. Also make a name card for each child.
- As children arrive, give them their nametags. Greet each child by name as you do so. After all the children are seated in a circle, preferably in a carpeted area, share the Gospel story. Children should understand that Jesus was with his friends, or followers, and he wanted them to welcome all people as his followers. Ask: How can we make everyone feel welcome and that they belong? How could we welcome Jesus if he were here? Could we make him a nametag, too? What letter does Jesus start with? Write the word Jesus on the chart paper.
- Ask children: How do we learn more about Jesus? Who teaches us about Jesus? Allow children to give their answers, but be ready to suggest other sources they may not mention. (parents and other members of our families, priests, teachers, and other people in our Church, the Bible, Seeds, songs, poems, and stories) Show children photos from the parish directory—the pastor, religious education director and catechists, school principal and teachers, music director—anyone they are likely to see when they are in church. Also show them the Bible and a copy of Seeds.
- Tell children that they will be singing a song to learn the names of their friends. Teach the following song:
Good morning to you. Good morning to you.
We’re all in our places with bright, happy faces.
Good morning to (child’s name) .
Good morning to you.
Go around the children’s circle, singing the song for each child as you show his or her nametag. To establish a routine, you may wish to repeat this song every time the children gather to hear the Gospel story.
Grades K-1 (Promise)
“We Learn About Jesus Together,” September 23, 2012
Promise children will:
- enthrone the Bible
- listen to a reading of Mark 9:36-37
- understand that Jesus is happy that they are part of the class
- welcome one another as followers of Jesus
Materials: Children’s Bible, small prayer table, a small table cloth or a piece of brightly colored cloth, vase(s), flowers, battery-powered candle(s), bookstand, Promise CD and CD player, copies of Promise for September 23, 2012, one for each child
Preparation: Mark the Gospel reading in the children’s Bible and gather the items for the Bible enthronement. Become familiar with the children’s names, and practice the opening lines for the “Knock, Knock” game.
- Use this activity to set the tone for classes of the new school year and to help the children become acquainted. Show the children the Bible they will use during the year and point out that the Gospel will be an important part of each weekly lesson. Ask them to tell you what they know about this book. Encourage these or similar responses: It is the Bible. It is a holy book. It is the Word of God. It tells us about God's love for us. It teaches us about Jesus.
- Begin with a simple enthronement to honor the Bible. Plan to have each child involved. You may wish to have children draw numbers for their roles. Have them stand in line in the following order to set up the prayer table: (1) a small table cloth or a piece of brightly colored cloth; (2) a vase (or two); (3) flowers; (4) a candle (or two); (5) a bookstand; (6) the Bible. As the children walk reverently to the prayer table and place their items, play “We Believe” from the Promise CD, or another song with which children are familiar. After the children place their items, have them stand in two lines on either side of the prayer table to form an honor guard for the Bible. The last child carries the Bible to the table and carefully places it on the bookstand.
- After a few seconds of silence, pick up the Bible and invite the children to gather around. Turn to Mark 9:36-37, and read these verses to the children. Explain that in these verses Jesus tells us to welcome one another. He tells us that when we welcome one another, we welcome him and also his Father.
- Invite the children to play a welcoming game called “Knock, Knock.” It is like the “Knock, Knock” jokes they are familiar with. Explain the procedure before you begin. Have them all stand outside the classroom or meeting space while you remain inside. One child (Jacob) knocks on the door and says, “Knock, Knock.” You ask: “Who’s there?” The child says his or her name. You respond: “Welcome, Jacob. Come right in. In our class, you’ll fit right in!” Jacob enters the room. Then a second child knocks on the door. This time you and the first child (Jacob) respond. Continue until all of the children have been welcomed into the group.
Grades 2-3 (Good News)
“Who Belongs to Jesus’ Group?” September 30, 2012
Good News children will:
- hear the Gospel message that they belong to Jesus
- consider what it means to act in the name of Jesus
- play a relay game about acting in the name of Jesus
Materials: Highlighters; two pitchers of water; two plastic cups; a permanent marker; small rewards such as wrapped candy, prayer cards, or pencils; and copies of Good News for September 30, 2012, one for each student
Preparation: Draw a line around the plastic cup about two-thirds up from the bottom.
- After reading the Gospel dialogue on page 3, ask the children to find and highlight the words “in the name of Jesus” and “in your name.” Invite children to share what they think it means to “act in the name of Jesus.” Ask children to name things they do in the name of Jesus. Also ask what other things they could do in the name of Jesus. Allow time for all who wish to contribute.
- Invite the children to read aloud the words of Jesus at the end of the narration: “Don't stop someone who is doing a good thing. Anyone who is not against us is with us. If someone gives you even a cup of cold water because you belong to me, that person will get a reward in heaven.”
- Divide the group into two teams and have each team stand in a straight line. Give the first person in each line a pitcher of water. Give the second person in each line a plastic cup. Explain that the object of this relay is for the first person in line to get a drink of cold water to the last person in the line without spilling any of the water. On your signal, the first person turns to the second person and says, “In the name of Jesus,” and pours water into the cup held by the second person, filling the cup to the line. The second person turns to the third person and says, “In the name of Jesus,” and hands the cup of water to that person. This continues until the cup of water is received by the last person in line, who then drinks the water. The team that finishes first with the fewest splashes wins. If children are enjoying the game and there is time, play another round or two so children can change roles. When the game or games are over, everyone receives a reward to represent their reward in heaven.
Grades 4-6 (Venture)
“Those Not Against Us Are With Us,” September 30, 2012
Venture children will:
- identify attitudes and actions that lead them away from discipleship
- identify attitudes and actions that help them be one with Jesus
Materials: White paper, pencils, scissors, felt or colored paper, Velcro or masking tape, copies of Venture for September 30, 2012, one for each student
Preparation: Make a cross out of felt or colored paper and display it on a bulletin board or on a sheet of poster board. If the cross is made of felt, cut small squares of Velcro, three for each student. If the cross is made of paper, have masking tape available. If your class is small, have children trace their hands and feet on the white paper and cut out the shapes. They can also make cut-outs in the shape of an eye. If your class is large, use a pattern to prepare smaller cut-outs in the shapes of hands and feet. Also prepare cut-outs in the shape of an eye, one for each student.
- After reading the Sunday Gospel narrative, lead a brief discussion of the question, How do we know we are “with” Jesus? Be ready with an example of your own to get the discussion started, and then encourage children to share examples from their own experience.
- Have children use white paper to make their own hand, foot, and eye cut-outs, or distribute the cut-outs you made before class. Gather the children in a semi-circle around the cross. Be sure each child has three shapes—one hand, one foot, and one eye—and a pencil.
- Read the first part labeled “Jesus 3” in the Gospel narrative. Invite students to write in their hand cut-outs an attitude or action that pulls them away from following Jesus. As they finish, direct them to turn away from the cross. Then ask them to write on their foot cut-outs an attitude or action that leads them off the path to Jesus. As they finish, ask children to take a step away from the cross. Finally, ask children to write on the eye cut-outs an attitude that tempts them to look away from Jesus, and to take another step away from the cross.
- Pause for a few seconds of silence. Then ask children to think of an attitude or action that keeps them in touch with Jesus and to write that on the blank side of their hand cut-outs. When they are finished, ask them to turn back toward the cross.
- Have children repeat the process with their foot cut-outs, writing on the blank side an attitude or action that leads them closer to Jesus, and taking a step toward the cross. When all have done so, have children write on the blank side of their eye cut-outs an attitude that helps them to keep in sight Jesus and his teachings. When they finish writing, they may take another step toward the cross.
- Invite children who wish to share what they have written on their hand cut-outs. Then ask all the children to place their hand cut-outs on and around the cross, using Velcro or tape. Follow this procedure with the foot and eye cut-outs as well. Display the cross in your classroom or meeting space as a reminder of what it means to be with Jesus.
Grades 7-8 (Visions)
“Jesus’ Disciples Can’t Understand His Teaching,” September 23, 2012
Visions students will:
- talk about how it feels to be first and how it feels to be last
- think about who is the greatest and least among them
- perform a service for younger children
Materials: Newsprint, felt-tipped markers
- Draw two columns on the board or a sheet of newsprint. At the top of one column write "Being First" and at the top of the second column write "Being Last." Ask students to think about how being first and being last feels. After about 30 seconds, invite students to share their ideas of how it makes them feel to be first. Jot these ideas in the first column on the board or newsprint. Do the same for how it feels to be last. Ask for a show of hands to indicate who likes to be first and who likes to be last?
- Read Jesus’ words from the Gospel: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Tell students that Jesus often said surprising things such as this; he seemed to turn things upside down. Ask students why they think Jesus did that. (to make people think, to help people change, to show that his values were different from those commonly held, and so on)
- Remind Visions students that since they may be the oldest students in their school or faith formation program, they may also consider themselves the greatest. Allow time for students’ reactions to this. Then remind them of Jesus’ words: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
- Invite students to think about ways they can serve the youngest children in their school or faith formation program by welcoming and helping them as the school year begins. For example, could Visions students greet the younger children when they arrive tomorrow or next week? Could they make nametags for the children to wear? Could they help them find their classrooms and meeting spaces or help them at dismissal? Could they play with them on the playground? Could they play name games with them to help them get acquainted? Let Visions students choose, plan, and carry out a way to welcome and serve kindergartners or first graders.
Check out the resources and seasonal activities available online from the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies! Go to www.pflaumweeklies.com/PGWOnline and log in to find Saints of the Season, Feasts of the Season, Catholic Culture, and a Family Prayer. There are also activities for children at each level of the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies. Activities at the Seeds and Promise levels are available in Spanish as well as in English.
Choose pages to print and use with your students to reinforce your lessons or to focus your students’ attention. You’ll also want to print pages to send home with students, or to send notes home suggesting pages for parents to download and print.
Currently featured online are introductions to “The Year of Faith,” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to begin on October 11, and to St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope, two of the saints the Pope will canonize on October 21. Engaging activities based on the story of St. Kateri Tekakwitha make her come alive as a role model for Catholic children, and a prayer service brings families together to get the new school year off to a great start.
PGW Online is a free service available to all families in schools and parishes that use the Pflaum Gospel Weeklies. On the PGW Online home page, click on “Tips for using these pages” for a sample letter you can send home.
Catechist to Catechist
A Great Start? Priceless!
Nothing tells your students how important they are to you with more clarity than learning their names in the first weeks of class. And catechist Sharon Egan has a plan that works!
“At the beginning of each year,” Sharon explains, “I use this trick to learn the names of all my students. I have students take turns writing their names on the board, and I take a photo of each student with his or her name. Then I make a poster for myself. I label the poster ‘Pray for me,’ and I put students’ pictures on it.
“Even though I am with my students for only 75 minutes a week, I see their pictures on the poster and pray for them throughout the week. By the second class, I know all their names.
Sharon Egan is a catechist at St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Parish in New Cumberland, PA.
“I was browsing through past class files and came across the fifth-grade picture of a student who is now a deacon studying for the priesthood at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. As the commercial says, ‘Priceless!’ ”
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