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‘God, I thank you for ... Kerygma’

The art of injecting the Good News into PSR classes

By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register

Editor’s Note: Catechists all over the diocese, in service to the Church, give much time to the formation of our children.  Following is Part II of the recently presented Catechist Formation Session.  This session focused on how Catechists might make the services they provide even more effective.

Is Catholic teaching in PSR classes a bit too formal?
According to Coleen Stein, Coordinator of Catechist Formation, Catholic Parish School of Religion classes could use a dose of “Kerygma.”
Stein spoke along with Bishop Emeritus Ronald M. Gilmore to catechists at an ITV (Interactive Television) presentation Sept. 4 and 7.
Kerygma doesn’t necessarily have anything do with the distribution of information. So why would Stein encourage its use in the classroom?
Kerygma, she explained, is the “essential news of Jesus”. Instead of enriching the student’s general knowledge about the Catholic Church, Kerygma is about enriching their faith.
It all starts with “proclamation.” “Kerygma is the essential news of Jesus, as preached by the early Christians to elicit faith rather than to educate or instruct,” Stein said.
“I have seen it over and over again -- in PSR classes, in RCIA sessions, in Sacramental Preparation; people think that a formal teaching with facts about our Catholic Faith will stick. I am proposing that it is ones’ experience in the light of the Catholic teaching that sticks.”    
She urged catechists – whether they are teaching children, youth, or adults – to “share a witness of how they live their faith.”
She said that religious education is at times guilty of being so goal-oriented and curriculum-conscious “that it loses sight of its mission to minister to the religious life of the child.”  
Stein noted that PSR classes often begin with the praying of the Hail Mary. But, she added, the Hail Mary may not be the best prayer to recite, for example, following a presentation of a story about Jesus healing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment.
“A better prayer would be to ask the child to pray for someone who has a disability,” Stein said.
“If a child feels that they must pray, there is a type of a switch within them that is set off automatically; they repeat phrases worn out with use, phrases that do not relate in any way to their interior state.”  
Kerygma is not restricted to catechists. Stein suggested that when it is time for prayer, catechists and parents alike invite the children to respond to:      
“God, I thank you for … and ….”
“God, I ask you for….”
“We can pray by inviting each child to give a verbal response; we can pray by recording the answers of each child on a piece of paper; we can pray by drawing; we can pray by dancing.  The most important thing is that it is the child’s prayer and not our own.”
One other important piece in teaching children to pray is to allow them intervals of silence – a silence that at times mistakenly leads an adult to believe that the prayer is finished.      
“The adult should learn how to wait because that silence is also prayer.  The adult should learn to be respectful of the child’s rhythm, which is much slower than our own.  
“…The most important thing to help the children pray from their hearts is to present the Kerygma first in a powerful way, and then have the prayer -- their prayer -- follow the proclamation, teaching and activities.”
This way, she said, “The prayer comes from the child’s heart and what the child understood about the proclamation. The prayer from the child becomes genuine.”
Resources:
“A New Look at Prayer, Searching for Bliss” by Bill Huebsch
“The Religious Potential of the Child” by Sofia Cavalletti

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