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Significant physical and emotional changes characterize the period of pre-adolescence and adolescence. While home and family remain the more powerful forces in the development of pre-adolescents and adolescents, their peer groups begin to exercise increasing influence on attitudes, values, and behavior. They learn to live the Christian faith by observing the good example of others whom they admire and trust.
Catechesis for pre-adolescents and adolescents should take into account their physical, social, and psychological conditions. Since adolescence is the age of hero worship, it is helpful to present the words and example of Jesus as well as the lives and deeds of the saints in ways that appeal to young people. Such catechesis should present Christ as the Son of God, friend, guide, and model who can be not only admired but also imitated. It should also present the basic content of his Revelation.
Since their minds are increasing in capability, catechesis for adolescents should make clear the rational bases for faith, the inner coherence of the truths of the faith, and their relation to one another. It should also help adolescents to articulate the beliefs and teachings of the Church and to apply them to their lives. The study of Sacred Scripture, the Church, the sacraments, and the principles of Christian morality—both personal and social—should characterize the catechesis of adolescents. Since they are better able to experience faith as a deeper relationship with God than are younger children, prayer and service to others in the name of Christ become more meaningful to them. This is an opportune developmental time to stress their baptismal commitment to evangelization. Because the example of adults is so important to them, their participation in the Mass, the sacraments, and other rituals alongside adults incorporates them further into the life of the Church. They may be invited to take a more active part in planning and celebrating liturgical experiences, especially the Eucharist. They should be given frequent and regular opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Catechesis for Christian initiation, catechesis on special themes, group activity, membership in youth associations, the personal accompaniment of young people, retreats, and spiritual direction are useful approaches for the effective catechesis of adolescents. Adolescence is a time to learn how to pray vocal and liturgical prayers, to read and meditate upon the Sacred Scripture texts, and to evangelize their peers and invite them into the Catholic Church. Adolescence is also a time for developing ecumenical relationships, since it is an age when friendships are especially important and inquiry into the faith and traditions of others is lively.
A special concern in the catechesis of adolescents is catechesis for the Sacrament of Confirmation. In many dioceses in the United States, adolescence is the period in which the Sacrament of Confirmation is received and the process of Christian initiation is completed. The Church must make every effort through a revised and revitalized catechesis to ensure that adolescents do not view their preparation for and reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation as the end of their formal catechesis. They must be encouraged to continue to participate in catechetical programs, the celebration of Sunday Eucharist, and the practice of Christian living. As fully initiated Christians, they must be given the opportunity to serve the community in a variety of liturgical ministries.
A special challenge in the catechesis of adolescents is catechesis for Christian vocations. The foundation for accepting the call of Christ to marriage, chaste single life, priesthood, consecrated life, or lay ecclesial ministry is laid within the family and nurtured throughout childhood. Careful and serious consideration of these Christian vocations becomes even more important in adolescence. Parents, pastors, teachers, and catechists should help adolescents to address the vocational question directly and study the possibilities thoroughly. They should provide the best examples of each of the distinctively Christian vocations to young people and be willing to become personally involved with them as they struggle with their choice. They should encourage adolescents to listen carefully to the voice of the Holy Spirit within them and to respond generously to God's call to service in the Church and in the world.
The ministry of catechesis with adolescents has several distinct features that give direction to catechetical programming. Specifically, catechesis with adolescents:
--from the National Directory for Catechesis
For more information on the Catholic connection to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, refer to the USCCB Catholic Scouting page.
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