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Faithful Citizenship Sample Lesson Plans for Junior and Senior High School Age Students

 

These lesson plans are designed to be used in parish religious education and youth ministry programs and in Catholic schools. We encourage local educators to adapt them or to create their own resources to share the message of Faithful Citizenship.

The following four sample sessions correspond to the Adult Education/Small Faith Community sessions and the session for Elementary Age Students. One option is to make the sessions intergenerational where families and individuals of all ages gather for prayer and then break out into age appropriate groups. Or, these sessions can be done independently as part of a more traditional catechetical setting or in a Catholic school classroom.

Lesson Plan A:  The Call to Participate in Public Life

Lesson Plan B: Forming Consciences

Lesson Plan C: Avoiding Evil and Doing Good

Lesson Plan D: Catholic Social Teaching and the Public Square

 

Catechetical Session
Junior/Senior High School
Lesson Plan A

Theme: The Call to Participate in Public Life

Gathering

Be sure to begin each session by establishing a sense of welcome and hospitality. If participants do not already know one another well, you may wish to do an icebreaker. Once everyone is comfortable, the session begins by connecting the session topic with the young person's human experience, i.e. her/his "story" or ideas. Have a Bible prominently enthroned in the room as the centerpiece for prayer and the proclamation of the Word.

Open the session by describing the theme in relation to the election year. There is a strong connection between being a disciple and being active in our communities and in the world.

Write the words "FAITHFUL DISCIPLE" on a dry erase board or newsprint. Ask the young people to describe a "faithful disciple." List the characteristics the young people name.

Next, write the words "ACTIVE COMMUNITY MEMBER" on the board and ask the young people to name characteristics or qualities of an active community member. If they need help, ask, "What types of things should a community member do to be engaged and involved in their community?" (For example, join community organizations, be part of Neighborhood Watch, go to community events, vote, volunteer, donate to local organizations that help the poor, pick up litter on the sidewalks, etc.).

Finally, write the following on the board: "FAITHFUL DISCIPLE = ACTIVE COMMUNITY MEMBER." Ask the young people to say what they think you mean by this.

Make the connection: Explain that what you mean is that a faithful disciple is an active community member. Our faith calls us to be active in our communities. Lead the young people to see that the Church teaches that being members of the Church community is not limited to what we do inside of Church on Sundays; we are also called to live out our faith in the world and work to transform the wrong in our communities. We are called to be faithful disciples who are active in our communities, both local and global.

Opening Prayer

Call the group to prayer. After an extended pause, continue with these or similar words:

Let us pray.
Loving Father, we thank you for calling us to be disciples of your Son, Jesus Christ. Spirit that guides us, help us to be faithful disciples who are active community members. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Students are seated. Catechist takes Bible from enthronement and proclaims reading. Be sure reading is marked in advance.

Scripture Reading & Faith Sharing

The catechist makes the transition to this movement by describing that Jesus teaches us how to be faithful disciples who are active community members.  He tells us we have to "love God" and "love our neighbor."

Proclaim the reading (Mk. 12:28-34):

A reading from the Gospel of Mark…

After the reading a brief period of silence follows. Then, the catechist asks these or similar questions:

  • What did you hear in this reading? Name the word or phrase you most remember.
  • What commandments did Jesus say are the most important? Why?

After the initial response, proclaim the reading again.

A reading from the Gospel of Mark…

Then ask the following questions:

  • How do the two commandments relate to the idea of being a faithful disciple who is an active community member? 
  • Jesus says that both loving God and loving neighbor bring a person closer to the kingdom of God.
    • How does a deep faith life help us to love others?
    • How does being compassionate toward others affect us spiritually?
    • The reading instructs that you should love your neighbor as yourself.  How would our relationships and communities be different if we could really live this commandment out?
  • What changes can you make in your own life to love God and neighbor better?

Faithful Citizenship Reading and Discussion

The catechist makes a transition from reflection on the Scripture to discussion on the teaching of the Church.

The bishops of the United States have written a document that emphasizes how disciples should be active in public life. An important part of being a faithful, active disciple is making your voice heard on issues affecting human life, human dignity, justice and peace. In particular, the Church says we need to be aware of what we believe about topics such as:

  • Human dignity. Protecting human life, especially unborn children.
  • Peace. Making our world not only safer, but more peaceful.
  • The poor. Working to end poverty and ensure that all people have the basic necessities of life.

For people who are old enough and who are citizens, voting is a very important part of making their voices heard. But all Catholics, no matter who they are, are called to be faithful disciples who are active community members. This is part of being a good Catholic. The bishops say (write quote on newsprint or blackboard or project it on a PowerPoint slide):

In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. . . The obligation is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person. . . . As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life" (nos. 1913-1915).
--Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility (no. 13)

The following questions can be used to help students understand several important concepts in the quote:

Participation in Political Life

  • The bishops say that "participation in political life" is a responsibility that we have. What does "participation in political life" mean? (Possible answers: learning about an issue that affects people in the local or global community; holding a community prayer service about an issue facing the local or global community; helping to educate others about that issue by writing a letter to the editor; calling or writing a letter to an elected official; voting; running for public office; etc.  The bishops list a number of ways people can participate in no. 16.) 
  • What does "participation in political life" mean for someone your age? 

"Moral Obligation"

The bishops say that participation in political life is a "moral obligation."

  • What does "obligation" mean? (Answer: a duty or responsibility that we have) 
  • What does "moral" mean? (Answer: having to do with right or wrong)

Explain that therefore, we participate in political life because doing so is the right thing to do. We are responding to a duty or responsibility that we have, for the good of our community.

  • The bishops say that this "obligation" or duty is based in our faith in Jesus Christ. How does the duty to participate in political life relate to the commandments to love God and love our neighbors that we discussed earlier?

"It is necessary that all participate"

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that it is necessary that "all participate" in political life, and that doing so is related to our dignity as human persons.

  • Why is it important that everyone have the opportunity to participate in political life? What does this have to do with our human dignity?
  • Do you feel your "voice matters?" Why or why not?
  • What can you do to make your voice heard?
  • What can you do to be an active, faithful disciple and community member? Brainstorm ideas.

Choose one of the ideas to put into action. See the "Developing Faith-based Action Plans" guide, which can be found in the Parish and School Leaders section of the website, for suggestions on implementing an action plan. Some ideas to consider include:

  • Participate in a Catholic "lobby day" organized by your state Catholic conference.
  • Invite a local legislator to the class to talk about how he or she works to make sure the needs of the poor and vulnerable are addressed.
  • Visit the web pages of various departments of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org) or the USCCB Action Center to learn more about public policy issues of concern and then write a letter to a legislator about one of these issues.
  • Make posters to put around your parish and school encouraging adults to vote and those younger than eighteen to take action in other ways.
  • Contact your parish or diocesan social concerns or pro-life coordinator or your diocesan social action director for additional ideas.

Closing Prayer

Gather students into a circle with the Bible reverently enthroned in the middle of the circle. Once all have quieted, the catechist walks to the center, picks up the Bible and proclaims Mark 12, verses 32-33 only. After returning the Bible to its place, end with the below prayer.

Let us pray.
Loving God, we are your children. By the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to share our goods with those in need and to participate in shaping our society. Help us to always be faithful disciples and active community members. We ask this through Christ our Lord who lives and reigns forever and ever.
Amen.

Catechetical Session
Junior/Senior High School
Lesson Plan B

Theme: Forming Consciences

Gathering

The first purpose of the opening of each session is to establish a sense of welcome and hospitality. The second purpose is to begin the session with the young person's experience, i.e. her/his "story" or ideas. Have a Bible prominently enthroned in the room as the centerpiece for prayer and the proclamation of the Word.

Open the session by asking the students to think about how they form their beliefs about public policy issues like abortion, the death penalty, the environment, taxes, programs to help those who are poor, etc. What do they think went into forming their beliefs about these issues? Write the answers you hear on the dry erase board or on newsprint in the front of the room.

Opening Prayer

Call the group to prayer. After an extended pause, continue with these or similar words:

Let us pray.
Spirit who is always present,
We thank you for walking beside us during each moment of our lives.
Help us to be attentive to your voice in our hearts.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Students are seated. Catechist takes Bible from enthronement and proclaims reading. Be sure reading is marked in advance.

Scripture Reading & Faith Sharing

The catechist makes the transition to this movement by describing that God guides us to be faithful, active disciples by being present in our hearts as we live, pray and act.

Proclaim the reading (Romans 2:14-16):

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans…

After the reading a brief period of silence follows. Then, ask the students these or similar questions:

  • What did you hear in the reading? Name the word or phrase you most remember.
  • What is Paul saying about the Gentiles?

After the students' initial response, proclaim the reading again.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans…

Then ask the following questions:

  • What kind of law is Paul talking about in the reading? Is it a law that is part of the legal system? If not, what is it?
  • What kind of law is written in the heart?
  • Think about the class discussion that opened up the session. Have you had the experience of sensing a "law written in the heart" that helps you know what is right and wrong when you consider different issues? If so, describe your experience.
  • How does a person form the ability to choose between right and wrong, both for everyday decisions that affect one's personal life, and in decisions about stances to take on particular issues? How does a person develop the skills and values they need make the right choices?
  • What does the word "conscience" mean to you?

Faithful Citizenship Reading & Discussion Questions

The catechist makes a transition from reflection on the Scripture to discussion on the teaching of the Church. You may want to prepare a handout that includes these quotes, or project them on a PowerPoint slide. Begin by reading the quotes out loud.

The Church equips her members to address political and social questions by helping them to develop a well-formed conscience. Catholics have a serious and lifelong obligation to form their consciences in accord with human reason and the teaching of the Church. Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere "feeling" about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil (no. 17).

The formation of conscience includes several elements. First, there is a desire to embrace goodness and truth. For Catholics this begins with a willingness and openness to seek the truth and what is right by studying Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church as contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is also important to examine the facts and background information about various choices. Finally, prayerful reflection is essential to discern the will of God (no. 18).

The Church fosters well-formed consciences not only by teaching moral truth but also by encouraging its members to develop the virtue of prudence, which St. Ambrose described as "the charioteer of the virtues." Prudence enables us "to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1806). Prudence shapes and informs our ability to deliberate over available alternatives, to determine what is most fitting to a specific context, and to act decisively. Exercising this virtue often requires the courage to act in defense of moral principles when making decisions about how to build a society of justice and peace (no. 19)

- Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States

The following can be used as discussion questions:

  • Now that you have read the passage from Faithful Citizenship, did your definition of "conscience" change? How is conscience more than just a feeling you have?
  • Is conscience something that God gives us only to guide the daily decisions in our personal lives, or is there also a public dimension of conscience?
  • How could you use the bishops' descriptions of the elements of conscience to help you form your perspectives and beliefs on policy issues?
  • What does prudence mean? How does someone develop it?
  • Can you think of any times in your own life where you exercised the virtue of prudence in making choices (a) in your personal life, and (b) about issues in the public realm? Describe.

Closing Prayer

Gather students into a circle with the Bible reverently enthroned in the middle of the circle. Once all have quieted, the catechist walks to the center, picks up the Bible and proclaims Romans 2, verse 15 only. After returning the Bible to its place, continue with prayer.

Let us pray.
Father of all creation,
May we be listen to your voice in our hearts.
Help us form our consciences and live as faith disciples who are active in our communities.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Catechetical Session
Junior/Senior High School
Lesson Plan C

Theme: Avoiding Evil and Doing Good

Gathering

The first purpose of the opening of each session is to establish a sense of welcome and hospitality. The second purpose is to begin the session with the young person's human experience, i.e. her/his "story" or ideas. Have a Bible prominently enthroned in the room as the centerpiece for prayer and the proclamation of the Word.

Open the session by reminding students that in previous meetings, you discussed why Catholics are called to bring their faith to the political process, and about forming consciences so that you can make good decisions. Ask the students to say out loud some of the things they think Catholics like themselves are called to advocate for. Put things that Catholics are called to oppose on one side and things Catholics are called to support or promote on the other side. So, it might look something like this:

End abortion                                           Provide access to health care for everyone
End use of the death penalty                 Increase the minimum wage
Oppose euthanasia                                Support immigration laws that respect dignity of immigrants
Etc.                                                         Etc.

Don't label the columns in any way, just write responses on one side or the other.

Opening Prayer

Call the group to prayer. After an extended pause, continue with these or similar words:

Let us pray.
Father of all people,
Help us to be attentive to your voice in our hearts, that we might answer your call to defend those who are weak and vulnerable.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Students are seated. Catechist takes Bible from enthronement and proclaims reading. Be sure reading is marked in advance.

Scripture Reading & Faith Sharing

The catechist makes the transition to this movement by saying that in the reading we will hear, Jesus gives important advice to a young man who is looking to live out his faith authentically.

Proclaim the reading (Matthew 19:16-21):

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew…

After the reading a brief period of silence follows. Then, ask the students these or similar questions:

  • What did you hear in the reading? Name the word or phrase you most remember.
  • What does Jesus name as important commandments?

After the students' initial response, proclaim the reading again.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew…

Ask the following or similar discussion questions:

  • How do some of the commandments that Jesus mentioned relate to any of the issues that you named at the beginning of this session?
  • How does Jesus challenge the young man in the reading?
  • How is God calling you to go beyond the basic requirements of your faith and to be a disciple who puts faith into action?
  • What is the relationship between the commandments Jesus mentioned and our call to bring our faith to political life?

Faithful Citizenship Reading & Discussion Questions

The catechist makes a transition from reflection on the Scripture to discussion on the teaching of the Church.

There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called "intrinsically evil" actions. They must always be rejected and never supported. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. . . . A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

Similarly, human cloning, destructive research on human embryos, and other acts that directly violate the sanctity and dignity of human life are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified. Nor can violations of human dignity, such as acts of racism, treating workers as mere means to an end, deliberately subjecting workers to subhuman living conditions, treating the poor as disposable, or redefining marriage to deny its essential meaning, ever be justified (no. 23).

Opposition to intrinsically evil acts, which undercut the dignity of the human person, should also open our eyes to the good we must do, that is, to our positive duty to contribute to the common good and to act in solidarity with those in need. . . . The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors—basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work—is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means. Catholics must seek the best ways to respond to these needs (nos. 24-25).

Discuss the following with the students:

  • The bishops say that "both opposing evil and doing good are essential"? Why are both (not just one or the other) important for Catholics?

Go back to the list on the dry erase board/newsprint and ask if anyone can tell you why you organized the list like you did. Explain that some of their responses fell into the "opposing evil" category and others can be classified as "doing good." Ask if there are other responses they might like to add.

  • According to the bishops, what is an intrinsic evil? Give examples of acts that are intrinsically evil. Why must intrinsic evils always be opposed?
  • How does opposition to intrinsic evils prompt us to recognize "our positive duty" to do good?
  • What are some ways that you feel personally called to both oppose evil and do good?

Closing Prayer

Gather students into a circle. Use a litany prayer as part of your closing prayer. Pray that we might be disciples who put our faith in action by both opposing evil and doing good. The Catechist sets the example and then invites young people to add to the litany.

Let us pray. (Pause).
Father of goodness, we praise you for giving us the desire to work for justice for all.
We pray now that you would strengthen us to oppose evil and to do good in our communities.

  • That we might be strengthened to work together to end abortion. We pray to the Lord. "Lord, hear our prayer."
  • That we might work to provide food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work for all. We pray to the Lord…
  • For an end to the use of the death penalty. We pray to the Lord…
  • Pause for student's prayers.
  • Gathering our prayers into one, let us pray the prayer that Jesus taught us. Our Father…

We ask all these things through our Lord Jesus Christ who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


Catechetical Session
Junior/Senior High School
Lesson Plan D

Theme: Catholic Social Teaching and the Public Square

Gathering

The first purpose of the opening of each session is to establish a sense of welcome and hospitality. The second purpose is to begin the session with the young person's human experience. A Bible should be enthroned prominently in the room. Gather around the Word for prayer.

Prior to this session, collect recent newspapers and current events/news magazines. If you have internet access and devices, bookmark websites of major news organizations and tag recent popular memes, videos, etc. about current events or issues.  Ask the participants to spend the first ten minutes exploring some of these materials to identify some of the current events or issue that people are concerned about in today's world.

After the participants have had a chance to spend some time looking through the materials, invite responses from the large group about what some of those issues are. List them on a dry erase board or newsprint.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray.
Spirit of all life and goodness,
We praise you for the beauty of your people.
Help us to work to respect the dignity of all people, and to protect the common good.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Students are seated. Catechist takes Bible from enthronement and proclaims reading. Be sure reading is marked in advance.

Scripture Reading & Faith Sharing


Proclaim the reading (Matthew 25:31-46):

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew…

After the reading a brief period of silence follows. Then, the catechist asks the young people these or similar questions:

  • What experience have you had with a person who is hungry, a stranger, ill, or in prison?  How was the face of Christ present in him or her?
  • What is Jesus trying to teach us in this story?
  • How does this teaching relate to our roles as faithful disciples who are called to be active community members?

After the student's initial response, proclaim the reading again.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew…

Ask the following or similar discussion questions:

  • Think about the current events and issues you brainstormed a few minutes ago.  Who do you think is hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, a stranger, or imprisoned in our world today?

Faithful Citizenship Reading and Discussion

The catechist makes a transition from reflection on the Scripture to discussion on the teaching of the Church.

The Catholic approach to faithful citizenship rests on moral principles found in Sacred Scripture and Catholic moral and social teaching as well as in the hearts of all people of good will. . . . Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. . . . We revere the lives of children in the womb, the lives of persons dying in war and from starvation, and indeed the lives of all human beings as children of God. We stand opposed to these and all activities that contribute to what Pope Francis has called "a throwaway culture" (nos. 44-45).

The human person is not only sacred but also social. Full human development takes place in relationship with others. The family-based on marriage between a man and a woman-is the first and fundamental unit of society . . . How we organize our society-in economics and politics, in law and policy-directly affects the common good and the capacity of individuals to develop their full potential. Every person and association has a right and a duty to participate actively in shaping society and to promote the well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable (nos. 47-48).

Every human being has a right to life, the fundamental right that makes all other rights possible, and a right to access those things required for human decency-food and shelter, education and employment, health care and housing, freedom of religion and family life. . . . Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities-to one another, to our families, and to the larger society. . . . The economy must serve people, not the other way around. It is therefore necessary that an economic system serve the dignity of the human person and the common good by respecting the dignity of work and protecting the rights of workers. . . . We have a moral obligation to protect the planet on which we live-to respect God's creation and to ensure a safe and hospitable environment for human beings, especially children at their most vulnerable stages of development (nos. 49-51).

We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions and requires us to eradicate racism and address the extreme poverty and disease plaguing so much of the world. Solidarity also includes the scriptural call to welcome the stranger among us-including immigrants seeking work (no. 52).

Ask the following or similar discussion questions to spark discussion:

  • What values do these quotes lift up that should be important to Catholics? 
  • How might these values help us, as Catholics, to form our perspectives about the issues facing the world that we brainstormed in the beginning of this session?
  • What issues facing members of our human family are you most concerned about?  How could you and your school (or parish) respond?

Beforehand, the catechist should visit the WeAreSaltAndLight.org website, which is a project of the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, to gather ideas about how the young people can pray, reach out, and learn together in order to explore a particular issue of interest in light of our faith.  Any effort to respond to an issue of concern should be preceded by prayer and reflection (Pray Together), encounter with those who are impacted (Reach Out Together), and social analysis guided by Catholic social teaching (Learn Together).  The Act Together section suggests numerous ways of acting through service and relief, advocacy, community development, ethical choices and more.  The site also contains over 60 stories of how communities of faith, including youth, are putting faith in action.

Closing Prayer

Return to the adult gathering or return to the prayer circle.

After all have gathered in silence, proclaim the reading.

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew…(Matthew 25:31-46)

Ask the young people to call to mind those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, or stranger. Pray for them now.

Pause in silence.

Let us pray.
Father of all creation,
You made humanity in your image and likeness.
May we see Jesus' face in those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, and stranger.
Spirit of justice, help us and all your people to seek respect for the dignity of all people and work to protect the common good.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.



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