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Junior and High School Age Student Lesson Plans

 
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:
A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility
Catechetical Session
Junior/Senior High School

The following six 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

Theme: The Call to Participate in Public Life

Gathering


The first purpose of the opening movement 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 describing the theme in relation to the election year. There is a definite 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, read 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 Church says (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. This 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" (nos. 1913).
--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.)
  • 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 bishops say that it is necessary that "all participate" in political life.

  • 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 for Children and Adolescents" guide, which can be found in the Parishes and Schools 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) 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, continue with 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.


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 the 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, read 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 her members to develop the virtue of prudence. 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.

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 the weak and the 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, read 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. These intrinsically evil acts must always be rejected and never supported. A preeminent example is the intentional taking of human life through abortion. It is always morally wrong to destroy innocent human beings. A legal system that allows the right to life to be violated on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.

Similarly, direct threats to the dignity of human life such as euthanasia, human cloning, and destructive research on human embryos are also intrinsically evil and must be opposed. Other assaults on human life and dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified. Disrespect for any human life diminishes respect for all human life.

Opposition to intrinsically evil acts also prompts us to recognize our positive duty to contribute to the common good and act in solidarity with those in need. Both opposing evil and doing good are essential. . . The basic right to life implies and is linked to other human rights to the goods that every person needs to live and thrive—including food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work. The use of the death penalty, hunger, lack of health care or housing, human trafficking, the human and moral costs of war, and unjust immigration policies are some of the serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.
- The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (bulletin insert)

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 "supporting 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. 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 health care 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.



Lesson Plan D

Theme: Life and Dignity of the Human Person

Gathering

The first purpose of the opening movement 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 pictures and photographs of a wide variety of people. Cut out pictures from newspapers, magazines, the internet, and other sources. Tape each picture to a piece of sturdy paper so you can hold up individual pictures to show the class.

Try to include pictures of people the young people will likely view positively and people they will likely view less positively. Examples include pictures of a newborn, an elderly person, a prisoner, a homeless person, a rich person, a movie star, a famous athlete, a pop music star, people of various ethnic backgrounds, people of various colors.

Beginning with the people the young people will likely view more positively, hold up the pictures one at a time. Ask the young people to use their imaginations to name a positive or good characteristic about each person. Below is a sample of what the list might look like. Write the list (lefthand column below only) on newsprint or the dry erase board.

Picture

    

Positive Quality

New born baby

    

sweet and cuddly

A famous singer

    

popular, good singer

A well-known athlete

    

great athlete

A well-known actor

 

Actor, talented

A fireman

 

Saves lives

An elderly person

    

wise

A homeless person

    

kind to others

A prisoner

    

Helpful to other prisoners

A terrorist

    

supportive father

(There may be no response to this kind of picture)


As you hold up pictures of the people the students view "less positively" (prisoners, homeless people), note that they will be slower about naming positive qualities. Make note of this. Point out that it is not easy to see the good in some people, even though there is some good in every person. Sin is a part of all our lives and some people turn to sin in significant ways. Nonetheless, Catholic Christians believe that all people are created by God with goodness and holiness. We believe each person is a precious child of God from before we are born through the end of our lives.

Note: Older students may have an easier time thinking of possible good things about the last few pictures. To make it more difficult, you might do this activity "rapid response" style where students have only 5 seconds to name as many positive qualities as possible before moving on to the next picture. Afterwards, you can compare how easy/difficult it was to come up with the good qualities.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray.
Spirit of all life and goodness,
We praise you for the beauty of your people.
Help us to see the sacred in every person and to treat them accordingly
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 (Genesis 1:26-31):

A reading from the Book of Genesis…


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

  • What is God telling us about human beings?
  • What does this reading tell us about God?

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

A reading from the Book of Genesis…

Ask the following or similar discussion questions:

  • What does it mean that humans are created in God's image?
  • Name a quality in yourself that is of God's image.
  • If we are made in God's image, why do some people commit evil acts?

 

Faithful Citizenship Reading and Discussion


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

We believe that every human being is good in his or her own way because every person was created by God in His image. Therefore, even people who may seem mean or unappealing must be treated with kindness. The weakest people in our world must be given special attention by Christians because sometimes they are forgotten or mistreated, especially unborn children, old people, and people who are terminally ill.Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition.
-- Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility (no. 44)

Ask the following or similar discussion questions to spark discussion:

  • What is this quote saying?
  • According to Church teaching, do all these people have the same dignity?
    • an unborn child
    • a doctor
    • a homeless person
    • a World Trade Center victim on 9/11/01
    • a terrorist
  • Are there people or groups of people in the United States who are not treated with the respect they deserve? Who are they? Why are they treated as they are? What can you do?
  • What does your school do to ensure that students are treated with respect? What do you think your school or teachers need to do better in order to ensure that all students are treated with respect?
  • What can you or your class do to show you believe that every person is created in goodness and holiness by God? See "Developing Faith-Based Action Plans for Children and Adolescents," found in the Parishes and Schools section of the Faithful Citizenship website, for suggestions on implementing an action plan. Some ideas to consider include:
    • Participate in a local pro-life march or anti-hunger walk-a-thon, or 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 protect human life and dignity.
    • Volunteer to organize activities at a nursing home one day per month.
    • Establish a pen pal relationship with a class or youth group from a parish in another part of the world.
    • Visit the web pages of various departments of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org) to learn more about public policy issues of concern and then write a letter to a legislator about one of these issues.
    • Contact your parish social concerns coordinator or your diocesan social action director for additional ideas.

Closing Prayer


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

Return to the pictures used in the opening exercise. Respectfully place the pictures in the middle of your prayer space near the Bible. After all have gathered in silence, proclaim the reading.

A Reading from the Book of Genesis…(Genesis 1:26-31)

Pause in silence for a few moments.

Let us pray.
Father of all creation,
You made humanity in your image and likeness.
May we be respectful of all your people, especially the unborn, the elderly, the sick and the poor.
Spirit of life, help us and all your people to live as the holy people you made us to be.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Lesson Plan E

Theme: Solidarity (One human family)

Gathering

The first purpose of the opening movement 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."

Open the session by describing the discussion for the day as being about the oneness of the human family. We live in a global village where we are neighbors with people around the globe. Think about the notion of "neighbor."

  • Describe a time when someone was a "good neighbor" to you.

When someone asked Jesus the question, "Who is my neighbor?" he told them a story. Let's pray and listen to the story.

Opening Prayer

Gather the young people in a circle with the Bible reverently enthroned in the middle. The Catechist stands in a prayerful posture and prays with hands raised, inviting all to do the same.

Let us pray.
Father of all people, we thank you for the beautiful human family you have made. Loving Spirit, help us to be good neighbors. 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 (Luke 10:25-37):
A reading from the Gospel of Luke…

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

  • What strikes you in this reading? What stands out for you?
  • Who was the hero in the story? Why?
  • What might you have done? Which character in the story do you think you would have been?What does this story tell us about how we should live our lives?
  • Listen to the story again. As you listen, imagine the characters being people of today.

After initial response, read the reading again.

A reading from the Gospel of Luke…

Ask the following or similar discussion questions:

  • What did the story look like in your imagination, set in current times?
  • Who was the Samaritan? What were the other characters like?
  • Why did you imagine the characters as you did?
  • Who are our neighbors—those we must care for—today?

Faithful Citizenship Reading and Discussion


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

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, a safe home, education for their children, and a decent life for their families. In light of the Gospel's invitation to be peacemakers, our commitment to solidarity with our neighbors—at home and abroad—also demands that we promote peace and pursue justice in a world marred by terrible violence and conflict. Decisions on the use of force should be guided by traditional moral criteria and undertaken only as a last resort. As Pope Paul VI taught: "If you want peace, work for justice" (World Day of Peace Message, January 1, 1972) (no. 53).
-- Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility (no. 44)

After the reading, explain that the Church has a word for our oneness (write the word on the blackboard): SOLIDARITY

God made us to be one, solid human family. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are united with our sisters and brothers throughout our school, our neighborhood, city, country and the world. Ask the following:

  • When listening to music, watching television, being at a concert or sporting event, do you ever have the sense of being connected to others? Describe.
  • How can you be responsible for someone who lives in another country?
  • What can you do to show your solidarity with others? Some ideas to consider include:
    • Plan a "Food Fast" as a way to help those who are hungry and to heighten your solidarity with the poor. See the Catholic Relief Service website at http://crs.org/. Contact your diocesan director of the Catholic
    • Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) to identify a local group working to empower low-income people. Find out how you can work with the group.
    • Establish a pen pal relationship with a class or youth group from a parish in another part of the world.
    • When you read a newspaper article or watch a news story that tells about someone who is suffering, spend some time in prayer to lift up their pain, ask God to heal their suffering, pray for those who might have caused the suffering, and ask for help in responding to the issue.
    • Sponsor a "Work of Human Hands" holiday bazaar where your parish or school community can buy holiday gifts from workers in other lands that are receiving fair wages. Go to http://www.crsfairtrade.org/crafts
    • Organize your school or parish to use "Fair Trade" Coffee, which is grown by workers who receive fair wages. Go to http://www.crsfairtrade.org/.
    • Contact your parish social concerns coordinator or your diocesan social action director for additional ideas.
    • Write a letter to a legislator on international justice and peace issues about which USCCB has issued action alerts. Visit http://new.usccb.org/issues-and-action/take-action-now/ .

Closing Prayer


Return to the adult gathering or return to the prayer circle

Use a litany prayer. Pray for "neighbors" who are in need, particularly those mentioned during the session. Catechist sets the example and then invites young people to add to the litany.

Let us pray. (Pause).
Father, our creator, we praise you for the diversity and goodness of all people. We pray now for our neighbors, particularly those in need.

  • For children and teens throughout the world, especially those who are poor and do not have the freedom we enjoy. We pray to the Lord. "Lord, hear our prayer."
  • For the people of Iraq. We pray to the Lord…
  • For the people of Afghanistan. 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…

 


Lesson Plan F

Theme: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

Gathering

The first purpose of the opening movement 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." A Bible should be enthroned prominently in the room. Gather around Word for prayer.

Begin by using the image of a table: Who has a place at the table of life? Ask the young people to close their eyes and imagine a grand banquet table that has been set for a feast. Give them quiet time to imagine the picture in their minds.

  • Who is present at the table? Describe the people.

Allow time for each person to name and describe some of the people who are present at the table. Next, ask if anyone has room at their table for prisoners, or strangers, or the sick, or for those who are hungry or homeless?

Jesus tells us that we are to welcome those who are strangers, feed the hungry, visit prisoners and those who are the sick. And, Jesus says even more! Let's pray and then listen to a gospel reading.

Opening Prayer

Let us pray.
Good and caring Father, you give us all that we have. Spirit of Compassion, help us to share what we have with those who are less fortunate. Help us also to work to end poverty and to promote justice in our world by speaking up for those in need in our community, our nation, and our world. 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 these or similar questions:

  • What did you hear Jesus saying in the reading?
  • What was surprising?

After the initial response, read the reading again.

A reading from the Gospel of Mathew…

Then ask the following:

  • What is Jesus trying to teach us in this story?
  • Is this teaching hard to follow? Why or why not?
  • Name a time when "Jesus" was hungry and you fed him? Or, thirsty and you gave him drink? Or, a stranger and you welcomed him? Or, sick and you visited him?
  • How does this teaching relate to our roles as faithful disciples who are called to be active community members?

Faithful Citizenship Reading and Discussion

The catechist makes a transition from reflection on the Scripture to discussion on the teaching of the Church. Several readings and related questions can be used by the catechist to explore the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable.

Jesus had a special love for people who were hungry or thirsty or sick or in prison. He had a special love for the poor and the weak. The Church continues the teachings of Jesus. The Church teaches that we must help those who are poor and weak.

[Note: If the young people have questions about why we care especially for those who are poor and vulnerable (don't we care for all God's children?), it may help to ask them to imagine a parent walking with two children along a beach. If one child gets swept into the surf, will the parent treat both children the same? No, the parent responds in special ways to the child whose needs are greatest, even though the parent loves both children. In the same way, our brothers and sisters whose needs are greatest, those who are poor and vulnerable, have a special claim on our concern and attention.]

While the common good embraces all, those who are weak, vulnerable, and most in need deserve preferential concern. A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. In a society marred by deepening disparities between rich and poor, Scripture gives us the story of the Last Judgment (see Mt 25:31-46) and reminds us that we will be judged by our response to the "least among us."
- Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (no. 50)
  • What does it mean to put the needs of the poor first?
Pope Benedict XVI has taught that "love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel" (Deus Caritas Est, no. 22). This preferential option for the poor and vulnerable includes all who are marginalized in our nation and beyond—unborn children, persons with disabilities, the elderly and terminally ill, and victims of injustice and oppression.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States (no. 51).

The Church also tells us that when we care for the poor we are being faithful disciples and good community members. The leaders of our cities, towns and country must also care for the poor.

Faithful Citizenship (no. 50) quotes the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere. (no. 2448).
  • What can we do to show we care for the poor?
  • What can the leaders of our cities and our country do?

After the discussion, talk about the concrete steps young people can take to care for the poor. As a group, develop a plan for how your class will put the needs of the poor first. Here are a few examples:

  • Visit the web sites of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website (www.usccb.org/cchd/), Catholics Confront Global Poverty (http://crs.org/globalpoverty) or Bread for the World (www.bread.org). The USCCB is an organization run by the bishops of the United States, who often speak out on issues affecting the poor and vulnerable. CCHD focuses on poverty in the United States. Catholics Confront Global Poverty is a joint initiative of USCCB and Catholic Relief Services to address the causes of poverty around the world. Bread is a Christian citizen movement seeking justice for the world's hungry people by lobbying our nation's decision makers. These sites contain information and ideas for actions.
  • Also visit the current Action Alerts on the USCCB website to find out about issues of current focus. Visit http://new.usccb.org/issues-and-action/take-action-now/ and write a letter to your legislative representatives.
  • Plan a "Food Fast" as a way to help those who are hungry and to heighten your solidarity with the poor. See the Catholic Relief Service website at http://crs.org/.
  • Contact your diocesan director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) to identify a local group working to empower low-income people. Find out how you can work with the group.
  • Organize families to participate in a "lobby night" or pro-life march if one is being planned by your diocese or state Catholic conference.
  • Participate in a local anti-hunger walk-a-thon.
  • 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.
  • Meet on a Saturday morning to work together at the local St. Vincent de Paul chapter or local food pantry.
  • Bring in canned goods. Have a prayer, blessing and discussion before delivering to the local food pantry.
  • Contact the local Children's Hospital to ask what your class could do to be of service to hospitalized children. Some hospitals accept donations of new toys or books. (Remember the gospel of Matthew 25: 36. Discuss with students that although these children may or may not be "poor," they are "the vulnerable.")
  • Establish a "pen pal" relationship with a parish religious education class or youth group in another country.
  • Collect clothing and toys for children of the same age—perhaps at a time other than Christmas—and donate them to a local organization serving low-income children.
  • Contact your parish or diocesan social concerns or pro-life coordinator for additional ideas.
  • See "Developing Faith-Based Action Plans for Children and Adolescents" for suggestions on implementing your actions plans.

Closing Prayer

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

Gather once again in the same space where the opening prayer was celebrated. Recall the table image used in the opening exercise.

  • Ask the young people to remember the table that they pictured in their minds earlier.
  • Remember the people who were there.
  • Remember the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the poor who were not there at first. Picture them now at your table. Pray for them now.

Let us pray.
Good and caring Father, thank you for all you have given to us.
We pray now for those who are poor, imprisoned and sick.
Help us to follow the teaching of Jesus by helping those in need and working for justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus your Son and through the power of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.
Amen.

 

 


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