STEP ONE: A Faith Response to the Word of God
The Church encourages Catholics to "act upon the Church’s teaching" (Faithful Citizenship, no. 5). This is an essential part of living our faith. As St. James tells us, "faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (Jas 2:15-17). Our actions are to be faith-filled responses to the Word of God. This life-giving Word calls for a response from us. Thus, an essential step in any action plan is to reflect on God's Word as given to us in Sacred Scripture and as reflected in the teachings of the Church. To help with this reflection step, several sample lesson plans have been developed.
STEP TWO: A Decision for Action
- At the end of each session, ask yourself and the participants:
- How will I/we respond to what we have heard?
- What am I being called to do?
- What will I/we do?
Allow participants to brainstorm freely. Encourage all ideas to be voiced. The more creative the better! They will have much more ownership if they decide what action needs to be taken. Nonetheless, the leader can be helpful by providing information about local and national agencies that need help or provide resources. (For example: your local Catholic Charities, diocesan Pro-Life or Social Concerns offices, St. Vincent de Paul, Bread for the World, USCCB, Catholic Charities USA, or Catholic Relief Services.)
A few sample activities are listed below:
- Making and serving sandwiches or other foods at a soup kitchen.
- Collecting canned goods, clothing, or other items for people in need.
- Tutoring children from a low-income neighborhood.
- Raising money for international relief efforts.
- Participating in a pro-life march.
- Writing letters to local legislators about issues affecting poor and vulnerable people.
- Educating people in your community about a particular issue.
- Writing a letter-to-the-editor about issues affecting poor and vulnerable people for school and local newspapers.
- Discuss what you will do and why you are doing it. Be specific and clear. Write your objective on newsprint. You should ideally choose both an activity focused on service and one that involves working for justice.
- Make a list of the action steps required to complete your plan.
- Who needs to be contacted and informed?
- When will this happen?
- What materials are needed?
- Who will help?
- What type of prayer and reflection will follow and/or be a part of the event?
- List the steps for implementing the plan.
STEP THREE: Implement the Action Plan
Introduce the activity as indicated in Step 2. Facilitate the group members’ participation in the activity, making sure the objective is clear. Accompany the participants as they engage in the activity, helping them to stay focused on the stated objective.
STEP FOUR: Reflection after the Event
After you have completed your task, gather your group for reflection on the experience. This may be done immediately after the event, but if that is not possible, take time during your next session to reflect on the meaning of your actions.
Begin with prayer:
Let us pray. Pause in silence.
God of compassion, we thank you for the opportunity to serve our sisters and brothers in the name of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. May your Holy Spirit guide all our works and help us to be faithful disciples. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ask your participants to reflect on the tasks they have recently completed. Allow time for all to quietly reflect before speaking. Ask these or similar questions:
- What did you feel?
- What did it mean?
- How are you different?
- How did your action relate to Scripture and Catholic social teaching?
- What did you learn about the needs of people in our society?
- What did you learn about the causes behind those needs? Why might people be in the situations they are in? Is there anything more our community could be doing to help them?
Encourage participants to consider how lack of employment, low-wage jobs, and other factors often cause people to need help. Talk about how our society can address these causes through laws, policies, and programs.
Close the reflection session with the sign of peace and celebrate your accomplishment with social time and refreshments, if possible.