Educational Resource

Timeline Activity

Year Published
  • 2012
  • English

How  well do you know your Catholic social  teaching documents? church-small

Challenge yourself with this activity, which can be  completed either individually or in small groups. During the activity, you will  increase your familiarity with the major social teaching documents and explore  the development of the Church’s social teaching since 1891.

Materials Needed:

How to implement this activity with a group:

  1. Provide background information.
    An encyclical is a letter from the Holy Father that is a  “teaching document.” Its audience is every Catholic and all people of good  will.  A “social encyclical” applies the consistent, traditional moral  teachings of the Church to the social and economic challenges of the current day.  For example, the most recent social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, was written to address the current economic  crisis and other issues facing the world today, and deals with moral aspects of  economic life, poverty and development, human rights and duties, environmental  responsibility, and other moral and economic issues.
  2. Break into small groups of 2-3  persons each.

    Provide each group with a copy of the timeline of events (you may want to provide tape to  adhere the pages of the timeline together horizontally) and batches of the cut-out  rectangles with the Catholic social teaching documents descriptions. Explain  that we are going to see how, over the past 120 years, these documents have  helped guide Catholics’ perspectives on issues and problems facing our human  family.
  3. Small group activity.
    Ask each group to read the events on the timelines and to try to  match the cut-out rectangles describing the documents with the events timeline.  If participants need help, tell them to pay attention to:

    • Events  mentioned in the timeline that are also mentioned in the social documents  descriptions.
    • The names of  the popes, since documents by the same popes will follow one another.
    • References  to anniversaries, since some documents were written to celebrate the  anniversary of a previous document.
  4. Checking answers.
    When all the groups are finished, go through  each of the years on the timeline one-by-one, mentioning some of the events  that happened that year. For each year, ask participants to call out the  correct social teaching document. The group leader can check answers using the answer key.  When the correct document is named, ask the  person who got it correct to explain how the document was responding to those  issues facing the world.
  5. Discussion. Discuss following questions:
  • What social teaching document did you find most interesting? Why?
  • Name an example of how a social teaching document responded to issues facing the human family at a particular time?  How did that document help Catholics see  issues facing the world in the light of their faith?
  • Which document(s) might you be most interested in reading in full?  Be sure to mention that students can find links to the text of all the  documents at!