One very popular activity for children, is taking the 4 basic prayers line by line, putting one line on each desk. Then ask who has a line from the Our Father. Then have the children come up with the lines to the front of the room. If they are not in order have the children who are sitting down figure our which line comes next. Teresa Bobe, Patchogue, NY
Take a printout of each prayer [in a large font] to Staples or Kinko’s and have it blown up and laminated on brightly colored card stock. Then cut it into strips, making sentence fragments, like puzzle pieces. Last, give a prayer to each table or small group of children and have them work as a team to put it all together in the right order. Lisa Mladinich, St. Matthew Church, Dix Hills, NY
Once I used this in-classroom penance service (followed by later individual confessions): We talked about the beach and I asked who had ever written or built something in the sand, only to have the waves wash it away? (Most everyone, of course.) Then we transitioned into talking about how God is that way with our sins. I had taken a big piece of purple silky cloth and put it in a large baking pan (artfully draped and arranged to cover the pan) and filled it with sand. Then each child came up and wrote something in the sand that they were sorry for, and then erased it by passing their hand over it. It was a real light-bulb moment for the kids and I could see by their eyes that they really got it. Another involved those "trick" candles on cupcakes. I lit the candles and then went around the room and asked each child if they could think of anything wrong they could do that would extinguish God's love for them. . . they named the worst thing they could think of, then blew out the candle, only to have it reignite, of course. (This worked well for several until years until one year, when Father just happened to be in our class when we were doing this exercise, and one one kid's candle actually DID stay out . . . so Father deadpans, "Wow, you must have done something really bad!") One caveat. . . have a glass of water handy for extinguishing when you are done because they will keep reigniting forever, causing a lot of smoke and threatening to set off the fire-alarm (not that I neglected to think of this myself the first time . . . ok, ok, I did forget, but it ended okay!). Mary Grace McCoy, Iglesia Catolica de Santa Julia/St. Julia's Catholic Church in Siler City, North Carolina
First Holy Communion
Problem: Teaching those who have been incorrectly receiving without proper preparation to appreciate the value of that preparation: Perhaps you could use the problem (someone receiving Eucharist prior to Easter) to reinforce the concept of a family meal, making the analogy to the child that perhaps when his mother is cooking for a very big feast, she does not let him/her run in the kitchen and help himself to the food she is preparing; instead, he must wait until the proper meal time before he/she can have the delicious food. Or perhaps you could talk about foods that are more challenging to eat that the child had to be shown how to eat . . . I'm thinking about things like a coconut that is very hard to crack if you don't know the trick, or a lobster. . . something that would explain to the child that you are trying now to educate him/her in how to consume this most important meal. Or how about making an analogy with popcorn. . . you would never, ever eat the kernels all by themselves (i.e., receive Eucharist before being prepared for it), but if you let the kernels sit in the hot oil (come to class faithfully, learn all you can, etc.), eventually they will pop into big fluffy kernels (First Eucharist at Easter). Another alternative might be an analogy with Christmas . . . you could ask what it would feel like if they opened all their gifts before Christmas and then had nothing on Christmas morning to open. With teens or adults, you could probably take the approach of asking them to fast from the Eucharist until Easter if they have already been receiving, and you could tie that into a general discussion about the purpose of fasts in our spiritual lives. Mary Grace McCoy, Iglesia Catolica de Santa Julia/St. Julia's Catholic Church in Siler City, North Carolina
One technique I use with my teenagers (talk about hating to come!) is . . . I keep them a little off-balance as far as what to expect from class . . . it is never the same two weeks in a row. . . they never know what sort of lesson it will be . . . something really creative and fun . . . something really challenging . . . . something offbeat. . . . sometimes I think they come to class just to see what I'm going to do on a given day (even though I am still giving them the same information no matter how it is packaged) . . . they are learning it in spite of themselves sometimes!
Mary Grace McCoy, Iglesia Catolica de Santa Julia/St. Julia's Catholic Church in Siler City, North Carolina
Our curriculum is challenging for them to read on their own, so I have them copy the outline of the new lesson from the board into their folders when they first come in. Next, we discuss each point in depth. Finally, they are assigned to read the chapter at home. Irene Filfiley, St. Patrick Church, Huntington, NY