One of the reasons I started this blog was to help my friends who are still in the Catechetics major at Franciscan University. One of the models we are taught to use when planning a youth group event is called the ecclesial method. It consists of 5 steps. I plan on reviewing the youth nights I run in light of the Ecclesial method. I pray this will give students and other youth ministers an idea of what the ecclesial method looks like in action (I do not use the ecclesial method perfectly by any means but hope you may gain something by my attempts.)
(This overview of the Ecclesial Method is adapted from a handout made by Prof. James Pauley of Franciscan University of Steubenville)
The Ecclesial Method
The first step of the ecclesial method is Preparation. Francis Kelly, in his book The Mystery We Proclaim, said “The catechist must help create the conditions for the possibility of a deepening of God’s Word in the hearts of those being served.” (TMWP, p.138) This step includes the physical environment, disposition of the catechist, and having a relationship of trust with the youth. The most important part of the preparation step is PRAYER. This means that we teach the youth to pray using the diversity of Christian prayer.
The second step of the ecclesial method is Proclamation. This is the central step. It is the heart of the message being given to the youth expressed in one to three sentences. A good proclamation is: - Short, concise, easy to remember
- Not read but proclaimed from the heart with confidence and joy
- Age appropriate and group appropriate
- Visually present before the students
- Constantly reinforced throughout the Catechesis
- Expressed as positive and worthy of being proclaimed
The third step is Explanation. This is where the proclamation is fleshed out and explained to the youth in a way that they can assimilate it and apply it to their lives. This is normally the longest step. It should be presented in a way that it requires the active participation of the youth.
Application is the fourth step. This is the step where the youth are called to apply this step to their lives in a way that facilitates conversion.
Characteristics: - Involves call to deepened commitment to following Christ and his will in our lives and seeing how the Gospel message relates to the culture.
- Catechist acts as mediator of this call to conversion.
- There are may forms this step can take (i.e. small groups, meditation, journaling, praying with others, opportunities for specific resolutions for growth in holiness.)
The final step of the Ecclesial Method is Celebration. If the catechetical process begins in prayerful attentiveness and openness to the Word of God, I believe that it must also end in prayerful gratitude and praise to God.” (TMWP, p.146-147)
Characteristics: - Cultivates a spirit of praise and gratitude in the presence of God’s Word.
- Ends in a place of thanksgiving and not criticism, skepticism, confusion. The goal is for the learner to leave the catechetical setting in a place of peace and joy and preparedness for life’s challenges.
Examples: - Liturgy of the Word, liturgy of hours, a focus on liturgical year
- Creative us of symbols (cross, candle, image of Mary)
- Movement/gesture (perhaps moving into the Church to pray or inviting learners to come up individually to receive prayers of the group
This is the model that is taught in Catechetics classes at Franciscan University and one can find this same model in many different forms within the youth ministry community. It is a good framework to keep in mind when planning youth group events. I will be using this model to review our youth nights here at St. Thomas More.
For more information on the Ecclesial Method see The Mystery We Proclaim by: Msgr. Francis Kelly and The General Directory of Catechesis by: The United States Council of Catholic Bishops