New Systemic Approaches - Continued

May 28, 2024

Planning for Parish Catechesis in 2024-2025
Part Three, Article 2/2

Part Three in the “Planning for Parish Catechesis” series proposes six systemic approaches that can stimulate your thinking about planning new initiatives in 2024-25. We have already explored multi-platform programming and creating a menu of faith forming experiences. In earlier articles we explored strengthening the intergenerational fabric of our parish communities and building front porch experiences for faith formation. Here is the list of articles:

Idea 1: Multi-platform programming (See Part Three Article 1)

Idea 2: Menu of faith forming experiences (See Part Three Article 1)

Idea 3: Catechumenal formation process (below)

Idea 4: Seamless family faith formation (below)

Idea 5: Intergenerational fabric of the faith community (See

Idea 6: Front porch experiences (See

This article concludes the series with Idea # 3 for a catechumenal formation process for sacramental preparation, and Ideas # 4 for family faith formation from birth to high school graduation to strengthen the primary faith forming community and support parents in providing religious socialization at home.

Idea #3. A Catechumenal Formation Process for Sacraments

The catechumenal model of formation embodies all five interrelated tasks of catechesis in the Directory for Catechesis – knowledge of the faith, understanding and experience of liturgical celebrations, Christian formation of the moral conscience, educating for prayer and in prayer, and developing belonging to the Church and living its mission. It is a holistic formation process that includes:

  • A first proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma)
  • A comprehensive introduction to the Christian life
  • Liturgies, rituals, and symbols that engage the heart and the senses
  • A community of faith and support
  • Apprenticeship and mentoring in faith
  • Engagement in the mission of the Church and service to the world
  • Formation that fosters conversion of heart and mind in a new way of life
  • Ever deeper formation in faith and the life of the community (mystagogy)

It is an evangelizing catechesis – integrating information, formation, and transformation. It is an apprenticeship in the Christian life. The catechumenal model respects and supports the faith journeys of each individual in a gradual process of formation and transformation.

A parish can embrace the baptismal catechumenate by utilizing the journey of faith in the catechumenal process to develop holistic models of formation for all ages with special attention to preparation for the sacraments of Marriage, Baptism, First Eucharist, and Confirmation.

Using the catechumenal process, catechesis can be personalized around people’s religious faith and practices: 1) who have a vibrant faith and relationship with God and are engaged in a faith community, 2) who participate occasionally in the faith community and whose faith is less central to their daily lives, 3) who are uninvolved in a faith community and who value and live their spirituality outside of organized religion, and 4) who are unaffiliated and have left involvement in organized religion, and have little need for God or religion in their lives. The catechumenal process can offer catechesis for those who need “taste and see” experiences, “refresher” experiences, “growing” experiences, and “going deeper” experiences.


A Catechumenal Process for Baptism

Three Pathways through “Remote” Preparation for Parents

  • For parents who have not been active in their faith life and practice – provide a first proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma) and then an introduction to the Christian life.
  • For parents who need a refresher – provide an introduction to the Christian life.
  • For parents who are growing in their faith – provide an exploration of the areas of the Christian life where they need growth.

“Immediate” Preparation for All Parents

  • Catechesis on Baptism: theology, rituals, and symbols
  • Engagement with a community of faith and support – other parents or families and the intergenerational faith community
  • Mentoring by members of the faith community

Celebration of Baptism

Continued Growth and Accompaniment (Mystagogy)

  • A continuous plan for family forming from Baptism to First Eucharist using the seven elements of faith forming (see Idea #4 on Family Faith Formation)
  • Continuing parent formation
  • Continued mentoring and support for parents
  • Continued engagement with a community of faith and support


A Catechumenal Process for First Eucharist

Pathways through “Remote” Preparation for Parents and Children

  • For parents and children who have not been active in their faith life and practice – provide a first proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma) and then an introduction to the Christian life.
  • For parents and families who are active and growing in their faith – provide an exploration of the areas of the Christian life where they need growth.

“Immediate” Preparation for All Parents

  • Catechesis on the sacrament of Eucharist: theology, rituals, and symbols
  • Family-centered preparation for the whole family – large group or parent/family small groups
  • Family retreat experience
  • Engagement with the intergenerational faith community and Sunday Mass

Celebration of the Sacrament

Continued Growth and Accompaniment (Mystagogy)

  • Family catechesis programming in the parish
  • A continuous plan for faith formation at home using the seven elements of faith forming
  • Parent formation
  • Continued mentoring and support for parents
  • Continued engagement with a community of faith and support


A Catechumenal Process for Confirmation

Pathways through “Remote” Preparation for Young People

  • For young people who are not actively living their faith and have not been involved in faith formation since their First Eucharist – provide a first proclamation of the Gospel (kerygma) and then an introduction to the Christian life. Consider offering a specialized mini-course or retreat experience or a small group mentored experience focused on an introduction to the Christian faith and the parish community.
  • For young people who are actively practicing their faith and have been involved in faith formation – provide a deeper exploration into the Bible and the Catholic tradition in areas special interest to them.


  • Catechesis on the sacrament of Confirmation: theology, rituals, and symbols – offered in a series of sessions more than once a year with sponsors invited to journey with the young people and participate in sessions.
  • Spiritual formation in the practices of prayer
  • Engagement with a community of faith and support – offered through intergenerational service projects, parish prayer partners, parish-wide liturgies and activities, and more.
  • Retreat opportunities offered in different formats and time commitments.
  • Mentoring by members of the faith community – creating programming which encourages young people to partner with an adult in short term formats such as a five-week Lenten faith sharing series.

Celebration of the Sacrament

Continued Growth and Accompaniment (Mystagogy)

  • Preparation for living one’s faith in the young adult years
  • In-depth catechesis that is interest-based
  • Exploration of calling and vocation
  • Intergenerational projects in the faith community
    • Involvement in leadership and peer ministry
    • Continued mentoring


While it may not be feasible to offer three types of “preparation programs.” Parishes can offer enough variety to address diverse needs and provide pathways for adolescents to grow in faith in ways appropriate to their faith journey. A menu approach (see Idea #2) to confirmation preparation provides a way to offer specific experiences, programs, and activities designed to promote growth in faith for young people who want to grow deeper in the faith, for young people who are inquiring or aren’t sure the Catholic faith is for them, and for those who don’t need God or religion in their lives.

Another approach to confirmation preparation that addresses the busy lives of young people and uses digital approaches to catechesis is the flipped learning model of learning (see Idea #1). Flipped learning moves direct instruction from the group learning space to the individual learning space online, while transforming the group learning space into a dynamic interactive learning environment where the catechist guides young people as they creatively discuss, practice, and apply the content.

The flipped learning model is very helpful when it is difficult to gather people regularly. Young people can prepare online with the appropriate content (experiences, activities, video/audio, and resources); then engage in-person for the event or program; and sustain and apply the experience through online faith formation.

One example of a flipped learning model for the sacrament of confirmation is illustrated in this monthly format that can be developed into a yearlong program.

  • On Your Own: Engage young people with a monthly learning playlist—watching videos, reading short articles, praying, writing reflections in a journal—on the theme of the month. There is much content online or you can create or curate your own.
  • In a Small Group: Have young people participate in one small group experience (online) with an adult facilitator (and young person who has been confirmed) to discuss the content in the playlist and what they are learning. 
  • In a Large Group: Involve young people in a monthly meeting with all groups for community sharing, interactive activities, short presentations, and ideas for living faith. 


Idea #4. Seamless Family Faith Formation from Birth through Adolescence

Faith formation needs to start early in life and engage the whole family (three generations: children, parents, and grandparents) throughout the childhood years. We need to start early in the family and build a foundation for a life of faith in the new generation if we hope to address the decline in passing on faith from generation to generation. In most churches, it would be a systemic change to shift priorities and energies to focus on families with young children (0-5 years old) and families with grade school children – moving beyond a “classroom” approach to engage the whole family—at church and at home. We know that the research leads us to this priority:

  • Parents are the most significant influence on the religious and spiritual outcomes of young people.
  • The primary way by which a religious identity becomes rooted in children’s lives are the day-to-day religious practices of the family and the ways parents model their faith and share it in conversation, collaboration, and exposure to outside religious opportunities.
  • The family is the primary community where Christian faith practices are nurtured and practiced.
  • The quality of a parent’s relationships with their children or teens and the parenting style they practice make a significant difference in faith transmission.

Family faith formation is designed to encourage parents to grow in faith and become faith formers, equip parents to incorporate faith practices into family life at home, and engage parents in education and formation, as well as the whole family in faith forming experiences and program.

Catechesis with families can Implement an intentional, continuous plan for forming the faith of families from birth to high school graduation in four life stages – young children, grade school children, young adolescents, and older adolescents – with age-appropriate faith forming programs, activities, and resources. This two-decade plan focuses on faith forming at home, family-involving faith forming experiences at church, and parent (and grandparent) formation in parenting for faith.

A family plan is a holistic approach to forming faith in the first two decades of life by integrating several essential elements in developmentally-appropriate ways at each life stage. These seven elements can form a template for designing programs, activities, and resources.

  1. Developing faith practices at home by reading the Bible, learning the Catholic tradition, praying, celebrating rituals and milestones, celebrating the seasons of the Church year, serving those in need, working for justice, caring for creation, eating together, having family faith conversations, providing moral instruction and more
  2. Worshipping God with the parish community at Sunday Mass
  3. Celebrating sacraments, rituals, and milestones at home and at church
  4. Celebrating Church year seasons at home and at church
  5. Developing parenting practices and skills appropriate to each stage of life
  6. Developing the knowledge and skills for parenting for faith growth
  7. Participating as a family in family catechesis programming and parish gatherings

A two-decade plan includes a life-stage progression of parent workshops, webinars, classes, activities, support groups, and resources from infancy through the end of the adolescent years that provides parent faith formation, equips parents to be faith formers of their young people, and develops the knowledge and skills for effective parenting.

With new digital tools and media, parishes can reach today’s parents and families anywhere and anytime with engaging and interactive content. Each new stage of a parent plan could be introduced through a variety of educational opportunities and then sustained through support groups, continuing education, and online resources and activities.


Life Stage Plan

  • Birth: parenting young children
  • Start of school: parenting grade school children
  • Middle school: parenting young adolescents
  • High school: parenting older adolescents
  • Graduation from high school: parenting emerging adults

An important element of a family plan is to provide catechesis with families that engages the whole family in faith formation experiences (parents and caregivers, young people, and grandparents) as the primary model for catechesis with families (monthly, twice-a-month, or weekly), as an integrated model within age group programming and/or within the seasons of the year (Advent, Lent, and more) and/or as family workshops throughout the year, and as family-centered sacramental preparation (Reconciliation and First Eucharist).


John Roberto
NCCL Executive Director
[email protected]


Read PART ONE: It's Time to Evaluate | Read PART TWO: Thinking Systemically | Read PART THREE Article 1 | View Leader Resources


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