Sending them forth
The ends of each of the Gospels are really just the beginning. In Matthew 28, for example, Jesus sends forth his apostles to the ends of the earth. Look at the end of your year as a religious educator not as an end, but as a beginning. Send your students forth, and be ready to return again next year.
The following prayerful reflection and blessing activities will help instill in your students
— and in yourself — the confidence to look back with gratitude for God’s presence and look
ahead with confidence in God’s grace.
In my experience as a catechist, a small party at the end of the year has become an expectation for the kids. It is not easy to keep them focused on heavy learning in that last class, so think about ways you can turn the class party into a prayerful experience. Find foods and drinks that are reminders of the year you shared together and the things they learned. For example, if you teach first Communion, celebrate the end of the year with
some wheat- and grape-themed snacks. You might even consider creating special individual snack bags for each student. As you hand out each bag, give the students a
public and positive affirmation of their progress this year.
An examen for students
The Ignatian practice of the daily examen is a helpful way to review the day and consider where God was present in it. Try leading students through the process of the examen by looking back at the entire year. Before you get started, it is helpful to jog your students’ memories with pictures or a word collage of the many lessons, activities, and experiences you shared with them throughout the year. With these reminders, you can then invite students to review the year in a prayerful way. First, ask the Holy Spirit to guide this meditation and reveal the memories that are most important to consider as the year ends. Have your students think about the memories they are most grateful for, and then have them consider in which of the memories they felt God’s presence the most.
An examen for catechists
Outside of the class, it is also important to review your year from a professional and spiritual perspective. Begin by asking the Holy Spirit’s help in your examination of the year. What moments were the most meaningful to you? What memories and experiences are you most grateful for? What lessons and activities went very well? Next, consider the moments where you fell short of what could have been done this year. What lessons did not go well? What challenges did you face from your students or their parents? What could you improve upon next year?
A blessing and sending forth
Plan to leave your students with a final blessing before they go. You can do this with a spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving for each one of your students, followed by the request for God’s grace upon them as they depart the class. You can accompany this blessing with any parting gift you might have for them. Some catechists buy saint medals, prayer cards, or other sacramentals to give as reminders of the year and the role a relationship with God
can play in their lives.
Praying for your students
In addition to the in-class blessing and sending forth, consider praying in a special way for your students at the end of the year. Give thanks for the memories you have of each student, followed by a particular prayer and petition to God on their behalf. May God
continue to have an active presence in their lives as they begin their summers and their lifelong journey toward the Lord!
Jared Dees is the founder of TheReligionTeacher.com and the author of Christ in the Classroom: Lesson Planning for the Heart and Mind, which helps develop lessons that lead students into an encounter with Christ.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, April/May 2019
Photo: Wavebreakmedia, istock