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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

January 9, 2020

New Vocations Text from Ave Maria Press

Just released this week, Your Christian Vocation is a new textbook from Ave Maria Press that supports a high-school course on all Christian vocations and states of life, including marriage, holy orders, consecrated life, and committed single life.

Please contact Bob Wieneke to receive a complimentary sample copy of Your Christian Vocations for your Catholic high school.

One of the hallmark's of Ave Maria Press textbooks in the Encountering Jesus series is a variety of teacher support materials. Included here are three approaches for coverage of the issue of homosexuality as it appears in Chapter 5 on marriage. Care is taken in presenting authentic Church teaching in a pastoral way geared especially for teenagers.

Teaching Approach 1

Explore material from Life Teen that presents Church teaching on homosexuality in a youth-friendly manner. Organize your class into three groups, and assign each group one of the following articles from the Life Teen website:

Note: All Life Teen materials support the teachings of the Catholic Church.

First, give students about ten minutes to read their assigned articles quietly and individually. Taking notes is advisable. Then have the students meet with those who read the same article (if the three groups are too large to be productive, they may subdivide into two smaller groups). They are to compare notes, discuss, and compose questions to bring to the large group.

Reconvening the class together, have student volunteers summarize the contents of each article. Then invite students to pose questions about the articles. You may wish to begin with basic, factual questions that give you the opportunity to clarify Church teaching as needed. Then move to deeper, more philosophical, and/or discussion-oriented questions. If time does not permit you to address every question, keep a list (perhaps on your board) of questions to address in a subsequent class session. For homework, direct students to write a one-paragraph reflection sharing their thoughts, feelings, and reactions regarding the content of today’s lesson.

Teaching Approach 2

View and discuss the film Desire of the Everlasting Hills. Produced by Courage International, this 2014 documentary examines the lives of two men and one woman who acted on their homosexual attractions in the past and are now living the Church’s message of chastity. The film is available to stream online at https://everlastinghills.org/movie; a DVD is also available for purchase.

Taking into account the film’s length (1:03:05), determine how best to show it to your students while also allowing adequate time for discussion. With a long-block schedule, you could view and discuss the film in one class session. With a traditional schedule, you will need two class periods to watch the whole film and discuss it. If your class time is very limited, you could preview the film and select excerpts that you wish to show your students.

An extensive study guide for the film is available at https://everlastinghills.org/study-guide. You may wish to select questions from this guide that seem compelling for discussion with your students; perhaps select an additional question to which students respond in writing for homework.

Teaching Approach 3

Engage your students in an honest, open, respectful conversation about homosexuality. Homosexuality, including the Church’s teaching regarding it, is a controversial and sensitive topic. Your students would likely greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss this topic in an open manner. Hopefully, in your course for several months, they have developed a degree of trust in one another, so that such a conversation can occur in an atmosphere that respects both Church teaching and the dignity of every student. In order for this discussion not to devolve into a debate or, worse, an argument, careful preparation is essential.

First, direct students to review this section of the Student Text and to write two lists:

  • points that they understand and that make sense to them
  • points that they are struggling to understand, find confusing, or find troubling

Then have the students exchange their lists with a partner and engage in a brief discussion, noting similarities and differences in their lists.

Drawing the class back together, facilitate a large-group discussion, beginning with the points that the students understand (be sure to acknowledge and affirm these) and moving on to the points with which they struggle. Allow students to share their honest perspectives and questions, but be sure to moderate the discussion well, lest it become a free-for-all.

One discussion in one class session is unlikely to answer every student’s questions or to bring every student complete clarity. However, all students—especially those whose views regarding homosexuality are evolving and/or who struggle to understand the Church’s perspective—can benefit from the opportunity to voice their concerns and pose their questions freely and without fear. They may ultimately be more open to the Church’s teaching if they can approach it critically and thoughtfully, rather than feeling that it is being “forced” upon them.

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