PONTIFICIUM OPUS A SANCTA INFANTIA
The formation programme for children of the Missionary Childhood is known as School with Jesus and integrates the catechism into the formative process. Each theme is developed over a four-stage cycle: missionary catechesis, missionary spirituality, missionary service and missionary communion. Once each cycle comes to an end, a new theme is proposed and the process starts again.
Each stage involves a group meeting; these generally take place once a week though the process continues during the intervening period, each individual experiencing it at a personal level. Each meeting has its own structure and methodology, depending on the level involved.
MISSIONARY CATECHESIS MEETING
This is the first meeting and takes place in the first week. The aim of missionary catechesis is for the children to know Jesus and to understand their universal mission in Him. The subject matter for meetings of missionary catechesis includes basic aspects of the mission of Jesus, the mission of the Church and the mission of Christians in the world.
The Word of God is read out and the doctrine it contains is systematically studied. During the meeting, the children paint pictures, write, draw conclusions and commit the principal messages to memory. The meeting is oriented towards reflecting upon, studying and understanding what God has communicated to us for our mission.
Over the different stages the children are progressively and systematically catechised. The themes considered in missionary catechesis are not repeated in subsequent catechesis, nor in the spiritual or missionary service meetings. In those meetings, the lessons learnt in missionary catechesis are assimilated, studied in depth and shared (planned).
Each meeting must have a specific character and every four meetings a new unit of the syllabus begins in keeping with the formative programme. and bearing in mind the liturgical calendar, parish events etc.
The meetings include the following elements:
MISSIONARY SPIRITUALITY MEETING
This is the second meeting, it takes place in the second week and represents the celebration and experience of what was learnt in the first meeting (missionary catechesis). The aim is to absorb the message received in order to live, celebrate and assimilate it.
The content of missionary spirituality meetings depends upon the theme that was considered in missionary catechesis. The theme of the earlier encounter is not repeated but complemented and given an application at the level of personal and community life, rendering it more profound in order that it penetrate hearts and lives. In the course of this gathering, the children reflect together upon how they should live the teaching of Jesus in their daily lives. Thus, both individually and as a group, they deepen their experience of Jesus.
MISSIONARY SERVICE MEETING
This is the third meeting and takes place in the third week. Here, the children are helped to pass from "being" disciples for Jesus to "making" disciples for Jesus, teaching others what they have learnt from Him. The children come to recognise in missionary activity the evangelising mission that they received at Baptism and that they fulfil through service to others, in particular to other children in the world. They make friends for Jesus and, in His name, share their bread with other children, especially the bread of faith, in order to help them in their needs.
They also learn to help other children as well as their own families and playmates to make friends for Jesus. Thus they become missionary animators in their own communities.
Although the youngsters undertake a weekly revision of their missionary commitments in all the meetings and activities of the Missionary Childhood, the missionary service meetings serve specifically to reinforce and experience the universality of missionary duty. Furthermore the children perform specific tasks such as missionary work in their own families, in schools and among the most needy of their local area.
The central theme of these meetings depends upon the contents of the two earlier gatherings. In this meeting, the children reflect upon "acting" in support of their brothers and sisters who, through this missionary service, will be able to experience the love of Jesus. In this way, missionary service meetings aim to help children to begin putting their local and universal missionary calling into effect.
MISSIONARY COMMUNION MEETING
This is the fourth meeting and takes place in the fourth week. It is oriented towards revising and strengthening the experience of missionary communion among children and between them and others with the aim of creating living, dynamic and missionary ecclesial communities.
The ties of friendship among members of the group are strengthened in order to create bonds of unity, fraternity and mutual support. This is also the meeting in which, in the light of the Gospel, the development of the group's missionary spirit is evaluated.
The theme of the gathering is the missionary life and service of the group itself; thus it is not necessarily a continuation of the theme of the three earlier encounters (missionary catechesis, missionary spirituality and missionary service).
Following these four stages (missionary catechesis, missionary spirituality, missionary service and missionary communion) of the School with Jesus initiative, the group starts on the cycle afresh with a new Gospel text, a new theme etc.
Recommended bibliography: School for Missionary Animators (support materials for SOMA I), The Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood, International Secretariat.