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PONTIFICIUM OPUS A SANCTA INFANTIA

  Missionary Seeds

SCHOOL WITH JESUS

 

           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).

Methodological suggestions

        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:

  • Personal testimony. The children are invited to share the ways in which they have fulfilled their missionary commitment during the preceding week.

  •  Proclamation and study of the Word of God. Performances, symbols and gestures are used as an aid to understanding God's Word.  

  • Missionary commitment. At the end of each meeting, the children make the commitment to undertake certain activities during the week. Through these activities they seek to share the Word of God with the wider community.  

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.

        These meetings cover: Christian virtues and values; missionary figures whose lives are an example of a faithful response to Jesus (saints, martyrs, founders of missionary orders and movements etc.); the Sacraments; ways and means to live our missionary spirituality etc.

Methodological suggestions

  • The room in which this meeting takes place must be suitably prepared in keeping with the theme, for example with candles, Bibles, cushions, images, music etc. In this way the children, upon entering, immediately feel that this weekly meeting is different; that it concerns the heart more than the mind!  

  • Depending upon the theme and the circumstances, a central activity should be chosen for the meeting: prayer workshop, retreat, celebration of the Word, biblical drawings, celebration of the Eucharist etc. The most important thing is to help others in experiencing the presence of God's love, in praying and in celebrating His Word in order that these aspects may be progressively adopted in personal and community life.

 

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.

       The meeting prepares the specific activities by which both the children and their co-ordinators/animators communicate the message they have lived and learnt in the two earlier gatherings (missionary catechesis and missionary spirituality).

Methodological suggestions

  • Although some space may be given in these meetings to methodological formation, most of the time and energy should be used in preparing and carrying out specific missionary services.  

  • The various activities include: announcing the Gospel to others; missionary formation of other children; services to other groups; missionary service within the family; missionary service in schools; activities aimed at encouraging prayer and offerings for missions in the whole world; preparation of liturgical celebrations to which friends, family and the community etc. are invited; communication with and support for missionaries in other countries or on other continents; activities in support of needy children; exchange of experiences with the pastor and other parish helpers; preparation of materials for missionary animation; visiting the sick, the elderly, orphans etc.

 

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).

Methodological suggestions

  • This meeting enables children to enjoy the experience they wish to live and share. This helps them to grow in communion, to progress and to serve better. In this sense, the gathering represents a moment of community recreation.  

  • It is recommended that this fourth stage include, at times, meetings with the children's families, with other groups of children, with the pastor and his team, with their teachers and friends etc.  

  • Some recommended activities are: parties, walks, meetings, games and recreation, competitions, birthday parties etc.

         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.

 

 

 

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