New confirmation programs from well-known Catholic evangelists are making a difference in the lives of young Catholics.
Chosen is a new program produced and hosted by youth speaker Chris Stefanick, who has worked in parish youth ministry for 15 years.
From Ascension Press, Chosen is a multimedia reworking of the traditional confirmation preparation program (ConfirmationStudy.com).
Filmed in locations like Israel and Rome, the program faithfully and inspiringly presents Catholic teaching without apology and without watering it down.
“Chosen is packed with content, so kids will actually know their faith. It does what catechesis is supposed to do; it doesn’t just teach facts — it facilitates an encounter with Jesus Christ; it facilitates conversion,” said Stefanick.
Marilyn Palazzo, a youth minister at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Providence, R.I., said of the program, “We are hearing from the top youth ministers in the country. The stories are real; the content is overflowing with discussion material, and its theology is right on the mark.”
The program features 24 video lessons, and each answers a different question about the faith. The program uses 12 passionate Catholic presenters — Jason Evert, Sarah Swafford and more.
Youth minister Palazzo noted, “The speakers are very dynamic and spiritual, so [the program] is almost like getting a mini retreat.”
The program opens with the question: “What am I looking for?”
Stefanick said the answer is “happiness” and that Chosen aims to show teens that happiness is found through living out the Catholic faith: “Each subsequent section shows how the heart of the Gospel message answers what they’re looking for. When we get into the catechesis — where we talk about the Four Last Things and the sacraments — we show how these things will help you accomplish true happiness.”
Chosen also tackles the thorny issues of contraception, marriage and premarital sex. Jackie Francois Angel, a musician, chastity speaker and co-host of Chosen, said it is important that the program addresses these topics because they are some of the most misunderstood in today’s society.
“I think Chosen addresses what real love is and how to live that out in our daily lives,” Francois Angel said. “God’s love is so much greater than any kind of love on this earth, and it’s worth sacrificing for.”
Stefanick agreed that it is important to address marriage and other vocations in a confirmation program. “This is the time when they [young people] start asking, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ Failure to take them by the hand and have them think deeply about what God is asking them to do with their lives is really a failure of youth ministry.”
Chosen aims to help teens realize that we are all living for heaven.
“When you realize what you were made for and your destiny, it changes how you live. It gives you a purpose and hope,” said Francois Angel. “When that realization sets into our hearts and our minds, it gives us a hope every day that we are made for more than sin; we are made for more than settling. As Pope Benedict said, ‘The world will offer you comfort, but we’re not made for comfort — we were made for greatness.’”
In addition to the video lessons, the program comes with a student workbook. One feature of the workbook is a section at the end of each lesson that helps the teens apply the teachings to their lives. This section ends with a saint whose life illustrated that virtue. “A key piece of [applying the teachings to their life] is giving them the right hero who took that truth of the faith and lived it out in a way that they can emulate in their lives,” said Stefanick.
The presenters in Chosen are not only an example of holiness — their joy and humor show it is possible to follow God happily. “It is important that the teens see joyful witnesses of the Catholic faith,” said Francois Angel.
Added Stefanick, “People don’t just want to know what faith is. They want to know what it’s like to believe. What impact does it have on my life, here and now? For all the words we could throw at them, the greatest answers to the questions of the faith are — as Pope Benedict said — beauty and saints. When you see the life of a saint, you get it. When you see a Catholic who is alive with the faith, you get it; more than that, you want it because it’s beautiful.”
Decision Point is another new confirmation program that is available online or in an “app” format — all completely free.
The program is produced by the Dynamic Catholic Institute, an organization that was founded in 2009 by author and evangelist Matthew Kelly.
Kelly told the Register that he was compelled to found an organization that would be involved in the New Evangelization because “I felt that most of what we were doing as a Church was feeding those who were already engaged, but we seemed to be doing very little to engage the disengaged. I am passionate about helping people discover the friendship of Christ and the genius of Catholicism.”
In order to find out the differences between engaged and disengaged Catholics, Dynamic Catholic conducted the largest research project ever within the Catholic Church in America. “‘The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic’ is the result of that research. The four signs are: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization,” said Kelly.
With the aid of that research, Decision Point was produced by Dynamic Catholic in response to the declining number of practicing Catholics and the concerning statistic that it discovered: that 85% of Catholic youth cease to practice Catholicism within 10 years after confirmation. Dynamic Catholic hopes that Decision Point will not only prepare teens for confirmation and give them knowledge of Catholicism, but it will also foster the four hallmarks of an engaged Catholic (see sidebar).
“It is never too early to start encouraging young Catholics to embrace the four signs,” said Kelly.
The program is designed “to teach candidates to develop a daily routine of prayer and to give them an appetite for continuous learning in the area of faith and spirituality,” he explained. “More than anything, the content meets young people where they are and leads them to where God is calling them to be. This approach is at the core of the Dynamic Catholic mission.”
Through testing, the decision was made to use Kelly as the sole presenter. “We planned to use a series of presenters, about a dozen in all, but when we started testing various presenters, the [potential] candidates said, ‘We don’t want a different presenter each week; we want someone to make this journey with.’ This is just one way the process for developing Decision Point was very different from any other program,” said Kelly.
He emphasizes the ready availability of the program. In addition to its digital forms, a physical version can be ordered from DynamicCatholic.com for the cost of shipping.
Kelly says the program is free because “there were several people on the team who felt that it was unjust and insane to create the best confirmation program in the world if half the parishes in America can’t afford to buy it. That was the insight that led us to raising the funds to produce the program so that we could give it to every parish for free.”
Father Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River, Mass., is using the program this fall with the ninth- and 10th-graders in his parish. He says that he chose the program, which includes 72 short films, student workbooks and a leader’s guide, because its medium is more engaging than the typical program.
“I had been looking for a confirmation program that would deliver the solid nourishment of the fullness of the faith and do so in a way in which they’d be able to see that the truths of the faith are good news not bad,” said Father Landry.
In his endorsement of Decision Point, Matthew Manion, president of The Catholic Leadership Institute, echoes Father Landry’s sentiments. “Decision Point gave me the mechanism to engage my daughter in some very rich and beautiful conversations, not just about confirmation, but about the choices she will have to make as a lifelong disciple of Jesus Christ. ... I believe the Holy Spirit inspired this gift that will bear fruit for many years to come.”
Dynamic Catholic helps teens “to see the beauty of the Church’s teaching in contrast to some of the counterfeit paths to happiness given by our culture and to rebel not against God and the Church he founded, but against the lies of the ‘isms’ of our culture,” said Father Landry.
“Decision Point does a very good job in describing how absurd relativism is intellectually and how important it is for us not only to know the truth, but to live it. It engages the freedom of teens to live in a world of solid foundations based on the truth Christ, the Church and our reason reveal to us.”
Ella Hadacek writes from Idaho.
‘The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic’
Matthew Kelly shared the Dynamic Catholic Institute’s findings on engaged Catholics, according to the group’s recent research.
Prayer: Engaged Catholics have a daily prayer routine.
Study: Engaged Catholics take time to learn about their faith by reading Catholic books, going on pilgrimages or even just listening to Catholic radio.
Generosity & Evangelization: The third and fourth signs, said Kelly, “are the result of an overflow of the first two signs. Prayer and study naturally lead to generosity and evangelization.”