Real Life Catholic’s Chris Stefanick on ‘Chosen’
“It’s good to see kids not just check off a religious box, but to engage life to the full, in a deeper way, and see adults want to make the difference in the life of a kid.”
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Chris Stefanick about the Chosen confirmation program. Ascension Press has indicated the great success that the program has had, and Chris Stefanick sung its praises. I hope that you are edified and inspired by Chris’s insights in the interview transcript here.
1.) Could you please explain what Chosen is, what participants can expect, and the collaborative effort that was involved in creating a project like this?
Chosen is a Confirmation preparation program, but we also have a version available for youth ministry, for those who are not necessarily preparing for Confirmation. It takes young people on a journey through the Catholic faith, from A to Z, not simply teaching them facts, but drawing them into a relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s what catechesis is – not just imparting knowledge, but facilitating an encounter with Jesus. Over half a million people have gone through the Chosen program, and over four thousand have been touched by it as well, through the sponsor’s guide and parents’ guide. I’ve had pastors and youth ministers tell me that they’ve gone from losing 90% of their Confirmation classes to keeping 90% of their Confirmation classes. Holding back on the truths of the faith, in an attempt to be relevant, is not what Jesus and the Disciples did. Chosen is so easy to use, which is a component of what has made it so effective in changing lives. The program starts with the question of “What is a young person looking for in life?” and taps into our desire for happiness. It shows how we have a fundamental longing for happiness, because we have been made for a purpose. It is relevant and necessary to live life to the full.
2.) The challenge of any good Confirmation program is not only preparing kids for college and future challenges in life, but most importantly, keeping them engaged in the faith long after Confirmation. After five years now that the Chosen program has been used by parishes, what kind of success stories have you been told that speak to its effectiveness in keeping kids Catholic?
A key one is the numbers that I hear from parishes. I travel around the country every week, and I do multi-generational talks. When I hear a group of confirmandi excitedly cheering that they’re doing the Confirmation program, maybe I’m a pessimist, but seeing kids really excited to go through Confirmation, that wasn’t the story of Confirmation kids for a long time. The right resources, and the right presentation of the truth, make a change. It’s good to see kids not just check off a religious box, but to engage life to the full, in a deeper way, and see adults want to make the difference in the life of a kid. Someone told me recently that they had the DVDs on top of the TV, and had a friend staying over who watched the DVDs and ended up entering the Catholic Church the next Easter. When you present the truth in a compelling way, you bring people to Christ.
3.) What is so transformative about the catechesis of the Chosen program in particular?
We just follow the age-old formula of the catechumenal model of teaching the faith. The Church uses the catechumenal model for all catechesis. That model is very intentional about teaching for conversion. Each phase of the Chosen program leads people to the faith in a different way. We bring people to look at their fundamental longings, look at the Gospels, look at the sacramental life of the Church; help them to understand the life of the Gospels; and see how this is fundamental in their lives. It has made a big change in parishes. Next month, we will be coming out with a Spanish version, which is exciting.
4.) How is the Chosen program staying current and able to speak to the hearts and minds of teenagers today?
With the online resources, and the people who are using them and applying them in class, Ascension Press has done a great job. I was really glad to work with Ascension on this.
5.) Can you talk about the importance of the community aspect of Chosen, and how it can and does unite people of all ages in the Church?
Friendship is the ordinary means of evangelization. Chosen does the “heavy lifting,” which makes it easy for parishes to use it. It’s so well laid-out and easy to use that all you have to do is show up, play it, and be present for engaging with the kids and their questions and insights. It’s good to hear how students have implemented the faith in their lives every week. The settings for community, and using approaches such as lectio divina, have been meaningful.
6.) What is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?
John 10:10: “I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
Be sure to check out Chris’s exceptional media work on the frontier of evangelization for the Church in the interest of the kingdom of God at www.reallifecatholic.com!