Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom, writer, editor, marketing professional, and coffee drinker. You’re just as likely to find her hiding out back with a book as you are to discover her playing in the yard with a few farm animals (or wait — are those her kids?) She is the author of many books, the most recent of which she co-edited with Lisa Hendey: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections. She blogs at SnoringScholar.com and writes online regularly at CatholicMom.com. Reinhard holds a master’s degree in marketing and communications and has worked for many years in corporate and nonprofit organizations. She lives in central Ohio with her husband and children.
As a confirmation catechist and program leader, I am always looking for great resources. Our parish has never found anything that works completely and totally. We have a program we use, sort of, but it comes down to a team approach of tapping into resources, pulling together what this year’s candidates are asking about in their interviews and letting the Holy Spirit work through us.
Even so, knowing that there’s probably no program that will meet all the unique needs of our program, I took some time to sit down with Ascension Press’ new Chosen confirmation program.
It is, in a word, “incredible.” I think it has a place with many parishes and programs. It’s essentially a toolbox, and it’s well done. (You can read about other great new Confirmation programs in Ella Hadacek's article, "Confirmation Programs Teens Will Love.")
Chris Stefanick spent five years working with Ascension Press to pull this program together, and he and I had a recent conversation about it.
Chris, you have put together something really amazing here with the Chosen program. Tell us what inspired all of the work you’ve put into this. What’s your background?
I was a parish youth minister for five years and ran confirmation too. That was part of my job, along with RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation] for teens [entering the Church at the Easter vigil]. This was in a large, inner-city parish in the East Los Angeles area. I had 40 kids coming through RCIA in my time there — and hundreds through confirmation.
When I got to my parish, it struck me right away: There’s nothing out there that’s effective, has solid content and is easy to put in the hands of my volunteers. That’s the most important thing: to empower the average parishioner to be a teacher of the faith, to minister to youth with you. There was nothing like that, so back then, I started thinking, “We have got to do something about this.”
I think we have. I think we have something here that’s easy to use, so that someone doesn’t have to be a theologian to change lives. It’s also something that’s really engaging and has solid content.
Sometimes people think that you can’t have any content if you’re going to be engaging.
What sets Chosen apart? Why do you think it’s so special?
There’s a DVD and workbook combined. If you look at each lesson, with the workbook and the DVD, you have all the essential content of the Catechism [of the Catholic Church]. And it’s also engaging.
It also starts in a way that’s not heavy in content — because it’s heavy on evangelization at the beginning.
Why is evangelization such an important part of the approach you took with Chosen?
Good catechesis should follow the model of the RCIA process, where you get people in the door and presume nothing. You take [people] where they’re at and try to awaken their hearts into an interest into the rest that you’re going to give them by asking them fundamental questions like “What are you looking for in life?” and “What’s going to make you happy?”
What do you think is the most important aspect of the program?
Catechesis is not just teaching to convey facts; it’s teaching for conversion. That’s what we do by presenting the truth of the faith in a way that applies to [the students’] lives in a context where it’s delivered in small-group discipleship and in a way that shows it’s also beautiful and has something of value to give to them for how they approach life. I think that’s the most important piece, and I think we hit that throughout every lesson.
What was the best part of the process of putting this program together?
It took us a year to come up with curriculum and the points we should teach. It was me, a lot of youth-ministry experts and the director of catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ron Bolster. It was a beautiful thing to meet every week for a year and come up with the curriculum to see how the whole faith, from beginning to end, fit together. You could see the Mastermind [the Holy Spirit] behind it all, writing the story of salvation [that would appeal to youth] in a way that we couldn’t have.
Another personal favorite part was going around to film [the videos].