How to use Sycamore as part of your catechesis or teaching

Sycamore started as a course for enquirers who know little about the Christian faith. But the structure and timetable and methodology can easily be adapted for use with more formal sessions of catechesis or teaching.

The content within each film is not comprehensive enough to serve as a systematic presentation of any given topic: you simply cannot present God, Jesus, Prayer, Love, etc in twenty minutes.

But there are two ways that Sycamore might be used as part of your catechesis or religious education:

(A) To introduce a topic before you go into it more deeply, or to supplement a topic that you have already covered and to facilitate more open discussion. You can run a normal Sycamore session as one part of your catechetical course. See the Basic Timetable for an Enquiry Session here.

(B) To combine the Sycamore sessions with personal reading and group discussion based around readings from the YouCat.

In effect this turns a normal Sycamore session into a full catechetical session. See the section below for full details.

 

HOW TO CREATE A TEACHING OR CATECHETICAL SESSION

  • For each session, a printable handout is available to download and print. (These digital handouts are only available to SUBSCRIBERS who then print them for the participants in their groups.)
  • At the bottom of each handout there is an Extended Reading reference which directs the participant to certain paragraphs from the You Cat (YouCat: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, Published by the Catholic Truth Society, London: 2011; a PDF of the text is available here.)
  • These readings can be read in the week after the session by the participants, and then brought for discussion at the beginning of the following week. In this way, the Sycamore session, combined with the YouCat readings, gives a good introduction to each topic, which can also be supplemented by the catechists. The Sycamore film and discussion introduces the topic each week, and the YouCat reading deepens the study of the same topic.

HOW TO USE THE EXTENDED READINGS

If someone is on a catechetical course and you are using this method, we recommend that each participant is asked to commit to 45 minutes of reading and preparation each week. The sessions will not work if the participants have not done the reading and prepared for the discussion, and their knowledge of the content of the Catholic faith will be severely diminished.

Sycamore leaders provide copies of the YouCat for each participant in the first session.

NOTE: The references are to paragraph numbers not to page numbers.

Participants are asked to set aside some time for reading and reflection on the set paragraphs. They are asked to use the YouCat as a text book which they write notes on, and if they dislike writing on books they are challenged to get over this personal dislike!

As they read and reflect, participants are asked to annotate their reading in the following way or similar:

  • To TICK any idea or sentence or quotation that they like or find inspiring
  • To put a QUESTION MARK by anything they do not understand
  • To put an EXCLAMATION MARK by anything that surprises them, or that is completely new to them
  • To put a large CROSS by anything that they disagree with or that just seems wrong to them

This forces the participants to engage with the text, and to make it more personal. It helps them to remember things. And it also means that the discussion the next week goes much better, because they are ready to talk about things and share ideas, even if they read the text a few days before. It is also a way of encouraging people to do the reading, because they know they will have to participate in this way the following week, like the pressure of having to hand in homework!

Some people will be uneasy about putting question marks (for fear of looking ignorant) or crosses (for fear of seeming arrogant or argumentative); but the only way that an honest discussion occurs in catechesis is if people are being honest about their questions and concerns. In this way the group can grow together in trust and grow in faith. The teaching of the YouCat itself is always a reference point, and the references in the YouCat to the larger Catechism of the Catholic Church (in square brackets at the end of each bold paragraph) allow the catechists to prepare more deeply or follow up easily.

SUGGESTED TIMETABLE FOR A TEACHING OR CATECHETICAL SESSION

If you are using the YouCat Extended Readings in this way, here is a simple way of structuring your Sycamore/Catechetical sessions:

  • ARRIVALS (10 mins): Tea, coffee, informal discussion etc
  • OPENING PRAYER (5 mins): In whatever way is appropriate: e.g. some set prayers (the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary etc) with some intercessions.
  • SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION ABOUT YOUCAT READINGS (10 mins): In groups of three, go through your annotated YouCat readings, sharing anything that you have marked, giving time to discuss what was interesting, inspiring, new, difficult, confusing, controversial etc. There is no need to have a catechist in each group of three people.
  • LARGE GROUP DISCUSSION (10 mins): A brief time of discussion with the whole group, led by one of the catechists: To highlight the key points; to hear back from small groups if they have anything important to share; to collect and perhaps answer any difficult questions; or to collect any difficult questions and respond to them next week.
  • SYCAMORE SESSION (50 mins): Run a normal Sycamore session for the given topic. But when the films stops three times for questions and discussion, you will have less time than during an enquiry session. Make sure you have about 10 minutes at the most for each question/pause.
  • FINAL PRAYER (5 mins): In whatever way is appropriate: e.g. with a scripture reading appropriate to the theme that can then be handed out for participants to pray with during the week.