By PERRY WEST     6/4/2019

Denver, Colo., Jun 3, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA) – A confirmation program developed for parishes aims to call young people to deeper conversions, while teaching them the truths of the Catholic faith. The program, organizers say, has impacted hundreds of thousands of Catholics since it was founded five years ago.

“Chosen: Your Journey Toward Confirmation,” has helped over 500,000 teens to develop in their Catholic faith, Ascension Press told CNA. It has also engaged 200,000 parents and 200,000 sponsors,

Chris Stefanick is part of the team that developed “Chosen.” He told CNA that the program focuses on conversion, in addition to education about Catholic doctrine.

“It’s very rich in the content of the faith. Kids are actually going to learn their faith, A-Z, but it’s not a theology class,” he said. “It’s truly catechesis, which means that it’s evangelistic. It’s teaching for conversion and every lesson, every truth delivered, is delivered in a way that brings the participants in way closer into relationship with Jesus.”

The 1979 apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae, written by Pope St. John Paul II, explains that catechesis- the teaching of the faith- is a “stage in evangelization.”

Evangelization, the exhortation says, “is a rich, complex and dynamic reality, made up of elements, or one could say moments, that are essential and different from each other, and that must all be kept in view simultaneously. Catechesis is one of these moments – a very remarkable one – in the whole process of evangelization.”

The “Chosen” approach aims to approach formation for confirmation with that in mind.

Stefanick first hatched the idea of developing a confirmation program during his experience as a youth minister in East Los Angeles. There, he ran a large confirmation group for four and a half years. He said there was no easy access to resources that would help guide the confirmation team.

With Professor Ron Bolster of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Stefanick developed “Chosen,” and the program was launched in May 2014 by Ascension Press.

During the 24 weeks of the program, classes use a video series and student workbook. The program also offers parents and sponsors ways to get involved, including a guide and online resources. The lessons are followed by prayers and challenges for the week that aim to make practical application of  the material with practice.

Stefanick hosts the videos, which include Jason Evert, a Catholic author and chastity speaker; Jackie Angel, a Christian songwriter; and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, an evangelist and founder of Dynamic Deacon.

The program has been adopted by hundreds of parishes. As a Catholic speaker who travels all over the world, Stefanick said he is able to see the program’s success and the excitement of students involved with “Chosen.”

“It’s never happened before, that kids are explosively happy in confirmation class,” he said.

“I have had parishes tell me they have gone from losing 90% of their kids after confirmation to keeping 90% of their kids after confirmation,” he added.

Evert told CNA that he has seen similar enthusiasm from teens and adults. The program has a strong communinty aspect, looking to engage adults while it forms teens. He said this is absent in many confirmation classes.

“The parents aren’t impacted by [some confirmation courses], maybe even the confirmation sponsors aren’t getting impacted either, and the teens are only seeing this as a requirement, a religious hoop that they have to jump through,” he said.

The program “is engaging both the parents and catechizing the sponsors. Because a kid picks a sponsor, it doesn’t mean that the sponsor is very well formed themselves,” Evert added.

The material is relevant and the speakers are relatable young adults, he explained. The program also uses recent saints, like Blessed Chiara Badano an Italian teenager who died in 1990, and it covers issues identifiable to teens, like dating and vocations.

Students in confirmation classes, if not formed well, are at risk of falling away from the Catholic faith, Evert said.  Countering that depends on fostering personal relationships with Christ, he said.

“If you get a kid in love with his faith, you are going to have an engaged parishioner,” he said. “It’s very hard to get a person enageed on a parish based level if they don’t have a personal relationship with God and are not on fire with that, but if you can get that fire set ablaze, then the rest tends to come naturally.”

Stefanick agreed. He said the program is meant for transformation. He said it is based on a catechetical model that begins with questions about the meaning of existence, and life after death.

“If it’s not transformative, it’s not catechesis, right?”

Catechesis “moves them more deeply through the sacramental life of the faith and it moves them more deeply into the moral life. We are taking people step by step in these truths, that are laid out, to lead people step-by-step into relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s all very intentional.”

Stefanick said that in misguided attempts to be relevant, many catechetical programs water down the truth. But students need to be given the full truth and explained its relevance to their life and happiness, he said.

“The human mind was made for these truths, when we deliver them in a way that brings them back to Jesus Christ, when we deliver each lesson in a way that answers the fundamental question – what are you looking for? It ties every teaching about the moral and sacramental life of the Church back to the happiness they are made for,” he said.

“Then they start to see the faith as their path to fulfillment and their path to wholeness, that path to something more that every human wants out of life.”