Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

What “Penance” for Lent?

Jonathan Sullivan has invited all Catholic bloggers to write on the theme of “Penance” for Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2012!

As I reflected on what I wanted to do with this theme, I thought about how we change from simply doing “penance” by giving up candy, pop, chocolate and more to really understanding what “penance” we are called to do in the complicated world we live in during this season of reflecting on the life, suffering, and death of Jesus!

I’m inviting high school teachers and catechists to engage their students in a reflection and response to the question – What “Penance” for Lent?

Here are suggested steps to integrate technology into a lesson with your high school students:

  1. Direct your students to read the American Catholic article LENT: FASTING FOR THE FEAST by Jim Wilwerding.
  2. Invite the students as they read the article to “highlight or underline” the sentence(s) or phrase(s) in the article that help them to understand what “penance” (or fasting) means. (They may want to print out the article.)
  3. As they identify the phrases, use a highlighter or underline them to mark the phrases that answer the question – Why Penance?
  4. Then ask the students to look back over the highlighted or underlined material.  Read through the phrases to achieve a deeper understanding and answer the questions – What “Penance” for Lent?  Why “Penance” for Lent?
  5. Then invite the students to write a dialogue between two persons – where one person is responding to questions and comments from another person about – What “Penance” for Lent? (See example below)
  6. Introduce an online moviemaking tool – Dvolver – to your students by showing them how they can create an animation movie with their script.  Check out the example – What Penance?
  7. Remind the students with this tool that their text is limited to 100 text characters for character’s lines.   Also, you can only develop three scenes.
  8. If you are using the Dvolver Moviemaking Tool, carefully consider your dialogue as you are limited to100 text characters per line.

For example:

Scene 1:

  • Mary: I’m not sure what it means to sharpen my senses and renew my perspective – on life, on faith.
  • George: During Lent, when we do “Penance,” we are really learning more about ourselves and others.
  • Mary: That seems so meaningless!
  • George: Well maybe.  I’ve learned that if I fast from music to prepare for the feast of a concert,. . .
  • George:  I hear the music differently.

Scene 2:

  • Mary: I never thought about doing that!
  • George: When I’m at the concert, I do hear the music differently than if I had listened all week to the group.
  • Mary: I’ll try that the next time I go to a concert.
  • George: Great! You will be learning what “penance” is about.  That is giving up something in order to improve what you see and hear!

Scene 3:

  • Mary: In this case, to appreciate the group’s music
  • George: Right!  So during lent, when we do Penance, we’re really preparing for the feast of Easter!
  • Mary: My life is so busy right now.  Maybe I need to simplify what I’m involved in.
  • George:  If you simplify, you will have time to pay attention to ….

Once they’ve completed the dialogue, then go to – Dvolver MovieMaker .  This is a Web 2.0 tool that will allow you to create an animated movie that you can easily share with others.  However, it will only allow you to create Three (3) Scenes.  See the example.

When the students have created their animation story, they will have the opportunity to send the link of their animation to you and others.  (Note:  If you have a class blog, you can incorporate this activity into the blog.  As students create their stories, then they can include their animation movies as a Response to your post.  Or, you may want to post them all on one page and invite your students, parents, and friends to vote for the most meaningful animation story.

(c) 2012 Caroline Cerveny

Engage Parents Through a Blog Site

One of my favorite training websites is hosted by SimpleK12Team!  Just recently they highlighted how a blog could be used to engage parents.

Does this sound familiar?  “Are you tired of the ‘bottomless backpack’ and the mysterious, vanishing handouts? You hand students papers to give to their parents, and they’re never seen again.”

Their suggestion – set up a class blog!

Find out how to engage parents through a blog here:

Of course, there are many ways you can use a blog in your religion classroom.  For example, parents love to see their child’s work that they do in your class.  With a blog, you have a great medium to display and show off students work for all their parents to see.  If you’re projects are created using traditional methods (e.g., paper and crayons), here’s where you can involve the youth group to help scan and prepare the class work so that it can be in a digital format.

Most children in the home environment, use a computer or a tablet (iPad, etc).  There are apps like Animoto (free), Drawing Pad, Screen Chomp and others that students can use to create a project.  When they have completed their task, they can email the link (or embed code) to you.  You can then add this information to the class special project page.  This assignment can be described on your blog and parents can direct their child to work on this project.

Would love to hear from you how YOU are using a blog to communicate with your parents!  I invite you to share your story here!

I have two examples to share with you.  One represents a music teacher –  The other represents another elementary educator in a regular classroom –  As you review these examples, note how each teacher provides brief and helpful information to their parents.

Remember to click the “Like” button, if you learned something today!

Trouble viewing on YouTube? Try viewing on Vimeo 

The Complete Catechist Guide To Using Skype

Educators have used many digital  tools in their classrooms. We can learn from them! Edublogger Sue Waters on April 11, 2011 posted a wonderful article outlining everything you need to know about Skype including:

  1. Setting up Skype
  2. Using Skype
  3. To using Skype effectively within your classroom

Thank you Sue for all the helps and hints about Skype.  What we can now focus on is, how might we use SKYPE in the religion classroom or in an adult Faith Formation experience? I’ll begin the conversation and would encourage those who are reading this blog to continue the conversation with your suggestions and ideas.

SKYPE ideas for the Religion classroom

  • Videoconference With SKYPE.  Here is an example of an expert being brought into the classroom.  Perhaps you’re working on a Confirmation project that is focusing on the poor in your town or in a location in another state or country.  Arrange for an interview with a leader from this area to speak with your students about the project.
  • Present a Scripture Story. Through ePals, an educational service that safely links students in the same city or with students in other cultures, locate a religion class in another country.  Agree on the Scripture stories you would like to work on.  Then involve the students in retelling this story as if it were being told today in their country – using the images and symbols that are part of today’s culture.  In addition to discussing the Scripture story, this provides an opportunity for sharing how Jesus is present today in the lives and stories of other cultures.
  • Conference with parents. Whether a parent has to miss a regular sacrament meeting or a concern comes up that requires speaking with a parent, Skype can provide an opportunity to connect with a parent that may not otherwise be available for a conference.
  • What suggestions do you have for using SKYPE in your religious education classroom or program?

Looking forward to hearing your wonderful ideas!

With Holy Week around the corner, circle your calendars to return to ACyberPilgrim blog next week.  I will share a Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion video reflection with you and more…

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

A Spiritual Online Experience

Lent is this wonderful time of remembering Jesus’ journey to the Cross and then celebrating his Resurrection.  If you have journeyed to Jerusalem and walked the streets as Jesus walked the streets on this way to the Cross, this journey is a reminder of our spiritual journey.  As the path is walked, it helps us see our lives in the context of a path, a pilgrimage.

Spiritual journeys are now possible in a virtual format!   Recently, a friend shared with me the online Labyrinth that was developed by the people at PROOSTinspiring resources that fuel faith of the United KingdomLabyrinth

Here is the introduction to the online labyrinth:

Labyrinth Explanation

Click on the image or go to:

I would encourage you to find a moment in your day, when you have 40 minutes for a quiet, safe place for the intuitive, symbolic mind to be present to your path, your pilgrimage.

Here are some of the responses from the Visitor’s Book by people who have walked the Labyrinth:

Beautiful. I feel I’ve been somewhere… touched the robe of Christ and been recognized!

A completely uplifting and spiritual experience – this is what I came for.

Went to observe – stayed to participate. An amazing journey – no idea how long it took – a lifetime perhaps? Not over yet! Strong sense of journeying with the others in the Labyrinth. A good walk! Thank you for the stillness – for the experience of you and me. Truly God is here.

This magical experience made me totally change the way I will now look at life.

It’s amazing! I felt I was with God for the first time ever. It’s very thought-provoking and I will try to use this experience to change and improve my life.

A peaceful and deep experience in such an amazing setting. The world moved silently by as I explored my inner world – my own unique journey.

If history says I have helped one person to embrace God as you’ve helped me here, I’ll be glad.

Thanks, this has helped me to realize the stresses and strains of work and life – things that seem to surround and engulf me too much.

Words cannot describe my encounter with God through this.

One of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Thank you. Keep on.

Thank you all for providing an appropriate as well as creative ritual for others and myself to commune with God… I was given much insight and freed from much.

May you enjoy a quiet moment with the Lord!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Global Reach Out With Faith

One of groups that I follow is The Global Education Collaborative.  As I read an email message the other day from Lucy Gray about our recent world events – from Middle Eastern uprisings to the catastrophic earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan – I wondered what are we doing with these events in religious education?

Larry Felazzo, is always sharing wonderful links for educators.  It is no surprise that he offers the following regarding the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

The Best Sites for Learning about the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Part II

Today’s Japan Update

A Compilation of the Best Lists about Natural Disasters

All helpful links to learn more about natural disasters.

Yet, how are we talking about the “faith” dimension of these experiences?  CNN just published a blog post titled “Finding Faith Amid Disaster,”  a wonderful post with comments by various religious leaders, including Jim Martin, SJ.  In Part III On Present Dilemmas in the book Here’s My Heart, Here’s My Hand by William A. Barry, SJ,  there are meditations that address some of the fears evoked in us and aim to help readers engage more deeply in a relationship of friendship with God.

CNN Blog Image

Highlights from CNN

The USCCB shared a news release – Bishops Voice Solidarity with Japan, Urge Catholics to Support Efforts of Catholic Relief Services Following Earthquake

Lucy also shared information from Architecture for Humanity and Quest Atlantis, a 3D immersive learning experience for kids.  I share these articles with you as they offer a simple way to engage our children to assist those who are suffering because of the recent disasters in their countries.

Children Worldwide Fold Paper Cranes to Support Rebuilding Effort in Sendai
** Dozens of Countries Responding Including Over a Thousand Haitian Children **

SAN FRANCISCO, March 21, 2011 — In response to the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan on March 11th, Students Rebuild has partnered with’s “Paper Cranes for Japan” campaign to inspire young people worldwide to support their Japanese peers.

Paper Cranes

Paper Cranes for Japan combines the power of’s deep experience engaging youth audiences and the Bezos Family Foundation’s commitment to help young people connect, learn, and take action around critical global issues.

In less than a week, 7 schools in Haiti are making cranes, representing more than 1000 kids collectively folding for Japan; over 7,000 young people posted origami cranes and wishes of support on the “Paper Cranes for Japan” Facebook page and Students Rebuild has had over 200 requests for mailing labels to send in cranes from over 15 different countries including Romania and New Zealand. Building on that momentum, the Bezos Family Foundation announced today a pledge to donate $2 for every crane mailed in to fund Architecture for Humanity’s plan to support Japanese architects’ rebuilding efforts.

According to legend, anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes, which are sacred creatures in Japanese culture, will be granted a wish by a crane. With a goal to collect 100,000 origami cranes from young people to represent wishes of support and healing, the challenge hopes to raise $200,000 for the reconstruction of a youth facility by the Japanese team from Architecture for Humanity. The thousands of cranes will go on to become a permanent art installation in a school or youth facility being rebuilt by Architecture for Humanity in Japan. This huge display of cranes will be a symbolic gift from students around the globe.

Architecture for Humanity and the Bezos Family Foundation partnered previously through Students Rebuild in response to the devastating Haiti earthquake in January, 2010. Paper Cranes for Japan represents a second Students Rebuild challenge, in collaboration with, mobilizing young people to connect and address critical global issues including young people in Haiti who know firsthand the devastating impact of a massive earthquake.

“This initiative empowers children around the world to created a simple gesture that will become more than just symbolic,” says Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair. “Through Students Rebuild, we look forward to updating the crane makers on how their efforts allowed our Japanese architects to respond to the rebuilding efforts in Japan.”

“ started ‘Paper Cranes for Japan’ as a way for all young people who want to help to do so without a car, an adult, or money. With this partnership, their wishes of support will now translate into funding to rebuild schools and communities,” says Editor in Chief Betsy Fast.

Architecture for Humanity and its teams of local pro bono building professionals in Kyoto, Osaka, Sendai, and Tokyo are actively partnering and lending their services to organizations and community groups to mobilizing around long-term reconstruction efforts.

“We believe young people are uniquely poised to affect the world’s most pressing problems,” says Bezos Family Foundation president Jackie Bezos. “They’re often overlooked as a source of talent and solutions.”

For more information on Paper Cranes for Japan log on to Students Rebuild.
Get your friends involved. Fold, Show & Mail
You Tube: How to Fold Cranes Video
Facebook: Paper Cranes for Japan
Twitter: @studentsrebuild #fc4Japan

About the Partners
Students Rebuild is an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation that activates our greatest creative resource “young people” to catalyze change on critical issues. Learn more about Students Rebuild and the Bezos Family Foundation. is one of the largest organizations in the U.S. that helps young people rock causes they care about. A driving force in creating a culture of volunteerism, is on track to activate two million young people in 2011. Plug in at

Also, the following is from our friends at Quest Atlantis, a 3D immersive learning experience for kids:

Greetings, all.

Like many of you, we’ve been overwhelmed at the devastation that our friends in Japan are currently experiencing as a result of the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Based on the legend and story of 1000 cranes, we have built an interactive experience in the 3D world. Upon entering Emissary Island, you will see a Japanese boy, Harumu, beneath a large red crane. When you click on him, he will tell you about his concerns about the earthquake and tsunami. We have opted not to talk much about the nuclear reactor issues, as this is still volatile and may cause more concern at this point, but Harumu will give some information to help students understand the situation without causing undue concern or fears. The boy mentions the legend of the 1000 cranes and says he wants to fold 1000 cranes in the hopes that his wishes for his friends back in Japan will be realized. But after beginning the process of folding, he realizes that he needs help…much more help!

Students are then invited to follow a path of cranes up the hill in Emissary Island where they can fold a “virtual” origami crane to help with the cause. Before finalizing their crane, they imbue it with one of four wishes:  Health, Hope, Comfort or Peace. Once they complete their crane, a confirmation will show up in their Qpack which will contain the kanji symbol for those words.

Students are then encouraged to visit the bulletin board to post on how they can engage in real world efforts to help the people of Japan. They will find a 3D video on origami crane folding should they wish to organize an effort in their school or fold their own REAL paper crane, and they will learn of other real world ideas to promote a sense of activism.

Upon completion of the activity, students will earn a special t-shirt, red with an origami crane, as a symbol of their participation. Students can fold as many interactive cranes as they like, and an interactive tally board will show them how many cranes have been built to date.

We hope you will encourage your students to participate and to wear their special t-shirts to display our solidarity and our best wishes for the people of Japan during this time of unthinkable hardship.

I will provide a few links here which may help, should you choose to continue the activity of discussion in your classroom:
Should you wish to make real origami cranes in your classroom, check out this link for a wonderful 3D video that shows you how to build an origami crane. (Our thanks to creator Derek Stancombe who graciously allowed us to put the video in the 3D space).

Click this link, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, to learn more about the non-fiction story which has inspired a world.

How to Talk to Children about the Disaster in Japan

For older students, you may want to encourage them to make a  crane and upload an image on Facebook. is currently holding a campaign to make 100,000 cranes worldwide! Learn more at

Encourage your students to post ideas on the bulletin board associated with this activity.  We are hoping that students will feel compelling to find some way to help, however small, in their schools or communities.

My thanks to Bronwyn Stuckey, Steven Caldwell, and Kevin Johnson who helped us generate ideas and outline the experience, and my thanks to members of the QA team, Ed Gentry, Janis Watson, Stephanie Scharf and Brenden Sewell, who quickly jumped on the idea and helped bring it to life.

With my best wishes for hope, health, comfort and peace for people of Japan during this terrible time,

Yours in Questing,

Donna Macri Stevens

So, these are some “faith” ideas to use at this time.  Perhaps you would like to share what you are doing!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Thinking Creatively – A Lenten Challenge

Many of us over the Lenten season are deeply involved in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – the traditional manner of immersing ourselves in a season that calls for transformation and conversation.

Many of us are also “Digital Immigrants” in a world that is rapidly moving into electronic communication and global sharing.  Perhaps this is the season where we need to begin to imagine what it takes to transform our personal mindsets that keep us in the “Digital Immigrant” Zone into mindsets that allow us to become “Digital Natives” in ways we have never imagined.

Perhaps this is the season to challenge ourselves to transform the mindsets that we bring to the Digital Table.  How do we do that?  By prayerfully considering how we could use the digital tools that surround us to bring the faith alive with our Digital Natives.

So instead of turning to the “tried and true” materials we have used for generations – the textbook, the diocesan newsletters we receive, and other materials – that are electronic, but really they are just traditional materials that are now in a NEW format – an electronic format!

Instead, especially if we are really comfortable with the content of our faith, I invite you to play with tools that focus on photo sharing or online videos and to use your imagination.  That is, as you become familiar with the tool and/or the service, begin to ask yourself some questions:

  1. What possibility do I see here for using in my classroom (or group) for faith development?
  2. If I search using the term “Lent” what will I find?
  3. Once I find something interesting and maybe even exciting?  How can I weave it into my class?
  4. How could I share this video? this photo? with those in my class or group?
  5. What can I do with Twitter?
  6. What can I do with Facebook?
  7. What can I do with any of the tools that I become familiar with to share the faith?

So, what can you do?  Well, Let’s begin to look at Online Photosharing.  If you’re not sure what this is, take a moment to watch the Online Photosharing in Plain English video:

Yes, there are several options for photo sharing.  Which one you will use, is your decision.  Adam Pash on his blog, shares what he feels are the 5 Best Photo sharing websites. Check out what he says about each.

One of my favorites is Flickr!  I was playing with this website today – just asking myself —

  • What happens when?

In this case I just did a search using the word “Jerusalem”!  Wow all these photo’s that come directly from the Holy City of Jerusalem, created by folks like you and me.

Jerusalem Photos

Flickr Jerusalem Photos

My next question – What can I do with these beautiful photo’s?


Click on Slideshow link

As I looked at my screen, in the upper right hand corner I saw the words “Slideshow” and I wondered “What happens when I click on slideshow?”  To my wonderful surprise, without copying, downloading, or whatever – there was this wonderful slideshow of beautiful images about Jerusalem.

Then I continued to use my imagination and wondered – How could I use this slideshow with students or with others?  Here’s what I imagined:

  • I could tweet the link – to my students or in the format – With a phrase like “Come Visit Jerusalem in Lent – or “Where is Jesus in Jerusalem? – ” Then when we met in our classroom, I could ask how their visit to Jerusalem went?  What did they see?  What questions did they have? What questions would you use?
  • I could teach the students about Creative Commons Copyright and then invite them to create a 30-second video about Jerusalem using photo’s that they have found on Flickr.  Animoto is a wonderful website for this type of activity.
  • Sponsor a Church Scavenger Hunt.  Give your students a list of items they are to locate in your parish church or your diocesan cathedral.  Invite them to photograph these items.  Then they could create a PowerPoint using these items and offer explanations of what they have photographed.  The PowerPoints can be shared in class or added to your class website or who knows where your imagination will lead you.
  • And ….

Our imaginations are limitless!  I would encourage you, if you are not already using a photo sharing website, to choose one of these tools.  Then to begin to imagine how you can creatively use this tool for faith-sharing.

My imagination runs wild, when I begin to use it.  What about yours?  Of course, what’s most important in becoming a Digital Native, is that you WANT to share your wonderful idea with others.  We can all learn from one another!

What is your imagination creating?  Hope you take a moment to share your thoughts and ideas here at a CyberPilgrim blog! I’d love to hear from you!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

Google Tools Knowledge

Google Earth

Entry to Google Earth

When you’re looking for FREE tools, Google provides several options.  Take a moment to learn about the 57 Useful Google Tools You’ve Never Heard Of! Yes, Google has broadened its Internet horizon.  It is not just a search engine!

Google Tools can be an important part of every catechist’s tool kit. All you need is a computer with Internet access in your parish, school, or home.  Often we would like to have our students go beyond what they have learned in the classroom. Or maybe we would like to ENHANCE a class session with technology.

Together, let’s begin a conversation of how we might use or how we have used a Google Tool in catechesis.  This week let’s look at two Google Tools – Reader and Google Earth!

1.      Reader : Use what you learned about RSS Feeds! With RCIA candidates who want to learn more about their faith, demonstrate how they can ADD a subscription for a topic like “Catholic”.  Show them a “Add A Subscription” feature.  Go through the list and talk about how to locate and find “Quality” Catholic blogs.  You may find the USCCB statement, Your Family and Cyberspace helpful to refer to.  This document is a reminder of how we need to carefully choose Catholic content that is web published.

2.      Google Earth : Start with a visit to Google Earth for Educators.  When you are ready, click on the Download link.  To learn more about using Google Earth, go to Build Google Earth Skills.  There is a self-paced tutorial that will provide a great overview of what you are able to do with the Google Earth Tool.  Now let’s think of how to apply this tool while we are teaching our religion classes.

Google Earth for Educators

Let’s consider how we could use this tool during Lent when a pilgrimage to the Holy Land would be most desired.  After you have downloaded the Google Earth app to your computer, load Google Earth on your computer.

a)     In your layers section of Google earth, click on the following (Roads, 3-D Buildings, Ocean, and Gallery):

Google Earth Layers
Layers section of Google Earth

b) In the Search “Fly To” Field type “Jerusalem”

Search for Jerusalem

The "Search" Fly to area

c) Once you have arrived in Jerusalem, Israel hover your mouse over the “Google Earth Community logo ( i ) to locate the “Jerusalem Pool of Siloam (Traditional ) Location.  A window with a photo, links, and a brief explanation will be shown.

Going to the Pool of Siloam (Traditional)

Pool of Siloam (Traditional)

Visiting the Pool of Siloam

d) Then click on the “Category – Footsteps of Jesus” .  You will be taken to the Footsteps of Jesus website.

Footsteps of Jesus Website

The Footsteps of Jesus web page

d) Once you are here, you can click on the locations.  A photo and brief description will show on your screen.

Jerusalem Visiting Bethany
Visiting Bethany

So now you have a virtual trip to the Holy Land.  Of course, you could just go the Sacred Destinations website.  However, by integrating Google Earth into the lesson, we can get the feeling of what it is like to go from your home city to the city of Jerusalem in Israel.

I would love to hear from my readers how you have been using any of the Google tools in your catechetical ministries.  They are FREE.  Only requiring access to a computer or a smart phone with internet access.  (Yes Google Earth is an iPhone App).

I am looking forward to hearing from you!  We are the pioneers leading the way for others.  It is our sharing with one another that will help each one of us learn new ways to integrate technology into our catechetical ministries.

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

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