About the Authors

Filling a Need for Safe Environment Education

Dr. Kathie Amidei and Sr. Kieran Sawyer began developing the Conversations about L.I.F.E. program in 2004 as part of the church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis. Kathie was then the associate director of Child Ministry for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Sister Kieran was the director of a youth retreat center in the archdiocese. Kathie was asked by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, (the Milwaukee archbishop at the time), to find catechetical material to provide the safe environment training required by “The Charter”— the bishops’ document which mandated that all children were to receive annual instruction in ways to avoid sexual abuse.

Dr. Kathie and Sr. Kieran teamed up to answer this request by co-authoring the book Learning about L.I.F.E., which was published in 2006 by Ave Maria Press with an imprimatur from Archbishop Dolan. The L.I.F.E. program provided six parent-child sessions for children of various age levels. The program was based on three principles, which continue to be the foundation of the current Conversations about L.I.F.E program.

  • First: the primary focus of the lessons will be helping children to understand and develop loving relationships, with the teaching on sex abuse being presented only in that context.
  • Second: all teaching on sexuality, positive or negative, will involve parents talking with their own children.
  • Third: the program will be based on the rich moral theology of the church.

Meeting the Goals of Chastity Education

In 2008 the US Bishops promulgated Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living, a document requiring that all children be given chastity education. In response to this second mandate, the authors revised and expanded the L.I.F.E. Program to better incorporate the concepts found in the new document. The revised program was published online in 2010, under the title L.I.F.E. Plus, and marketed as providing both chastity education and safe environment training. In the following years the authors expanded the online program to include three separate formats and a Spanish translation of all of the materials.

Their focus on relationship education was further upheld by Amoris Lætitia (The Joy of Love), issued by Pope Francis in 2016. In this document the Pope reinforced the Vatican Council call for “positive and prudent” sexuality education for all children. He emphasized that such teaching is to be provided by parents talking with their own children, and should always be done within the framework of “education for love.” (AL #280)

In addition, Dr. Kathie and Sister Kieran received several requests from the dioceses and parishes who had been using the L.I.F.E. lessons, calling for an expansion and revision of the program.

Materials Developed with Educators, Families, and Children in Mind

Their response to this input is the Conversations about L.I.F.E. program presented here. In her new materials Dr. Amidei provides evidence-based insights on the important role played by family conversations in the faith formation of children. And Sister Kieran further develops the interactive techniques she and Kathie have found so successful in reaching children and families.

Conversations about L.I.F.E. is a set of 13 age-appropriate lessons, one parent-child session for each stage of a child’s development from pre-kindergarten through high school. The sessions are both easy to teach and engaging to learn. Clean formatting, cohesive lesson building, and clear instructions make the lesson plan, PowerPoint presentation, activity book, and parent follow-up easy to use for facilitators of all experience levels. The content and parent follow-up are strategically designed to meet the current church mandates.

Recent Updates

This new program, published online by The Pastoral Center, includes:

  • an engaging, age-appropriate session plan for one parent-child gathering per grade from 4-year-old kindergarten through grade 12
  • colorful PowerPoint slides which guide both the facilitation process and the parent-child conversations
  • master copies for the teaching materials and the activity books
  • detailed instruction for a classroom adaptation of each session along with instructions for parents to follow up at home (for programs unable to gather parents on a given year)
  • Spanish translation of all of the materials

The GetFamiliesTalking.org website provides an overview of the entire Conversations about L.I.F.E. program, as well as the theological and pedagogical foundations on which it is based. The website also provides a full tutorial for catechists and teachers who want to learn how to facilitate the parent-child sessions.

More about Dr. Kathie Amidei

Dr. Kathie Amidei has served for many years as Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony on the Lake Parish in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Before that she was the associate director for Catechesis and Child Ministry for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and served in a number of parishes as primary teacher and director of religious education. She holds a B.S. in Education, an M.A. in Theology, and a Doctorate in Education and Leadership. A national speaker and writer, she offers many presentations and workshops for catechists and catechetical leaders in parishes and dioceses.

Kathie is a wife, mom, and grandmother. She lives with her husband, Jim, in Nashotah, WI. She enjoys being with her family, exploring how people learn, and encouraging growth in faith. Her passion is to help families engage in their journey of faith in meaningful and practical ways and to infuse parish catechetical ministry with effective and relevant programming.

Dr. Kathie Amidei has written or contributed to:

  • Forming Families: a Faith Resource on Catholic Identity (OSV, 2019)
  • From Generation to Generation: A Case Study on Factors in Faith Community Impacting Faith Development, (Doctoral Dissertation, 2012)
  • Generations Together: Caring, Praying, Learning, Celebrating and Serving Faithfully (Lifelong Faith Associates, 2013)
  • The Journey: A Guide for Persons, Partners, and Parents (R&R Communications, 2013)

More about Sr. Kieran Sawyer

Sister Kieran Sawyer, SSND, is nationally known for her creative work in youth ministry and catechesis. She is an acclaimed author and lecturer on youth ministry and character formation, with a special focus on chastity education. Over the years she has taught religion at all grade levels in Catholic schools and in religious education programs, and has presented workshops and programs for religion teachers and youth ministers across the country and abroad. Her theological degrees are from Marquette University, St. John’s University in Collegeville, and Catholic University

Sister Kieran was the founder and director of the TYME OUT Youth Center in Stone Bank, Wisconsin, where for many years she directed retreats and character education programs for the teens and pre-teens of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Her current ministry includes promoting family-based chastity education and abuse prevention programs and conducting training workshops for catechists, youth ministers, and L.I.F.E. facilitators. She was honored by the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry as a recipient of the 2006 National Youth Ministry Award.

Sister Kieran is a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province.

Sister Kieran Sawyer has written and contributed to many published works, including:

  • LoveEd (Saint Benedict Press, 2018.) A video-discussion series on puberty, sexuality, and pregnancy. Sister Kieran worked with author Coleen Kelly Mast to create the videos and parent-child discussion materials in this program.
  • Sex and the Teenager: Choices and Decisions (Ave Maria Press, 1990, 1999, 2008), a teachers’ manual and student text on adolescent relationships and sexuality.
  • Confirming Faith (Ave Maria Press, 1980, 1994) Teacher’s manual and student book designed to prepare high school students to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation.
  • Youth Ministry Access (Center for Ministry Development, 2009 to present) Lesson plans for middle school and high school youth ministry programs.