Leading, Not Following, the Religious Education Program

Understanding Catechesis


Wouldn't it be nice if everyone involved in your religious education program—catechists, parents, children, and pastoral staff—shared a common vision for catechesis? Of course it would. In reality, however, people approach religious education programs with many different goals and expectations. Some of us were raised in an era when catechism class consisted of memorizing “the Catholic answer” or lists of things such as the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. The goal of religious instruction was often shortsighted, a preparation for people to receive the sacraments of the Church at the appropriate age.

When we view the end goal of catechesis as the reception of the sacraments, we miss the vital chance to prepare Church members for the Christian life. Although memorization of doctrine and preparation for the sacraments have their place in catechesis, the Church has a much broader understanding of catechesis, namely the faith formation of the Catholic Christian as a spiritual, moral, and discerning person. The ultimate goal of catechesis is not simply to confirm children at the end of eighth grade; it is to form adults who are fully prepared to lead a life of discipleship in Christ. Religious education is a way of developing conscious and active participation in the worship, service, and mission of the church.

As a catechetical leader, you are called to bring this vision of catechesis to life in your parish. Broadening the scope of the catechetical process brings people of all ages together in the common quest to grow in faith and understanding of the ways of God. It paves the way for critical faith formation in adults and families and enables religious education, once relegated to the parochial school and the CCD program, to be acknowledged as a lifelong journey for the whole parish community.