Lifelong Education In Faith
Table of Contents
- Jesus’ invitation, “Come follow me”, calls us to engage in lifelong education in the Catholic faith. Such education is a process of continual conversion by which people of all ages deepen their relationship with Jesus into a faith in which one makes a “permanent commitment to think like him, to judge like him, and to live as he lived” (General Directory for Catechesis, [GDC] 53). Our response to Jesus’ invitation enables us to grow in the likeness of Christ (2 Cor 3:18, Rom 8:29). Based in Scripture, tradition, prayer and living, education/formation in faith makes what is known intellectually, come alive within one’s heart so that what the Church teaches and what is learned, can be used to live a Christian life.
- Catechesis is the proclamation of the person, the message, and the mission of Jesus and the invitation to change one’s life in response to that proclamation. Catechesis “echoes” or proclaims the Gospel message and flows out of Jesus’ commissioning of his apostles to go forth to teach and sanctify (Mt 28: 18-20). Catechesis “corresponds to the period in which conversion to Jesus is formalized, and provides a basis for first adhering to Him” (GDC, 63). The Church “has proclaimed that it is the right of every baptized person to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to enter on a truly Christian life” (On Catechesis in Our Time, 4). Such responsibility passes from the Bishop co-equally to pastors, parents, schools, and the entire faith community.
- Through age-appropriate catechesis, the Church focuses on the faith issues and needs of the person during a particular time in life and builds upon the learning and faith formation of earlier ages. Properly planned and presented, such a process becomes an invitation for children, youth, young adults, and adults to create meaning out of the relationship between their faith and life.
- Faith, that special loving relationship with the Triune God that begins with God’s invitation, has a personal and communal dimension, since through Baptism one becomes a member of the Mystical Body of Christ (1 Cor 12: 13). It is through obedient response to that invitation that we experience our union with God in ever widening circles: family, parish, diocese, and world. In the home, the domestic church, parents nurture by word and example the faith they and their children received at Baptism. On the parish level, the family is nurtured through Word and sacrament in community. Here the education in faith begun at home is developed and expanded as others share themselves and their relationship with God. Further communion of the faithful occurs in the Diocese where the faith expressions of diverse cultures are experienced, nurtured, and shared through catechesis.
- Because we experience God on all these different levels it is important for parishes and the Diocese to expand the ministry of catechesis beyond children and youth. Promoting lifelong faith formation requires that we focus upon these areas: the needs of adults, the parish where the majority of Catholic adults and children are catechized, and Catholic schools. Thus, this document will address three main areas:
- Catechesis for adults,
- Parish-based catechesis for youth and children,
- Catholic schools.
- Adult Catholics: While providing for lifelong education and formation, the Church recognizes that “Catechesis for adults, since it deals with persons who are capable of an adherence that is fully responsible, must be considered the chief form of catechesis. All other forms, which are indeed necessary, are in some way oriented to it.” (GDC, 59.) As Catholics we are called to know Jesus, love Jesus, and live Jesus, enabled by an education grounded in the doctrine of the Church as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, [CCC]. The Church’s doctrine “seeks to help deepen understanding of faith. In this way it is oriented toward the maturing of that faith, its putting down roots in personal life and its shining forth in personal conduct.” (CCC, 23.)
- The nearly 30,000 Catholic households in the Diocese of Beaumont represent a variety of situations: two parent families, single parent families, single adults of all ages, and elderly adults both married and widowed. Our adult Catholics need continuing catechesis in order to be better able to live the faith and hand it on to the next generation.
- Young Adults (Ages 18-35): Young adulthood is a very crucial stage in the Christian development of men and women, because it is the time in which persons enter the world on their own and live the values, morals, and faith that they were taught as children and youths. For many this also represents a time when their formal catechesis has ended and their vocation is confirmed. During these years, young adults face many challenges in living out the teachings of the Church. Those who are parents seek to raise their children and pass on their faith to them in an ever-changing world where other churches are reaching out to them and seeking to have them join. This is a critical time when their faith will be tested and tried.
- RCIA: The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a process of evangelization and catechesis for adults who were never baptized, and for those who were baptized in another faith who wish to become Catholics. Likewise, it is meant for those adult Catholics who were baptized and who seek to complete their initiation into the Church through preparing for and receiving the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. Through reflection on scripture, which develops one’s relationship with Jesus, and instruction about the beliefs of the Catholic faith, those involved in the RCIA are brought through a process of conversion and catechesis and welcomed into the Catholic community.
- Most parishes in the diocese have an active RCIA process that primarily focuses on providing instruction on the beliefs of the Catholic faith, but not all parishes include scripture reflection as part of the process. Connecting the rich tradition of our faith with the Word of God, enables people to understand that as followers of Christ they are called to put into practice what they believe as Catholics.
- On both parish and diocesan levels, addressing the needs of pre-school and elementary school age children calls for programs aimed at individuals and families. Children are those most recently sprung from the heart of God, and theirs is an enthusiastic and open faith. Parishes and missions provide catechesis for these children in various programs, and while most of the efforts take place at the parish level, the family has to be the first educator for upon its efforts the parish builds.
- Most students, from preschool age children through those attending high school, receive their formal instruction in the faith through parish-based religious education programs. Parish-based programs of catechesis are the primary institutionalized source of fostering a relationship with Jesus and knowledge of the Catholic faith. These programs are meant to support and reinforce what parents do at home rather than replace their role, because parents are “the first and foremost educators of their children” in faith. (Declaration on Education, 3.)
- Youth ministry is the name given to the response of the Christian community to the needs of young people, and to the effort to actively involve them in the Church. The bishops of the United States present three goals for youth ministry:
- empowering young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in our world today,
- drawing young people to responsible participation in the life, mission, and work of the Catholic faith community,
- fostering the total personal and spiritual growth of each young person (Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry).
Effecting these goals will lead our young people to a firm foundation for discovering their vocation in God’s plan.
- The Catholic education of youth and children is one expression of the mission of the Church that Christ entrusted to his apostles and disciples when he instructed, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt 19:14.) If the Church is truly to be a family of believers, we must acknowledge that it is vitally important for the family to educate its children. All Catholics must undertake the mutual task of supporting Catholic schools since children are the future of the Church of Southeast Texas. Education in the faith for children and youth takes place ideally in a Catholic school when such schools offer the “fullest and best opportunity to realize the threefold purpose of Christian education,” message, community, and service (To Teach As Jesus Did, 101). Catechesis in the schools must strive to teach doctrine within the experience of Christian community and worship, and “prepare young people for effective Christian witness and service to others” (To Teach As Jesus Did, 82).
- Making available high quality Catholic education is of great concern to a cross-section of the Diocese of Beaumont. A small percentage of Catholic high school age students are enrolled in our only diocesan Catholic high school. The tuition levels and the school’s location in Beaumont make Catholic school education prohibitively expensive or inaccessible for many Southeast Texas Catholic families, particularly families in the northern and western vicariates.
- The six Catholic elementary schools of this diocese serve to educate approximately 1900 students. The background of the student population of the schools varies and reflects the population of the area in which it is located. Religious and academic instruction is provided primarily by lay teachers. Tuition levels and location also limit accessibility to religious education and formation within Catholic elementary schools. Insuring the availability of affordable Catholic school education throughout the diocese, and improving the relationship between the schools and the parishes and pastors with whom Catholic school students and their families are involved, is most important to continuing Catholic school education.
- The primary challenges for catechesis in the Diocese of Beaumont involve:
- making adult faith formation and education a priority,
- ensuring that those who teach provide a solid foundation in the basics of the faith,
- making readily available training and educational resources,
- assisting parents in becoming the primary catechists for their children,
- improving support for parish-based Catholic school religious education.
To meet these challenges, the synod recommends the following goals and strategies:
Goal 1. Seek to become an informed Catholic who can apply the teachings of the Church to daily life.
- Seek to learn more about the Word of God, the ways of God, the Church and its mission in the world
- Participate in programs of spiritual growth and religious education that are offered
- Become sufficiently knowledgeable to pass on to your children and others the basic teaching and practices of the Catholic faith
Goal 2. Provide opportunities for the ongoing faith formation of adults.
- Set up a regular program of adult education including Bible, liturgy, moral and social teaching, Christian parenting, and sacramental preparation
- Provide a variety of prayer, retreat and spiritual growth opportunities
- Invite adults to serve as mentors who pass the faith on to others
- Ensure there are ministries, activities, and social events, which engage young adults (ages 18 – 35)
Goal 3. Expand ministry to youth (ages 12 – 18) so that their spiritual formation and religious education needs are met.
- Provide for the services of a qualified youth minister
- Involve youth extensively in liturgy, parish activity, and volunteer service so they know they belong and are needed
- Provide retreats for youth
Goal 4. Provide quality religious formation for elementary and secondary students who are in parish-based religious education.
- Set expectations of students and parents in religious education classes and sacramental preparation
- Involve parents as integral to the parish-based religious education program so they may assume their responsibility of being the primary religious educators of their children
Goal 5. Set general directions and expectations for key educational areas of Church life.
- Develop guidelines and resources to assist parishes in developing adult education, formation of catechists and teachers of religion in Catholic schools, formation and education of children and youth, and sacramental preparation
- Strengthen The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults formation throughout the diocese
- Provide the basic religious education curriculum for those in Catholic schools and for those in parish-based religious education
- Address the educational and resource challenges presented by the cultural diversity within the diocese
Goal 6. Develop a Lay Ministry Training Program/School.
- All enrolled will take a foundational course in ecclesiology. Elective courses will include but not be limited to: Bible, Liturgy, Sacraments, Church History, Spirituality, Social Justice, Prayer and Ministry Training
- Coordinate the diaconate training program with the Lay Ministry Training Program/School so as to take advantage of its resources
Goal 7. Ensure that priests and deacons have sufficient opportunities for ongoing formation and preparation for ministry.
- Provide training for laity so that the various administrative tasks in the parish which do not require a priest can be done by others
- Establish regular sabbatical time for priestly renewal and revitalization
- Provide for priestly mentoring for seminarians, newly ordained priests, and deacons
Goal 8. Work toward making quality Catholic school education more affordable and available to those who desire it.
- Promote the spiritual development of children and youth in the religious environment of the Catholic school as a confirmed means of forming committed Catholic adults
- Formulate a stewardship plan for the funding of Catholic schools
- Provide tuition assistance to families so their children can attend Catholic school
- Develop a scholarship fund to benefit individual students
- General Directory for Catechesis [GDC]. Congregation for the Clergy, 1997.
- On Catechesis in Our Time [Catechesi Trendendae]. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, 1979.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1992.
- Declaration on Education [Gravissimum Educationis]. Second Vatican Council, 1965.
- Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry. National Conference of Catholic Bishops / United States Catholic Conference, 1997.
- To Teach as Jesus Did. National Conference of Catholic Bishops / United States Catholic Conference, 1972.