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Downloadable PDFs:

School and Parish: Catechetical Partners
Catechetical Partners: Working with the Parish School
Guidelines for Catechesis
Catechesis in a Multicultural Church
Viewing Curriculum Through the Lens of Faith
Serving Today's Families
Total Catechesis: Reclaiming a Dynamic Model from the New Testament

Articles:
The National Directory for Catechesis: A Renewed Passion for Catechesis
Including Children and Parents of Other Faiths
Authentically Proclaiming the Teachings of Our Faith
In the Footsteps of Jesus: The Content and Context of Catechesis
Adult Formation: The Courage to Serve
Authentically Proclaiming the Teachings of Our Faith
The Catechist as Witness for Justice
Including Children and Parents of Other Faiths
The National Directory of Catechesis:
The Heart of the Ministry of Catechesis—Evangelization

The National Directory for Catechesis: A Renewed Passion for Catechesis
The National Directory of Catechesis:
Re-Reading the Catechetical Signs of the Times Forty Years after Vatican II



The National Directory for Catechesis: A Renewed Passion for Catechesis

A vital aspect of your responsibility as a parish catechetical leader or school religion coordinator is to be knowledgeable about the content of recent Church documents, particularly those that relate directly to religious education. Your awareness of these documents enables you to reflect on the on-going catechetical efforts in your parish or school, consider how they mirror current Church directives, and initiate strategies for implementing new guidelines. Another facet of your role involves introducing the parish or school staff to new documents and helping them to understand the implications for their ministry.

The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) is an especially important document for everyone involved in the catechetical ministry. Published in May, 2005, the NDC is a resource for catechesis in the United States. Like the General Directory for Catechesis, published in 1997, which states the goals, principles, and guidelines for catechesis in the universal Church, the NDC defines catechesis as “that particular form of the ministry of the word which matures initial conversion to make it into a living, explicit and fruitful confession of faith” (NDC 19 A, page 54). The NDC is a companion document to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which systematically imparts the content of Catholic doctrine we are called to teach based on the four pillars of faith. These are Creed, Liturgy and Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer. Faith First Legacy Edition uses a similar four-unit structure to teach the four pillars of our faith every year at every grade level. While the Catechism provides the content for catechesis; the NDC provides the context for the renewal of catechesis in the United States through guidelines which define the “nature, purpose, object, tasks, basic content, and various methodologies of catechesis” (NDC 5, page 17).

There are three major themes woven throughout the NDC. The first is the new evangelization, which is the “clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery” (NDC 17A, page 47). The entire document is Christ-centered and tells us that we evangelize to bring about conversion to Jesus—by “making a genuine commitment to him and a personal decision to follow him as his disciple” (NDC 17B, page 48). The implication for us as religious educators is that our task is to help students move beyond simply knowing about Jesus; we must strive to awaken faith and to help our students meet Christ and invite him into their daily lives.

A second major theme is the RCIA as a paradigm for all catechesis. The Directory states that the “baptismal catechumenate is the source of inspiration for all catechesis. The process of formation includes four stages…These stages, which reflect the wisdom of the great catechumenal tradition, also inspire the gradual nature of catechesis” (NDC 35D, page 115). Approaching catechesis through the lens of the catechumenal model promotes life-long formation and helps us to recognize that both evangelization and catechesis have no ending point.

The third important theme found in the Directory is culture, diversity and inculturation. We live in a secular world, and both the entertainment industry and the media often powerfully influence the people we minister to. The information and values promoted by these influences are often completely contradictory to the teachings of Jesus. The NDC calls us to “present the Christian life as a response to Christ’s invitation to follow him—in one’s personal life and family, the parish, and the wider human community” (NDC 4C, page 15). The NDC calls for a recognition that “just as all races, ethnicities, and cultures in the world are represented in the United Sates, so too do they find a home within the Catholic Church. Each group brings its own language, history, customs, rituals, and traditions for ‘building up the body of Christ’” (NDC 11C, page 29). The Directory calls us to welcome and respect the rich diversity of our Church family and to recognize how different cultures enrich the Church, while at the same time, do all we can to promote unity within the Church.

The content of the Christian message—the truths of our faith as presented in the CCC and specific elements for teaching the sacraments and Christian morality—are outlined in Chapters 3, 5, and 6 of the Directory. You will find that the Faith First Legacy Edition addresses these standards fully with age-appropriate catechesis.

Methodology is addressed in Chapter 4 of the NDC. First it focuses on divine methodology—God’s self-revelation to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This section emphasizes God as the revealer of everything we know and believe about our faith. Second, the chapter identifies eight elements of human methodology—the ways in which all people come to faith (see NDC 29A-H, pages 95-105). Reflect on these methodologies with your catechists/religion teachers to help them understand more clearly their own role in the total faith formation process of their learners. Faith First incorporates all of these eight methodologies in its learning design.

The remainder of the Directory—Chapters 7 through 10—have clear implications for you and your staff. These chapters discuss catechizing according to a person’s readiness and age level (Chapter 7), specific roles and responsibilities of those who catechize (Chapter 8); the importance of parish, diocesan, and national organizational structures, policies, and procedures to carry out the catechetical mission of the Church (Chapter 9); and resources for catechesis (Chapter 10). As you study these chapters with the parish or school staff, you will find detailed sections that apply directly to the ministry you share. In Chapter 8, for example, you will find a list that delineates the characteristics of the spiritual life of a catechist or school religion teacher (NDC 54B8, page 229). Chapter 10 reminds us of the primary role Sacred Scripture and the Catechism hold as both the norm and the inspiration for all catechesis. This chapter also discusses the criteria that should be found in our textbooks and how to evaluate the resources we use in religious education. Finally, Chapter 10 addresses the impact of media and the role of technology in providing “many promising opportunities to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ in new ways” (NDC 69A, page 286).

Take time to read and study the National Directory for Catechesis and make it a priority to acquaint your staff with it. In order to implement the guidelines found in the NDC, we must first know and understand what it asks of us. Look at the Directory as an opportunity to rededicate yourself and the catechists/religion teachers you work with to our ministry and to create in all of us “a renewed passion for catechesis” (NDC 72, page 297).

For Reflection
• What efforts do you and your staff make to evangelize students—to help them encounter Christ in their daily lives? What can you do to put renewed emphasis on evangelization in your parish or school program?
• What can you do, as a catechetical leader or school religion coordinator, to help to deepen the spiritual lives of your staff? How will you focus on this goal during the coming year?


Including Children and Parents of Other Faiths

Catholic schools in most places increasingly serve children from various faith traditions. This creates challenges in the religion curriculum—challenges that can be addressed either as problems or as enriching opportunities. Discussing your local situation at the outset of each school year can help your school to establish an approach that respects all students while still upholding your primary mission of faith formation for the Catholic students in your school.

Years ago the religious educator Thomas Groome spoke to the faculty of a large Catholic school in Karachi, Pakistan. He described his experience in his book Educating for Life (1998). The situation he encountered there was far different from what you experience. In this school of three thousand students, 95% of the student body was Muslim. Christian symbols could not be in evidence, a Catholic religion class could not be taught, yet one on Islam was required! What then, wondered Dr. Groome, made this school Catholic? The answer, he discovered, was a rich one, and it led him to write a book as a response. While the situation he encountered is different, his reflection reminds us of many necessary aspects of your own mission. He spoke of a basic respect for human life and dignity that he found in the Pakistani school, of a hopeful approach toward life, a commitment to peace and justice, respect for diversity, and the development of a personal spirituality. Surely all these values are at the core of every Catholic school.

Yet the situation and policies of American Catholic schools are quite different. While certain inner-city Catholic schools may have a high percentage of non-Catholic students, in most schools the Catholic student population is the majority. Non-Catholic parents may be attracted to the Catholic school for its high academic standards, as well as for all the humanizing features cited by Dr. Groome. But they still understand that their children will participate in the religion curriculum and other activities related to the faith-based character formation of all the students. Your challenge is to offer this curriculum while remaining sensitive to the presence of other faith traditions in your midst. Here are some tips that may assist you.

Start with the parents. Your principal will have made your school policies clear to parents from other traditions, but establish your own line of communication as well.
Teach the curriculum. Make sure that you teach the curriculum content in its entirety. This is your first obligation to your Catholic students. Share your own faith experience where appropriate just as you would if the entire class were Catholic. Use the same teaching process with all. Its goal is to help students build meaning and to make connections between the content and life. This process can be interesting and helpful for the non-Catholic student as well, for many of our Catholic values cross religious boundaries. In teaching the curriculum, it is only the outcomes that will be different between your two groups of students. Your goal with the non-Catholic students is never to proselytize, but to inform and give them an exposure to Catholic teaching and practice.
Encourage respect for diversity. You will want to make the Catholic students aware of the diversity that is present in the classroom. Do this on the very first day of school. Early in the year, you may wish to offer all children who are willing to do so (including those who are Catholic) the chance to share a bit about their family’s religious background and traditions. The respect with which you greet each child’s contribution will be a valuable lesson for all.
Avoid relativism. There is one caution when presenting the Catholic faith in the presence of children from other traditions. While respect for the diversity in our classrooms is important, be careful not to communicate to Catholic children that all traditions are of equal value and that religious truth is somehow relative. You are serving as a Catholic catechist, and it is important to convey clearly that Catholics believe firmly that their tradition is the one true faith revealed through Jesus Christ. We can know this to be true, and still be respectful of others who have come to a different conclusion from within their own traditions. The Church clearly teaches that all are obligated to follow the dictates of their individual consciences and that those who do God’s will as they know it may obtain eternal salvation (CCC 847).
Be flexible with worship experiences. One place where you may need to make adjustments will be in the areas of prayer and worship. This is where good dialogue with parents will assist you. Non-Catholic children who do not wish to participate in Catholic prayer experiences should not be required to do so, and naturally they would not participate actively in sacramental celebrations. They may attend if they wish, or you may need to provide for alternative activities or reflection time for them. Be careful, however, not to use this as a reason to neglect the prayer experiences that are so important for the faith formation of the Catholic students.
Invite dialogue where advisable. Primary grade children are concrete thinkers and may be having their first exposure to the teachings of the Catholic tradition, so too much dialogue with or information about other traditions may be confusing. Since they will be aware that children from other religions are present, they will have questions from time to time. Answer them simply, and make it clear by your manner that you are comfortable and welcoming of this diversity in your classroom. Older students who have more of a grasp of their own tradition and are more literate in it will be able to engage in classroom dialogue about differing religious attitudes. You will simply want to monitor these conversations and make sure that at the end of the conversation the Catholic students still clearly understand the parameters of Catholic belief. You do not need to fear this dialogue or questions that may result from it. The Catholic faith has a strong foundation and it will stand up to scrutiny.

Children today live in an increasingly diverse world in their schools and communities. An increasing number of them come to you from interfaith families. Your attitude toward this reality holds the key to your success in dealing with it. If you look at religious diversity in your classroom as a gift and an opportunity that is allowing you to prepare children more completely for life in today’s world, you will find that your own creativity in dealing with diversity will be unleashed and both your faith and that of all your students will be enriched.

For Reflection
• What is your own experience of religious diversity in your own family and community?
• How has your own life been enriched through your exposure to other religions and cultures?


Authentically Proclaiming the Teachings of Our Faith
By Kate Ristow, MA, National Catechetical Consultant for RCL Benziger

Every veteran catechetical leader has had the experience of catechists expressing concern about teaching or responding to students’ questions about topics like divorce and remarriage, capital punishment, artificial birth control, premarital sex, abortion, in vitro fertilization, the ordination of women, or why priests are not permitted to marry. In some cases catechists worry that, in the case of marriage, presenting the Church’s teachings fully will upset the students. Catechists might ask, “How can I teach that matrimony is a life-long commitment when I know that half the students in my class come from families that have experienced divorce? Won’t this make the kids feel badly or worried about their parents’ situation?”

In other situations, catechists are concerned that the teachings of the Church will sound outdated to the students: “Ministers and rabbi’s get married; why can’t our priests?” or “My aunt and uncle have been trying to have a baby for a long time, but a priest told them that it would be wrong for them to use any of the new medical techniques to have a baby. Why is the Church against these new discoveries?” Ordinarily, the students who ask these questions are not trying to be controversial; they are honestly trying to make sense of what Catholics believe and why.

It is vital that catechetical leaders help catechists understand that the Church’s teachings are not arbitrary; their source is word of God revealed by Jesus and entrusted to the Apostles. The truths of our faith, drawn from sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture, are called the deposit of faith. These truths have been passed down from age to age through the Apostles’ successors, the bishops. The Holy Spirit guides the Church in interpreting the word of God through the Magisterium, the living, teaching office of the Church.

It is equally important that catechists accept that the Church is not a cafeteria; we can’t pick and choose what we teach. Catechists need to understand that it is their responsibility to teach the authentic truths of the Church fully to their students. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and today’s textbooks, especially those with a genuine spiral approach, greatly assist catechists in this task. The Catechism provides a comprehensive presentation on the faith; textbooks offer incremental, age-appropriate language and techniques for presenting the truths from the Catechism to students.

There are three positive actions catechetical leaders can implement to ensure that catechists understand their responsibility to teach the authentic truths of our faith. First, put the “cafeteria Catholic” issue on the agenda of one of your catechist meetings early in the year and discuss it thoroughly with the staff. You may want to share two quotations from the National Directory for Catechists with the staff:

“Parishes should…help all who catechize to understand that, like Jesus, their teaching is not their own but, rather, comes from God” (NDC 25 A, page 77).

“The spiritual life of a catechist should be characterized by…a missionary zeal by which they are fully convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith and enthusiastically proclaim it” (NDC 54 B 8, page 228).

Encourage catechists to teach from their Catechist Guides, which have been carefully reviewed by the bishops for accuracy and fidelity to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This will help them stay on track and ensure that children are learning the truths of our faith systematically and completely. Emphasize that straying from the content of their lessons to promote a specific agenda or call into question Church doctrine is unfair to the students’ developing faith and creates confusion.

Secondly, urge catechists to surface issues they face with their students and areas where they, too, are confused or unsure about Church teachings. If at all possible, give each catechist their own copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Having these excellent reference tools at hand will not only assist catechists in their ministry; it will also help them in their ongoing personal faith development.

Finally, work with the staff to brainstorm appropriate responses to questions the students may pose regarding issues that they are concerned about addressing in class. Catechists are savvy enough to know that responding, “Because the Church says so” isn’t going to satisfy a curious or confused middle-schooler. Working with catechists to frame suitable replies will help them feel more confident about faithfully teaching the totality of the Church’s truths to their students.


In the Footsteps of Jesus: The Content and Context of Catechesis
by Kate Ristow

Our goal as catechists is to respond to the commission Christ gave to his Apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). We are called to help our students grow in their love and knowledge of the Person and message of Jesus and to make a firm commitment to follow him in their daily lives.

Three important documents direct us in our mission: The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the General Directory for Catechesis and the National Directory for Catechesis. These documents provide the foundation and norms for catechesis. They guide catechists in sharing the truths of our Catholic faith authentically and help us to understand the nature and purpose of our ministry. Let’s take a closer look at these three essential catechetical resources.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
The Catechism provides a systematic presentation of the essential doctrines of the Catholic faith. The CCC is divided into four “pillars” or sections based on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition:
Part1: The Profession of Faith (The Creed)
Part 2: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (Liturgy and Sacraments)
Part 3: Life in Christ (Morality)
Part 4: Christian Prayer (Prayer in the Christian Life and the Lord’s Prayer)

The Catechism presents a holistic vision of our faith as it is to be believed, celebrated, lived, and prayed. It is not intended to serve as a textbook for our students. Instead, it is a reference tool for all those involved in the catechetical ministry to use to understand the beliefs and practices of the Catholic faith thoroughly. All catechists will find the CCC invaluable for their own formation and information. In addition to the Catholic teachings, the Catechism includes an excellent general index, a glossary, an index of Scripture and Church documents cited in the document, and many cross-references that help us to understand the unity of our faith.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism evaluates textbooks to ensure that the doctrines presented in them are in conformity with the CCC. Through this process, bishops, pastors, catechists and parents are assured that children are learning the essential truths of the Catholic faith. In addition, almost all religious education catechist and teacher guides include references to the Catechism in every chapter. These references encourage catechists and Catholic school teachers to a deeper exploration of our faith and help them to fully appreciate what they are teaching.

The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC)
The General Directory provides an overall vision of catechetical ministry for the worldwide Church, setting the tone, culture and context for our ministry. It has five parts:
Part I: Catechesis in the Church’s Mission of Evangelization—Explores the relationship between evangelization and catechesis.
Part II: The Gospel Message—Outlines the norms and criteria for presenting the truths of our faith.
Part III: The Pedagogy of Faith—Emphasizes that when we catechize we are joined to God’s grace and action.
Part IV: Those to Be Catechized—Details the different needs of various age groups and those with special circumstances.
Part V: Catechesis in the Particular Church—Looks at the role of the local Church, emphasizes the importance of catechist training and offers guidelines for organizing catechetical programs.

The GDC and the CCC are meant to work together to further the mission and ministry of catechesis in the world.

The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC)
The NDC focuses on catechesis for the Church in the United States. It provides helpful guidelines for inculturating and applying the principles from the General Directory to the cultural, religious, and regional diversity found in our country. The NDC emphasizes the importance of the “new evangelization” and “proclaim(ing) Christ to all peoples” (NDC 17A). The National Directory also calls us to discipleship, “making a genuine commitment to (Jesus) and a personal decision to follow him” (NDC 17B). In addition, the Directory illuminates the goals, methods and issues of catechesis for all those who participate in this ministry.

The NDC is a very practical document, providing the “how to” for catechesis in our country. It does not shy away from outlining the challenges to catechesis in our nation and it offers a descriptive profile of Catholics in the United States. The National Directory explains the differing roles of those who catechize and focuses on the specific roles of pastors, parish catechetical leaders, principles, youth ministers, parish catechists, school religion teachers, and all Catholic school personnel and the importance of their initial and ongoing formation in faith.

Different models for religious education are highlighted and special attention is given to resources for catechesis (Chapter 10), including the role of media and technology. All those who catechize will benefit greatly from reading and applying the insights from the NDC to their own ministry.

Kate Ristow is National Catechetical Consultant for RCL Benziger and a frequent speaker at national and regional conferences. For the last twenty years, she has also served as a contributing editor and feature writer for Catechist magazine. Kate has written Catechist and Teacher Guides and Student Text materials for every elementary grade level and has worked in religious formation for over thirty years as a classroom teacher, catechist, and an administrator. Kate has a BA from Marquette University and a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from Mundelein College. She is married and the mother of three adult sons and five grandchildren.


Adult Formation: The Courage to Serve
by Reverend Louis J. Cameli, STD

For me the ministry of adult formation has always seemed truly formidable, if not intimidating. How could I foster faith in others who were just like me and, sometimes, gifted with experiences that exceeded mine? I knew it was more than a matter of programs, structures, and information—as important as these might be in their own way. There seemed to be some missing element that I just could not name.

Then one day, while reading Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, he seemed to answer my questions directly from his experience. In two passages, one in chapter 11 concerning the Eucharist (v. 23) and the other in chapter 15 concerning the Resurrection (v. 3), Paul uses an old and solemn rabbinic formula. In both places he says, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.” Paul clearly understands that he is an instrument, a vehicle for sharing the person of Jesus Christ and the content of faith. At the same time, he knows that he can only share because he has already received what he is to share and the One whom he is to proclaim.

Paul does not use our language or turns-of-phrase. He would not speak of “adult faith formation,” but, in fact, he is deeply involved in it. He is fully conscious that he is not merely sharing knowledge about Jesus Christ or information about faith. He is sharing himself as one who has been touched, formed, and reformed by Jesus Christ. Paul is aware that his faith is the critical and necessary instrument to foster faith in the people he serves. This awareness becomes evident in the power of his conviction, in his passion, and in his creative eloquence in proclaiming and presenting Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

Over a thousand years later, Saint Thomas Aquinas coined a phrase that has become the motto of the Dominicans and a well-accepted definition of preaching: contemplata aliis tradere, to hand on to others what we ourselves have contemplated. This thought follows a straight line from Paul. Our best proclamation, our best preaching, our best faith formation has its foundation in the Word that has taken root in our hearts. What you have received as a gift, give as a gift. (See Matthew 10:8.)

When we want to serve or help people, of course we hope to succeed and do something good for them. That mindset can put the focus on our performance. In matters of adult faith formation that would be a mistake. If Paul is correct and if Saint Thomas correctly echoes him, then our first and guiding focus must be on our own faith. We hand on what we have received. Indeed, the whole of our lives in faith are marked by this rhythm of reception and donation, acceptance and gift.

For Reflection
Describe some ways that you could make Paul’s words—“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you”—your own. What have you been given that you would like to share with others?

We hand on
what we have
received.

Father Louis J. Cameli is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and pastor of Divine Savior Parish in Norridge, Illinois. He completed his theological studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a doctorate in theology with a specialization in spirituality. He is the former director of ongoing formation of priests in the Archdiocese of Chicago and director of the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House, Mundelein, Illinois. In February, 2002, he received the Pope John XXIII Award from the National Organization for the Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy (NOCERCC) for his contributions to the continuing education and ongoing formation of priests. He has authored numerous books on spirituality and also served as a writer and theological consultant for RCL’s Faith First Legacy Edition K-8 curriculum.


Authentically Proclaiming the Teachings of Our Faith
By Kate Ristow, MA, National Catechetical Consultant for RCL Benziger

Every veteran catechetical leader has had the experience of catechists expressing concern about teaching or responding to students’ questions about topics like divorce and remarriage, capital punishment, artificial birth control, premarital sex, abortion, in vitro fertilization, the ordination of women, or why priests are not permitted to marry. In some cases catechists worry that, in the case of marriage, presenting the Church’s teachings fully will upset the students. Catechists might ask, “How can I teach that matrimony is a life-long commitment when I know that half the students in my class come from families that have experienced divorce? Won’t this make the kids feel badly or worried about their parents’ situation?”

In other situations, catechists are concerned that the teachings of the Church will sound outdated to the students: “Ministers and rabbi’s get married; why can’t our priests?” or “My aunt and uncle have been trying to have a baby for a long time, but a priest told them that it would be wrong for them to use any of the new medical techniques to have a baby. Why is the Church against these new discoveries?” Ordinarily, the students who ask these questions are not trying to be controversial; they are honestly trying to make sense of what Catholics believe and why.

It is vital that catechetical leaders help catechists understand that the Church’s teachings are not arbitrary; their source is word of God revealed by Jesus and entrusted to the Apostles. The truths of our faith, drawn from sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture, are called the deposit of faith. These truths have been passed down from age to age through the Apostles’ successors, the bishops. The Holy Spirit guides the Church in interpreting the word of God through the Magisterium, the living, teaching office of the Church.

It is equally important that catechists accept that the Church is not a cafeteria; we can’t pick and choose what we teach. Catechists need to understand that it is their responsibility to teach the authentic truths of the Church fully to their students. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and today’s textbooks, especially those with a genuine spiral approach, greatly assist catechists in this task. The Catechism provides a comprehensive presentation on the faith; textbooks offer incremental, age-appropriate language and techniques for presenting the truths from the Catechism to students.

There are three positive actions catechetical leaders can implement to ensure that catechists understand their responsibility to teach the authentic truths of our faith. First, put the “cafeteria Catholic” issue on the agenda of one of your catechist meetings early in the year and discuss it thoroughly with the staff. You may want to share two quotations from the National Directory for Catechists with the staff:

“Parishes should…help all who catechize to understand that, like Jesus, their teaching is not their own but, rather, comes from God” (NDC 25 A, page 77).

“The spiritual life of a catechist should be characterized by…a missionary zeal by which they are fully convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith and enthusiastically proclaim it” (NDC 54 B 8, page 228).

Encourage catechists to teach from their Catechist Guides, which have been carefully reviewed by the bishops for accuracy and fidelity to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This will help them stay on track and ensure that children are learning the truths of our faith systematically and completely. Emphasize that straying from the content of their lessons to promote a specific agenda or call into question Church doctrine is unfair to the students’ developing faith and creates confusion.

Secondly, urge catechists to surface issues they face with their students and areas where they, too, are confused or unsure about Church teachings. If at all possible, give each catechist their own copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. Having these excellent reference tools at hand will not only assist catechists in their ministry; it will also help them in their ongoing personal faith development.

Finally, work with the staff to brainstorm appropriate responses to questions the students may pose regarding issues that they are concerned about addressing in class. Catechists are savvy enough to know that responding, “Because the Church says so” isn’t going to satisfy a curious or confused middle-schooler. Working with catechists to frame suitable replies will help them feel more confident about faithfully teaching the totality of the Church’s truths to their students.

Kate Ristow is National Catechetical Consultant for RCL Benziger and a frequent speaker at national and regional conferences. For the last twenty years, she has also served as a contributing editor and feature writer for Catechist magazine. Kate has written Catechist and Teacher Guides and Student Text materials for every elementary grade level and has worked in religious formation for over thirty years as a classroom teacher, catechist, and an administrator. Kate has a BA from Marquette University and a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from Mundelein College. She is married and the mother of three adult sons and five grandchildren.


The Catechist as Witness for Justice
by Donna Grimes

One of the greatest gifts of my Catholic upbringing is a firm awareness of belonging to the human family. My “Key Characteristics of Catholics” list includes the idea that we strive to love others as God loves us. No matter how tantalizing other messages may appear, we cannot live our lives blithely and selfishly unmoved by the needs of our brothers and sisters in the world.

This awareness is as much a part of me as my love of the sacraments and appreciation for the Mass. Loving others as God loves us is imperative. Indeed, having compassion for others, especially for the “least of these,” and responding to their suffering in love, through faith and with hope, is the mantra of Old Testament prophets and the very heart of Jesus’ earthly mission.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church issued by the Vatican in 2005 guides our understanding and practice of Catholic social teaching. The Compendium cites four permanent principles at the heart of Catholic social teaching: The dignity of the human person created in the image of God, is the “foundation of all the other principles and content of the Church’s social doctrine.” The common good concerns our responsibility for the good of all people and of the whole person. Subsidiarity relates to sharing social responsibility and enabling all members of the community to participate; and Solidarity speaks of the interrelatedness of brothers and sisters in the human family that glorifies God. (Compendium, 160)

Historically, the Catholic Church responded to the cries of the poor and vulnerable by establishing schools, hospitals, social service agencies, benevolent societies, and similar institutions. Today, she continues to build upon this long tradition through national and international organizations, parish collections, outreach programs, and peace and justice activities. The Church recognizes that working to change the structures of unjust institutions is equally as important as the charitable outreach to people in need. This Christ-like compassion is the net cast wide and deep to engage individuals and Catholic faith communities such as parishes, schools, and religious orders as loving partners in the building of God’s Kingdom. As Catholic Christians all of us are called to share in this mission.

1. As catechists, are we witnesses for justice? Are we advocates for the poor and vulnerable? Do we join with and support the efforts of those who are marginalized in society to speak for and help themselves? Do we do our part to correct injustices that individuals and communities experience directly and through institutional structures such as harmful laws, policies and social practices? When the risk is high for us personally, among our peers, family, friends and associates, do we speak up for truth and justice in our words and deeds?

2. What is the quality of our response? In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be…This duty is a grace.” (Deus Caritas Est, 35) Are our actions motivated by love? Do they emanate not from vain ideology but from our faith? Do we give from the heart in ways that respect and uplift the dignity of our sisters and brothers? Have we prayed about our feelings on the matter and asked for guidance in my actions?

3. What can we do to nurture effectively the development of other witnesses for justice?
• We can work to make Catholic social doctrine alive and relevant to learners by offering them many experiences of direct service (charity) and social change (justice). Charity helps individuals meet their present needs. Justice corrects long-term problems especially as they affect groups and communities. Both virtues are necessary and interrelated.
• We can help our learners journey into relationship with those for whom they are concerned. Justice in the Biblical sense is about being in right relationship with God and one another. Thus, our primary focus must be on people, not ideological positions.
• Our learning opportunities should include prayer, reflection on Catholic social teaching, and some degree of social analysis regarding unjust conditions, along with action. All of these components are essential to the formation of witnesses for justice and contribute to our own continuous transformation as well.

Catholic social doctrine is more like a compass than a map, so becoming a witness for justice is a life-long, grace-filled journey of love. The United States Catholic Bishops in their 1998 reflection Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions reminded us, “In our relationship with God we experience the conversion of heart that is necessary to truly love one another as God has loved us”(2).

For Reflection
1. In what ways have I participated in charitable activities or in work to change unjust structures?
2. What practical steps can I take to help my learners increase their commitment to the poor and marginalized in our society?

Donna Toliver Grimes is an Education Specialist on the national staff of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She is a resource for diocesan staff who implement local CCHD transformative education efforts. Ms. Grimes develops resources and facilitates learning processes for adults and youth aimed at promoting Catholic social teaching and action, especially concerning poverty in the U.S. Formerly a parish director of religious education, she currently is a catechist and coordinator for the Confirmation program at her parish.


Including Children and Parents of Other Faiths

Catholic schools in most places increasingly serve children from various faith traditions. This creates challenges in the religion curriculum—challenges that can be addressed either as problems or as enriching opportunities. Discussing your local situation at the outset of each school year can help your school to establish an approach that respects all students while still upholding your primary mission of faith formation for the Catholic students in your school.

Years ago the religious educator Thomas Groome spoke to the faculty of a large Catholic school in Karachi, Pakistan. He described his experience in his book Educating for Life (1998). The situation he encountered there was far different from what you experience. In this school of three thousand students, 95% of the student body was Muslim. Christian symbols could not be in evidence, a Catholic religion class could not be taught, yet one on Islam was required! What then, wondered Dr. Groome, made this school Catholic? The answer, he discovered, was a rich one, and it led him to write a book as a response. While the situation he encountered is different, his reflection reminds us of many necessary aspects of your own mission. He spoke of a basic respect for human life and dignity that he found in the Pakistani school, of a hopeful approach toward life, a commitment to peace and justice, respect for diversity, and the development of a personal spirituality. Surely all these values are at the core of every Catholic school.

Yet the situation and policies of American Catholic schools are quite different. While certain inner-city Catholic schools may have a high percentage of non-Catholic students, in most schools the Catholic student population is the majority. Non-Catholic parents may be attracted to the Catholic school for its high academic standards, as well as for all the humanizing features cited by Dr. Groome. But they still understand that their children will participate in the religion curriculum and other activities related to the faith-based character formation of all the students. Your challenge is to offer this curriculum while remaining sensitive to the presence of other faith traditions in your midst. Here are some tips that may assist you.

• Start with the parents. Your principal will have made your school policies clear to parents from other traditions, but establish your own line of communication as well.
• Teach the curriculum. Make sure that you teach the curriculum content in its entirety. This is your first obligation to your Catholic students. Share your own faith experience where appropriate just as you would if the entire class were Catholic. Use the same teaching process with all. Its goal is to help students build meaning and to make connections between the content and life. This process can be interesting and helpful for the non-Catholic student as well, for many of our Catholic values cross religious boundaries. In teaching the curriculum, it is only the outcomes that will be different between your two groups of students. Your goal with the non-Catholic students is never to proselytize, but to inform and give them an exposure to Catholic teaching and practice.
• Encourage respect for diversity. You will want to make the Catholic students aware of the diversity that is present in the classroom. Do this on the very first day of school. Early in the year, you may wish to offer all children who are willing to do so (including those who are Catholic) the chance to share a bit about their family’s religious background and traditions. The respect with which you greet each child’s contribution will be a valuable lesson for all.
• Avoid relativism. There is one caution when presenting the Catholic faith in the presence of children from other traditions. While respect for the diversity in our classrooms is important, be careful not to communicate to Catholic children that all traditions are of equal value and that religious truth is somehow relative. You are serving as a Catholic catechist, and it is important to convey clearly that Catholics believe firmly that their tradition is the one true faith revealed through Jesus Christ. We can know this to be true, and still be respectful of others who have come to a different conclusion from within their own traditions. The Church clearly teaches that all are obligated to follow the dictates of their individual consciences and that those who do God’s will as they know it may obtain eternal salvation (CCC 847).
• Be flexible with worship experiences. One place where you may need to make adjustments will be in the areas of prayer and worship. This is where good dialogue with parents will assist you. Non-Catholic children who do not wish to participate in Catholic prayer experiences should not be required to do so, and naturally they would not participate actively in sacramental celebrations. They may attend if they wish, or you may need to provide for alternative activities or reflection time for them. Be careful, however, not to use this as a reason to neglect the prayer experiences that are so important for the faith formation of the Catholic students.
• Invite dialogue where advisable. Primary grade children are concrete thinkers and may be having their first exposure to the teachings of the Catholic tradition, so too much dialogue with or information about other traditions may be confusing. Since they will be aware that children from other religions are present, they will have questions from time to time. Answer them simply, and make it clear by your manner that you are comfortable and welcoming of this diversity in your classroom. Older students who have more of a grasp of their own tradition and are more literate in it will be able to engage in classroom dialogue about differing religious attitudes. You will simply want to monitor these conversations and make sure that at the end of the conversation the Catholic students still clearly understand the parameters of Catholic belief. You do not need to fear this dialogue or questions that may result from it. The Catholic faith has a strong foundation and it will stand up to scrutiny.

Children today live in an increasingly diverse world in their schools and communities. An increasing number of them come to you from interfaith families. Your attitude toward this reality holds the key to your success in dealing with it. If you look at religious diversity in your classroom as a gift and an opportunity that is allowing you to prepare children more completely for life in today’s world, you will find that your own creativity in dealing with diversity will be unleashed and both your faith and that of all your students will be enriched.

For Reflection
• What is your own experience of religious diversity in your own family and community?
• How has your own life been enriched through your exposure to other religions and cultures?


The National Directory of Catechesis:
The Heart of the Ministry of Catechesis—Evangelization

by Michael P Horan, Ph.D.

The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) calls our attention to two important themes in catechesis: (1) the reconstituted relationship between evangelization and catechesis, and (2) adult faith as the goal and reference point on the lifelong journey of forming disciples in faith. In this essay let us consider the first theme, the relationship between evangelization and catechesis.

From Falling in Love and Staying in Love
Religious educators once thought of the relationship between evangelization and catechesis as something like the relationship between falling in love and being in love. The initial enthusiasm of the love relationship is surprising, like falling; great joy accompanies the moment when we recognize and acknowledge the spark of love. But the state of being (and staying) in love is a far more stable and much longer - indeed lifelong - process of truly coming to know and understand the complex personality and the mystery of the loved one. The early general and national directories on catechesis summarized the thinking of earlier times in describing evangelization as an initial spark in the faith life of the individual, with catechesis supporting and developing that faith gradually, with increasing knowledge and personal engagement, over the course of a lifetime. Undeniable in the evangelization-catechesis metaphor was its chronological sequence; people presumed that evangelization preceded catechesis, and they imagined evangelization to be more like a once-and-unrepeatable special event than the repeatable and gradual nature of catechesis.

Evangelization as the Context for Catechesis
In contrast, the new General Directory for Catechesis and the National Directory for Catechesis offer a different notion of the relationship. The writers of these newer directories locate catechesis in the larger context of evangelization. This represents a theoretical and a practical shift. If at one time we thought of evangelization as an initial reality in the life of faith, the writers of the NDC invite us to imagine it as the ongoing and defining reality in which catechesis takes place. This reality is needed for "personal transformation through the development of a personal relationship with God" (NDC, n. 17, p. 47), a relationship that takes shape over the course of a lifetime. If evangelization is not a once in a lifetime event, but the defining event that shapes faith over a lifetime, then catechesis must be evangelizing. In other words, catechesis ought to be vital, compelling, inviting people to deeper transformation over the course of a lifetime.

From Noun to Adjective
Whether as a noun (evangelization) or as an adjective (evangelizing) modifying catechesis, the thinking beneath this language has been branded the "new evangelization." It results from re-reading the signs of the times first begun in the papacy of Pope John Paul II, with the late pope's emphasis on returning to the core of the gospel message, with its power to transform individuals and society.

What Does this Mean for Catechists?
Many catechists know baptized members of the Church who have heard many words but not the Word of God poured out in Jesus Christ. Every person deserves to hear the good news of the "proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ," the ground of our faith. (NDC, n. 17, p. 47) We—all of us—are in need of evangelizing experiences that have us connect with the very core of our faith:

Jesus Christ is at once the message, the messenger, the purpose of the message, and the consummation of the message. (NDC, n. 1, p. 4)

But for many that core relationship with Christ has been obscured by other experiences that block the proclamation and its acceptance. Echoing the emphases found in the writings of Pope John Paul II, the writers of the NDC name some of those persons who are in need of evangelizing experiences that will heal them; among others the writers name those who have lost a sense of faith, those who have been formed by the values of a secularized culture, those who feel alienated from their faith and from the Church. (Ibid.) Most important to remember in this: only the evangelized will evangelize others.

The work of catechesis is much more than informing people with data. The core of the relationship with Christ is the reason for the Church to exist, in order to evangelize, and to invite others to a deeper relationship with Christ. But relating well and deeply is the task of a lifetime. The writers of the NDC know that well, and they regard adult faith as the goal and the reference point for evangelizing catechesis.

Some questions and issues to consider:
The NDC challenges us to think broadly about the evangelizing experiences that form people in faith. Here are some questions we might consider:
• How can I imagine the work of catechesis as an evangelizing work for others? In what sense am I gradually (re)evangelized by my ministry of catechesis?
• How can our church or school reach out to those parents of the young people in our care who feel hurt by, or alienated from, the Church? What sorts of interactions will evangelize these parents?
• In what sense I am in need of personal transformation toward deeper living of the gospel practices of:
\ Hospitality toward the stranger?
\ Forgiveness?
\ The works of mercy?

Dr. Michael Horan is Professor of Religious Education and Pastoral Theology at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. Dr. Horan, who holds a Ph.D. in Religious Education from the Catholic University of America, ministered to youth and young adults in high schools and college campuses in New York and Washington, D.C. He holds a special interest in the preparation of lay ministers for leadership in the Catholic Church. For the past ten years Michael has taught Catholic lay ministers in two graduate programs at LMU, while teaching teachers and campus ministers at Boston College each summer. Michael is an author of two works on the General Directory for Catechesis and is a contributing author of Blest Are We, the parish and school religious education series. Dr. Horan chairs the Advisory Board for the Office of Pastoral Associates for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and he is a member of the Board of Directors of St. John's Seminary, Camarillo, California. Michael and his wife, Patricia Fiedler, live in Marina del Rey, California, and they are active parishioners at Saint Monica Church in Santa Monica.


The National Directory for Catechesis: A Renewed Passion for Catechesis
by Kate Ristow

A vital aspect of your responsibility as a parish catechetical leader or school religion coordinator is to be knowledgeable about the content of recent Church documents, particularly those that relate directly to religious education. Your awareness of these documents enables you to reflect on the on-going catechetical efforts in your parish or school, consider how they mirror current Church directives, and initiate strategies for implementing new guidelines. Another facet of your role involves introducing the parish or school staff to new documents and helping them to understand the implications for their ministry.

The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) is an especially important document for everyone involved in the catechetical ministry. Published in May, 2005, the NDC is a resource for catechesis in the United States. Like the General Directory for Catechesis, published in 1997, which states the goals, principles, and guidelines for catechesis in the universal Church, the NDC defines catechesis as “that particular form of the ministry of the word which matures initial conversion to make it into a living, explicit and fruitful confession of faith” (NDC 19 A, page 54). The NDC is a companion document to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), which systematically imparts the content of Catholic doctrine we are called to teach based on the four pillars of faith. These are Creed, Liturgy and Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer. Faith First Legacy Edition uses a similar four-unit structure to teach the four pillars of our faith every year at every grade level. While the Catechism provides the content for catechesis; the NDC provides the context for the renewal of catechesis in the United States through guidelines which define the “nature, purpose, object, tasks, basic content, and various methodologies of catechesis” (NDC 5, page 17).

There are three major themes woven throughout the NDC. The first is the new evangelization, which is the “clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery” (NDC 17A, page 47). The entire document is Christ-centered and tells us that we evangelize to bring about conversion to Jesus—by “making a genuine commitment to him and a personal decision to follow him as his disciple” (NDC 17B, page 48). The implication for us as religious educators is that our task is to help students move beyond simply knowing about Jesus; we must strive to awaken faith and to help our students meet Christ and invite him into their daily lives.

A second major theme is the RCIA as a paradigm for all catechesis. The Directory states that the “baptismal catechumenate is the source of inspiration for all catechesis. The process of formation includes four stages…These stages, which reflect the wisdom of the great catechumenal tradition, also inspire the gradual nature of catechesis” (NDC 35D, page 115). Approaching catechesis through the lens of the catechumenal model promotes life-long formation and helps us to recognize that both evangelization and catechesis have no ending point.

The third important theme found in the Directory is culture, diversity and inculturation. We live in a secular world, and both the entertainment industry and the media often powerfully influence the people we minister to. The information and values promoted by these influences are often completely contradictory to the teachings of Jesus. The NDC calls us to “present the Christian life as a response to Christ’s invitation to follow him—in one’s personal life and family, the parish, and the wider human community” (NDC 4C, page 15). The NDC calls for a recognition that “just as all races, ethnicities, and cultures in the world are represented in the United Sates, so too do they find a home within the Catholic Church. Each group brings its own language, history, customs, rituals, and traditions for ‘building up the body of Christ’” (NDC 11C, page 29). The Directory calls us to welcome and respect the rich diversity of our Church family and to recognize how different cultures enrich the Church, while at the same time, do all we can to promote unity within the Church.

The content of the Christian message—the truths of our faith as presented in the CCC and specific elements for teaching the sacraments and Christian morality—are outlined in Chapters 3, 5, and 6 of the Directory. You will find that the Faith First Legacy Edition addresses these standards fully with age-appropriate catechesis.

Methodology is addressed in Chapter 4 of the NDC. First it focuses on divine methodology—God’s self-revelation to us in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. This section emphasizes God as the revealer of everything we know and believe about our faith. Second, the chapter identifies eight elements of human methodology—the ways in which all people come to faith (see NDC 29A-H, pages 95-105). Reflect on these methodologies with your catechists/religion teachers to help them understand more clearly their own role in the total faith formation process of their learners. Faith First incorporates all of these eight methodologies in its learning design.

The remainder of the Directory—Chapters 7 through 10—have clear implications for you and your staff. These chapters discuss catechizing according to a person’s readiness and age level (Chapter 7), specific roles and responsibilities of those who catechize (Chapter 8); the importance of parish, diocesan, and national organizational structures, policies, and procedures to carry out the catechetical mission of the Church (Chapter 9); and resources for catechesis (Chapter 10). As you study these chapters with the parish or school staff, you will find detailed sections that apply directly to the ministry you share. In Chapter 8, for example, you will find a list that delineates the characteristics of the spiritual life of a catechist or school religion teacher (NDC 54B8, page 229). Chapter 10 reminds us of the primary role Sacred Scripture and the Catechism hold as both the norm and the inspiration for all catechesis. This chapter also discusses the criteria that should be found in our textbooks and how to evaluate the resources we use in religious education. Finally, Chapter 10 addresses the impact of media and the role of technology in providing “many promising opportunities to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ in new ways” (NDC 69A, page 286).

Take time to read and study the National Directory for Catechesis and make it a priority to acquaint your staff with it. In order to implement the guidelines found in the NDC, we must first know and understand what it asks of us. Look at the Directory as an opportunity to rededicate yourself and the catechists/religion teachers you work with to our ministry and to create in all of us “a renewed passion for catechesis” (NDC 72, page 297).

For Reflection
• What efforts do you and your staff make to evangelize students—to help them encounter Christ in their daily lives? What can you do to put renewed emphasis on evangelization in your parish or school program?
• What can you do, as a catechetical leader or school religion coordinator, to help to deepen the spiritual lives of your staff? How will you focus on this goal during the coming year?

Kate Ristow is National Catechetical Consultant for RCL Benziger and a frequent speaker at national and regional conferences. For the last twenty years, she has also served as a contributing editor and feature writer for Catechist magazine. Kate has written Catechist and Teacher Guides and Student Text materials for every elementary grade level and has worked in religious formation for over thirty years as a classroom teacher, catechist, and an administrator. Kate has a BA from Marquette University and a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from Mundelein College. She is married and the mother of three adult sons and five grandchildren.


The National Directory of Catechesis:
Re-Reading the Catechetical Signs of the Times Forty Years after Vatican II

by Michael P. Horan, Ph.D.

Forty years have passed since the close of the monumental Church event known as the Second Vatican Council. Since that time, Catholics have been clear that faithful people should and must "read the signs of the times." We need to be attentive to our life situation, for it is the context out of which we come to understand who God is and who we are in God's plan. In reading the signs, we consider the features of our context that promote the gospel, and those that block the gospel from taking root in our daily lives and in the larger world we seek to love as God loves.

The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC) invites us to notice our context and name the features of our society and our Church that affect the ministry of catechesis. A catechetical directory is a set of guidelines about the practice of catechesis, a ministry that is at once vibrant and in need of renewal in our Church today. It is a unique and relatively new type of book; the story of its development takes us back to Vatican II.

Directory: A Legacy of Vatican II
The genre of a catechetical directory began with the Second Vatican Council. Bishop Pierre Lacointe of Beauvais, France, proposed the composition of general catechetical directory for the universal Church. The perceived need for a directory came from the belief that this complex ministry (1) needed support and leadership from the bishops, (2) required knowledge of the pastoral situation in each place and time, and (3) demanded some guidelines that would support the practice in various settings throughout the world. The council fathers imagined a directory to provide guidelines to establish programs, meet the needs of the populations to whom catechesis is directed, and offer catechetical leaders "a treetop view" of the many features of the turf below, the ministry in all its facets, enriched by the works of so many generous Catholics.

From Lacointe's proposal and the work of many others, the idea of a catechetical directory took shape and became reality in 1971, with the publication of the General Catechetical Directory. A hallmark of Vatican II was its attention to collegiality and subsidiarity; that is, the empowering of the Church in each nation, through its bishops, to take responsibility for various aspects of pastoral life, including catechesis. The effort to write a national directory for the Church in the United States came from this emphasis.

A Directory for the Church in the United States
The first National Catechetical Directory, entitled Sharing the Light of Faith, did just that. The process of consultation that led to the composition and promulgation of the first directory is a significant story in itself. It is safe to assert that the directory project taught that generation of bishops and catechists the value of processes of consultation. The first directory anticipated many of the steps in the process of consultation that eventuated in the writing of the US Bishops' pastoral letters on peace in 1983, and on economic justice in 1986. It involved many people in the writing of the document, by inviting them to reflect on their work as a ministry, and by placing catechesis in dialogue with the Catholic people of the USA in their diversity and variety. One may ask: "So why the need for another national directory?" Two indisputable facts: a new general directory calls for new national directories, and the last twenty-five years have witnessed interesting developments and many changes in the catechetical scene in the United States.

A New Moment and an Invitation to Re-Read the Signs of the Times
The writers of the NDC begin the work of describing catechesis by first taking stock of the current signs of the times. Like the opening chapters of the first national directory, the opening chapter of the NDC tells the story of the context for the practice of catechesis in the United States. The context, shaped by twenty-first century life and the various cultural expressions of Catholicism, differs from the context more than a quarter century ago. Hence the U.S. Bishops felt the need to have all of us "re-read the signs of the times" and to consider the ministry of catechesis in light of the developments in the years since the first directory appeared in print. What are some of those new signs that deserve special attention and careful re-reading?

Two important developments that deserve to be re-read as catechetical signs of the times are: (1) The reconstituted relationship between evangelization and catechesis, and (2) adult faith as the goal and reference point on the lifelong journey of forming disciples in faith. These two features of the catechetical context today help to shape the current practice, and they inform the writing of the National Directory for Catechesis.

For Reflection and Reading:
• Consider the first chapter of the NDC, entitled "Proclaiming the Gospel in the United States." Reflect on your experience and ask yourself:
• What features of the descriptions in this chapter are found among the people whom I seek to serve?
• In what ways does this chapter challenge me to recognize and respect the context for catechesis in my particular setting (parish, school, etc.)?
• What features of proclaiming the gospel in my "culture" and context do I find to be great strengths and helps to effective catechesis? Great challenges or hindrances to effective catechesis?

Dr. Michael Horan is Professor of Religious Education and Pastoral Theology at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. Dr. Horan, who holds a Ph.D. in Religious Education from the Catholic University of America, ministered to youth and young adults in high schools and college campuses in New York and Washington, D.C. He holds a special interest in the preparation of lay ministers for leadership in the Catholic Church. For the past ten years Michael has taught Catholic lay ministers in two graduate programs at LMU, while teaching teachers and campus ministers at Boston College each summer. Michael is an author of two works on the General Directory for Catechesis and is a contributing author of Blest Are We, the parish and school religious education series. Dr. Horan chairs the Advisory Board for the Office of Pastoral Associates for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and he is a member of the Board of Directors of St. John's Seminary, Camarillo, California. Michael and his wife, Patricia Fiedler, live in Marina del Rey, California, and they are active parishioners at Saint Monica Church in Santa Monica.


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