February 19, 2010

Catholic Education Outreach / Ken Ogorek

Challenges can help evangelize

Catholic high school religion is about to change. One of these changes will help equip young people for evangelization.

A few months back, our U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a document with a long name and a clear purpose. The document, “Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for the Development of Catechetical Materials for Young People of High School Age,” addresses the teaching of high school religion.

Several publishers of high school religion textbooks had asked our bishops to offer guidance on what topics within religion will be taught at which specific grade level. This helps publishers know what reading level to aim for in producing various textbooks as the reading level of a first semester freshman often varies greatly from that of a second semester senior.

The end result of this process is what amounts to a national scope and sequence for the teaching of religion in Catholic high schools as well as parish youth ministry programs. This document is available at the USCCB Web site at www.usccb.org on the Evangelization and Catechesis Department page. It is labeled “High School Curriculum Framework.”

At the end of each course in this framework is a section called “Challenges.” This is a brilliant addition by our bishops, and is sure to liven up a few high school religion classes.

After studying each of the core topics in these curriculum guidelines (for example, “Who Is Jesus Christ?” or “Sacraments as Privileged Encounters with Jesus Christ”), students are presented with challenges that often arise when these topics are discussed.

In the sacraments course, for example, these questions are among those raised: Can’t a person go directly to God without the help of the Church or a priest (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1538-1539)? Can’t God forgive us directly when we are sorry for sin (CCC, #1434, #1440-1445)? Aren’t the sacraments just celebrations to mark significant moments in our life (CCC #1066, #1070)?

The CCC references are paragraph numbers in the Catechism of the Catholic Church where these questions are addressed.

The framework document contains ways of addressing these questions pastorally, accurately and effectively. So students not only learn content and benefit from the witness of their catechists about the power and beauty of our Catholic faith, but also get help in answering what may be some of their own questions and certainly number among those they are encountering in our culture. Thus, what skilled catechists in our archdiocese have done intuitively for years is now incorporated formally in each high school’s religion curriculum.

What, then, does this have to do with evangelization?

Part of our evangelizing effort often finds us conversing with others about faith, life, God and other important matters.

By preparing young people to engage in substantial conversations about their Catholic faith, we are not only helping to evangelize them by God’s grace, but are also helping to equip them for the ministry of evangelization—an effort that each of us by our baptism is called to incorporate into our daily life.

Each Catholic high school in our archdiocese is in the process of planning to implement these revisions to our current curriculum guidelines. These changes will be phased in as textbooks supporting this new scope and sequence slowly but surely become available. Discussions are also under way as to how this resource will help the evangelization and catechesis components of parish youth ministry.

Changes. Challenges. All with an eye toward more effective evangelization and catechesis. Stay tuned.

(Ken Ogorek is director of catechesis for the Office of Catholic Education in the archdiocese. He can be reached at 800-382-9836, ext. 1446, or by e-mail at kogorek@archindy.org.)

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