January 22, 2021

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Jim Wood

ACRE brings us closer to Christ

Jim WoodAs a former religion teacher and a current catechist in the archdiocese, I believe Catholic identity is paramount within our schools and parish catechetical programs.

Catholic identity is a holistic reality that encompasses both knowing the loving Jesus Christ and expressing that in a Catholic way of life.

One factor in Catholic identity is assessing our students in religious education. While testing our students can show us how they are performing in a subject, it can also give insights about how they might be growing emotionally and spiritually.

Within our archdiocese, we assess students in religious education by use of the Assessment of Child/Youth Religious Education (ACRE). Through the cooperation of the National Catholic Education Association/Information for Growth (NCEA/IFG), ACRE assesses our children at the fifth, eighth and 11th grade levels.

The NCEA ACRE assessment results assist principals, parish catechetical leaders and youth ministers in designing programs to meet the catechetical needs of the people they serve—students, parents and teachers. The assessment is meant to provide data to enhance the programs and as a tool for growth.

Not only do we test their Catholic religious knowledge, but we also apply the group data about students’ religious practices, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs to curricular emphasis. It is not a sort of “gotcha!” program intended to be a punitive tool for any catechetical program or catechist.

ACRE is used to evaluate the catechetical program’s strengths and weaknesses. However, all involved in religious education want each learner to reach their fullest potential in building a relationship with God and the Church. We want our students to know and understand our faith so as to live it inside their hearts.

With all this in mind, part of my job as the archdiocese’s Coordinator of Catechetical Resources is to help our teachers and administrators get the most out of ACRE. Annually, I report ACRE data on an archdiocesan level that shows how the archdiocese compares with others around the country. I show how students answered from year to year so folks can compare growth or reduction in order to augment their current religious education program.

Through the years I have served as a catechist or teacher, there is one thing I have learned: our behaviors and attitudes as Christians are big parts of our faith, along with knowledge. We can share the cognitive (head) part in our classrooms, yet show only a little bit about our heart.

Behavior as Christians is not just learned in the classroom as knowledge of faith, because behavior is a part of the whole family, school or parish. We not only teach the faith, but we also share it with young people as a disciple relationship with Jesus.

ACRE can measure some things as noted above, yet it cannot measure fully our relationship with Jesus. That is learned first through the family, then the parish and school. We are all responsible for passing on the knowledge of faith, but also for showing young people how to have a disciple relationship with Jesus.

ACRE is administered annually by all schools and parishes, usually during the month of January. For more information about ACRE, contact me at 317-236-1569 or jwood@archindy.org.

(Jim Wood is archdiocesan coordinator of catechetical resources and a diaconal candidate for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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