July 16, 2021

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Jim Wood

New religion standards a witness to faith, hope and love

Jim WoodAlmost two years ago, a small band of faithful individuals began a journey to create a newly revised set of religion standards for the archdiocese. Recently hired for the Office of Catechesis, I was given the task of leading this effort.

While coming off a period of teaching in Catholic schools and continuing my efforts in deacon formation, this project would prove to be completed not by my efforts, but by the service of many people with the hope of producing new religion standards for our parish catechetical programs and schools. By God’s grace and inspiration, the newly revised standards were promulgated by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson on May 24.

Allow me to recall the efforts of so many. After the selection of our steering committee in August 2019, we began meeting monthly to outline a vision of what would become our new religion standards for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The previous standards from 2001 had served the archdiocese well; however, we knew a revision was needed. We wanted a more user-friendly document that provided our catechists and teachers with ready-made objectives for lesson plans that guide learning experiences in parish and school settings.

In February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, our steering committee plus an interested group of teachers, catechists, parish catechetical leaders and principals met at the  Benedict Inn at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove to begin the work of revising the standards. The newly formed revision team spent several days making edits to old standards.

Through the efforts of our revision team, we began the process of piecing together the standards for each grade. Several features served as our priorities.

First, the standards are accurate and thorough in a developmentally appropriate way due to the attention that has been paid to the process, whereby the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops evaluates doctrinal conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

Second, special attention is focused on the Christian view of the human person as well as an accurate understanding of human love as articulated in St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.”

Finally, while the standards can be taught in any order, they are arranged according to the four pillars of our faith as seen in the CCC: creed, sacraments, morality and prayer.

As a lifelong Catholic of the archdiocese, I have seen my share of the great work done by our schools and parish catechetical programs. While our daughter Sarah attended Catholic schools, my wife Andrea and I spent many years teaching the faith to the young people at our parish. We knew then as we know now that educating our youths in our faith is not simply an effort of spouting out facts and dates and names, but it is much more a witness that these facts, dates and names should draw us closer to Christ.

Catholic educators, as catechists, are both teachers and witnesses. These standards provide the core content of our Catholic faith—to be complemented by the life and witness of all who serve with great dedication in our parish catechetical programs and Catholic schools.

May we all use this resource faithfully and fruitfully, by God’s grace and mercy, as we strive to make disciples of Jesus—in fulfillment of his command and commission given to all Christians (Mt 28:18-20).

(Jim Wood is coordinator of catechetical resources and a diaconal candidate for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He can be reached at jwood@archindy.org.)

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