This week (Nov. 3-9) we are celebrating Parish Religious Education Week (see story). But to really make it a success, we need your help. The United States has been blessed by a tremendous Catholic primary educational system for the better part of two centuries. Yet parish-based religious education efforts have existed for just as long and today educate the majority of our children in the basics of our faith. It is not an overstatement to say that there is virtually no chance that the Church will successfully transmit the Faith to the next generation if parishes are not effective in their efforts to educate two-thirds of our children — 3.5 million — in the faith of their fathers and mothers.
Parish Religious Education Week is a great opportunity to appreciate how vital parish religious education is for our Catholic community.
Both parochial schools and home schooling also contribute to the education of our children, and the family remains an indispensable component of any educational effort. Parishes, however, are the backbone and the bulwark of the Church’s efforts at systematic catechesis of the young and education in the Faith for all.
Parishes remain this bulwark despite facing significant challenges of funding and staffing, not to mention struggling to win the commitment of parents and the attention of their children. They are able to do this first and foremost because of dedicated leadership. Parish directors of religious education often have a wide range of responsibilities. These women and men assemble and train their teams of volunteer catechists — moms, dads, grandparents, college students — who in turn teach our children. The director of religious education (DRE) is often the one also responsible for efforts to inform and catechize adults, another critical responsibility of the parish.
Parish Religious Education Week is not an effort to recruit catechists or ensure enrollment. Instead, it is a great opportunity to appreciate how vital parish religious education is for our Catholic community. It is a great opportunity to appreciate and pray for the directors, staff members and catechists who make the sacrifices necessary each week to educate, inspire and evangelize our children, teens and adults. Parish Religious Education Week is fundamentally a reminder to the entire parish that our No. 1 task is to pass on the Faith.
Pope Francis recently told catechists that “teaching the Faith is something beautiful! It is perhaps the best legacy we can pass on: the Faith! … To help children, young people and adults to know and love the Lord more and more is one of the most exciting aspects of education. It builds up the Church!”
Our Sunday Visitor — which has a long commitment to the faith formation of our children — hopes that one fruit of this nationwide appreciation of parish-based catechesis will be to identify and cultivate best practices: great new ways of sharing the faith with our young people that are engaging, effective and mindful of the diversity of learning styles and needs in our church communities.
This week we highlighted one school that found a way for kids after school to do some homework, play some sports and still get educated daily in the Faith. This kind of creative approach to our mission of catechesis is critical, and we think there are many more stories out there that are just as creative.
So this is where we need your help. We’d like to hear from you — DREs, catechists, parents and kids: What is your parish doing right? What keeps you engaged? How are you sharing your faith with others in a classroom, small groups or online? Share your ideas and experiences of best practices with us so we can share them with others. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org