By: Mary-Jo McLaughlin
A new Diocesan curriculum guide for parish religious education programs reflects a major shift in how we teach children about their Catholic faith.
“We want to move away from just teaching our children the content of our Catholic faith to helping them build a lifelong relationship with the Church and Jesus Christ,” said Andrea Hoisl, director of the Diocesan Office of Faith Events (OFE), which is overseeing the new curriculum development. “The new emphasis is on the formation of our youth in the faith. Formation is a lifelong process where one continues to grow and change spiritually. We can never know all there is to learn about our faith.”
The new curriculum is a culmination of a nearly two-year effort by a seven-member committee comprised of diocesan priests, catechetical leaders and members of the OFE and the Diocesan Office of Safe Environments. The committee analyzed best practices, issues and trends in catechesis across the diocese, the country and throughout New England. A draft of the guide was sent to five priests in the diocese with expertise in curriculum and catechesis, who reviewed it and provided further input.
Bishop Michael Cote endorsed the new curriculum in late fall and announced it to all the priests at their Annual Convocation this past December.
A critical component of the new curriculum guide is the inclusion of family-based activities. Noting that parents are the principal educators of their children in regard to their faith, Hoisl said the curriculum incorporates faith-filled interactions to help catechize parents about their faith as well.
Parents are looking for and need assistance in sharing the faith with their children, said Hoisl. Research shows that many of today’s parents do not know enough about their faith to pass it on to their children. Most families do not have religious articles in their houses to help marinate children in the faith, as was the case years ago. This new curriculum will introduce traditions that families can incorporate at home with an aim toward renewing the practice of the faith as a family, both parents and children.