Growing in faith

October 16, 2012

HOUSTON — The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has developed a sweeping framework for Catholic learning — one that resets expectations of how Catholic values are taught.

The framework — a culmination of five years of work — was unveiled to more than 400 catechetical leaders, school principals, clergy and parish pastors at St. Mary Seminary on Sept. 28.

How it will be implemented will be decided largely by each school, youth ministry and adult-formation program and parish in the Archdiocese. In the spirit of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it will be taught by catechists formed in Church doctrines and teachings, communicating best practices and when necessary, sharing resources. Parishes and schools are responsible for curricula.

Part of the work of evangelization is to dispel misconceptions about Catholicism through catechesis.

“The major work of Jesus for us in the world is to make holy disciples of the Lord: articulate [disciples], able to witness with boldness — not with arrogance. And with the humility and outreach of their service, to continually form themselves, to form a holy people and take on the world,” Daniel Cardinal DiNardo said. “The evangelizers need to be evangelized. That’s what has to happen.”

The cardinal said that in some cases, evangelization is a kind of renewal, while in other cases it involves inviting people who may claim that they know or practice the Catholic faith but actually are distant from the Church, to want to explore the faith.

“Some have just walked away. Some are just distant. But even among those who are nearby, some of them are unfocused and vague,” he said. “The greatest enemy at times within the Church today is vagueness. The vagueness leads to a less-than-clear witness on so many levels.”

The cardinal added, “We are not doing a framework for a catechesis that is somehow ‘a civil defense against the fallout of secularism that has crushed us.’ No, we’re doing a — framework that allows us be ... bold.”

The framework is divided into six major “tasks,” then subdivided by “strands” or core categories of Catholic teachings. Within each strand are teachable values which span early child development to adulthood. The six tasks are: Knowledge of Faith, Liturgical Life, Moral Formation, Prayer, Communal Life and Missionary Spirit.

The document is the work of the Archdiocesan Offices of Catholic Schools, the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization and the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, explained OEC Director Julie Blevins. The framework began its development five years ago under the direction of Anne Comeaux, the former Director of the Office of Continuing Christian Education (now the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis). 

Blevins and members of the OEC and OACE staffs, along with Jim Barrette, Secretariat Director for Pastoral and Educational Ministries and Sister Kevina Keating, Secretariat Director of the Catholic Schools Office, were among presenters on Sept. 28. 

When the work on the framework began in 2007, the initial mission was to produce a single curriculum guide. But early on, the committee involved realized that while there needed to be a catechetical consistency across the Archdiocese, the local and day-to-day needs differed for each school and parish. At that point, the decision was made to develop a curriculum framework to provide a basic unity for flexible curricula.

The committee produced its first draft in 2008 and invited catechetical publishers to comment. A second draft was written in 2009 and reviewed by national catechetical consultants, the original committee and other catechetical leaders in the Archdiocese — more than 70 people in all. A third draft was reviewed by the directors of the sponsoring offices who made more modifications and sent it to the cardinal for his final review. The framework presented is a draft document; final approval is expected in January.

Following the unveiling, pastors and educators attended a workshop to discuss how to connect the framework to their parish and school programs. Their ultimate task is to develop and implement their own catechetical plans.

The “Fall homework,” Blevins said, is for each parish to put together a core team to be formed in the knowledge and mission of the framework, assess their own catechetical programs and identify tasks or strands that aren’t being addressed.

In the Spring of 2013, each parish should begin to vision and form their catechetical plan. “By that time, they will have the complete framework document in their hands,” Blevins said.

She added that the OEC and OACE offices will hold workshops and use Archdiocesan communication channels to keep parishes informed. “We are also in process of holding grade — level ‘listening sessions’ from those in the field in order to help us in writing the curriculum guide,” Blevins said. “The target is to have the curriculum guide in their hands by September 2013.”

Blevins said that another presentation of the framework and workshop will be held Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the St. Dominic Center Auditorium.