New theology curriculum emphasizes Christ, Scripture

December 20, 2011

HOUSTON — Students of all the high schools in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are, for the first time, learning the same thing at the same time in theology, under a new curriculum introduced at the start of the school year.

Developed under directives from the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the new curriculum is heavy on Scripture and how it relates to everyday life and the person who is Jesus Christ.

“We want kids to love Christ and lead a social justice and service- oriented life,” said Sister Kevina Keating, CCVI, Superintendent for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. “The whole [curriculum] is about responding to the call of Christ and discipleship and the importance of service and social justice and understanding ecumenical and interreligious issues.”

Sister Keating said though little has changed in the substance of the curriculum, the fact that it is administered in the same order at all the schools means there will be more consistency, and schools are better able to share resources and work together.

Through their high school years, students will be moving through such core courses as: “The Revelation of Jesus in Scripture”; “Jesus Christ’s Mission Continues in the Church”; and “Sacraments as Privileged Encounters with Jesus Christ.” Elective courses such as “Sacred Scripture”, “Responding to the Call of Jesus Christ” and “Ecumenical and Interreligious Issues” also will be offered.

“The emphasis is on being well grounded in Scripture and the dogma of Church, so that our young people will have ability to articulate their faith in a very diverse culture,” said Jenny McConnell, Dean of Theology at St. Thomas High School, who co-chaired the curriculum committee with Dr. Mary Getschow, Principal of Incarnate Word Academy.

“One of the things the cardinal has talked about was that Scripture had to be the foundation of all of our formation,” said McConnell. “For example, how does the parable of Lazarus relate to the economics between First and Third World countries?”

She added students will understand more fully what it means to be Catholic and their relationship to Jesus Christ.

Two years in the making, the new curriculum for catechetical instruction was piloted last year at St. Thomas, Incarnate Word, Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart and Pope John XXIII and is being phased in this year beginning with freshmen at the remaining five high schools. Using the USCCB’s framework for catechetical instruction for high school students and the Cardinal’s framework for lifelong faith formation, religion teachers and administrators from each high school worked together to revise their programs and select textbooks. 

“It seems like we [Houston-area Catholic schools] have been leaders in this process,” Getschow said.

The new curriculum also offers more guidance and references for teachers and is more systematic, detailed and rigorous than the old one. 

“At the same time they are learning advanced math and science, students will be challenged to articulate their faith at a higher level,” McConnell said.

Getschow said the new curriculum encourages unity amongst the high schools and can only strengthen them. 
“When prospective parents come and ask about our theology program, we can say it is based on the cardinal’s and bishops’ directives,” Getschow said. “It’s a strength for Catholic schools in the admissions process.” †

The theology curriculum is consistent across all nine Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese for the first time. Once the curriculum is fully phased in, it means students will be studying the same subjects at the same time. 


  • The Revelation of Jesus in Scripture
  • Who is Jesus Christ?
  • The Mission of Jesus Christ (The Paschal Mystery)
  • Jesus Christ’s Mission Continues in the Church
  • Sacraments as Privileged Encounters with Jesus Christ
  • Life in Jesus Christ


  • Sacred Scripture
  • History of the Catholic Church
  • Living as a Disciple of Jesus Christ in Society
  • Responding to the Call of Jesus Christ
  • Ecumenical and Interreligious Issues