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Education with an inspired purpose

By Hugh McNichol
Catholic Online

There is always a fine line in Catholic education for non- Catholic school students that attend CCD classes. The balance always needs to be struck between teaching Catholic faith and morals ,and working with the hectic schedules of busy parents and over scheduled students. Most parishes enjoy a large amount of CCD students, they rush into their weekly educational experiences from a busy school day, a sports event or from just "wolfing" down a quick meal at McDonalds in order to be on time.

Quite a commendable collection of parents and students that endure this frantic activity in order to learn more deeply about their Catholic faith.That is precisely the reason all Catholic educators, administrators, teachers and especially parents should very carefully examine their activities for practical applications that will enhance the students' experiences. Please do not get me wrong, and I state this most emphatically...ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE the teachings of the Catholic Church are to be observed and applied, without exceptions. Religious education is not a theological candy bag, from which people pick and choose their topics.

It is the activity of the Church's Magisterium on a parochial level, affecting the future generations of practicing Catholics. CCD activities are critical to faith formation, for preparation to receive the sacraments, and to develop in the faith. We need to make sure that these programs think, "outside-of the box" when selecting the mode of delivery for all of these topics.

What needs to be considered first is that these students are there after a long academic and sports filled day. Supplemental educational activities regarding the faith should be informative and geared towards their particular needs as young Catholics growing in faith.

The balance is especially difficult as well if these students have been fully initiated into the faith through the initiation sacraments and require no further "examination" in regards to their prep to receive sacraments. They are post-catechumate, post- mystologia and preteens as well as preadults. A true "theological challenge" that deserves sensitive posteducation without being tedious. Faith development without the goal of the reception of sacraments, but rather enhancements of the Catholic life in which they are fully participating. What a difficult period. What a magnificent opportunity to plant the seeds of a lifestyle committed to the Catholic life rather than the lure of secular escapism.The solution to the issue eludes me. There is no magic formula that blends theology with preadult, preteen students that is ensured to work. St. Anselm used to say, "Fidens quarrens intellectum", (Faith seeks knowledge) as one of his favourite theological and philosophical quips. Obviously St.Anselm never juggled the lifestyle of modern parents and students in order to seek this knowledge. The hectic and stressed filled activities of modern life leave very little room for seeking anything other than a break...or a nap.

Maybe this time is very appropriate for a focus on personal prayer, interpersonal relationships and growth in faith as the touchstones for educational enrichment.

The Church looks forward to making it's younger members more comfortable in understanding the rich tradition of it's faith.

In an age of bombardment with external stimulation from all directions Catholic educators should focus on deepening the students' appreciation of the Word and Sacraments through their ever inquisitive personal developments.

Recently, the Catholic Underground group was mentioned as a means of evangelization, and the "coffee-shop" approach to discussing religious matters. This might just be the untapped source and format that should educate our fledgling Catholics on their journey. The experience should be something that the student looks forward to weekly...and not another anxiety filled method of academic stimulation. Relaxed and comfortable, charged with activities and discussion topics rather than academic and boring.

Of course, always with appropriate transmission of Catholic teachings as the goal...maybe we should have these experiences over shared food and activities as the focus that anchors our shared faith.

This would mean being theologically creative,and logistically inspired.

Parents and educators alike could take this time to "get to know" not only their children, but also their faith. As primary educators, along with parish pastors...they could actively contribute to the faith integration experience, rather than being the "drop-off driver".It is a true "reach" of the imagination, but it does offer an innovative and unique method to religious education. Hopefully the future course of CCD activities will be modeled on the image of "learning" through Catholic "activities" and gravitate away from just an academic routine that extends the academic day and fails to enrich the deeper experience of one's Catholic identity.

We need to nurture and develop our young Catholics in manners unheard of in previous generations. They are a marketing savy generation of believers.Catholicism calls out for their attention and response. Perhaps the manner in which the Church calls out needs to be updated. Our Catholic identity and beliefs always remain constant, its just our manner of "packaging" that deserves a more practical and positive approach.


TriNet DE, US
Hugh McNichol - author, 302 6339348



catholic education, ccd, creative, innovative

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