For over thirty years the Catholic Church has offered a comprehensive and compelling vision of faith formation and learning—lifelong, for all ages and generations, rooted in the life of the Church. This image of catechesis, akin to the baptismal catechumenate, reflects an approach to faith formation and learning that immerses people in the life of the church. This approach to faith formation is taking hold in parishes across the United States and Canada.
Implementing the vision of faith formation in the General Directory for Catechesis challenges us to embrace a "full-community" or "whole church" paradigm of faith formation. This shift toward a new paradigm requires a series of significant changes.
- Changing the practice of catechesis as a separate "program" to an approach that strategically positions catechesis in connection and collaboration with liturgy, sacraments, the Church year, justice and service, and prayer, i.e., all the ministries of the parish.
- Moving from a focus on children-only (think of all the time, energy, resources we still commit to children only) by implementing lifelong faith formation for all ages and generations, including and especially adults; not abandoning efforts with children, but positioning those efforts in proper context with the whole community.
- Ending "start and stop" catechesis (think graduation at confirmation; think preparation for sacraments) by implementing lifelong and continuous faith formation for a lifetime through involvement in the events of church life.
- Moving beyond a purely age-segregated, schooling model of religious education by implementing intergenerational faith formation, making connections among the generations in learning programs and parish involvement; not abandoning "developmentally appropriate" faith learning, but rather complementing it with intergenerational dynamics.
- Moving beyond the focus on the "textbook as the curriculum" by utilizing the events of Church life as the curriculum for all ages and generations, tapping into the educative and transformative power of the Church Year, sacramental celebrations, community prayer, and works of justice and service and providing catechesis that prepares everyone to learn by participating in the events of church life.
- Taking seriously the challenge to work in partnership with parents and families by assuming that the family at home is integral to faith formation.
To learn more about the resources we offer to help you develop and implement lifelong faith formation in your parish or diocese, contact Joan Weber or Jim Merhaut.