Religious education in the Catholic school is distinctive because of its focus on the faith development of children and young people within the context of a faith community.
the faith community
The Catholic Church, founded on the faith of the Apostles, responds under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the revelation of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus gave the Church a missionary mandate to evangelise: “proclaim” (Mk 16: 15), “make disciples and teach” (Mt 28: 19-20), “be my witnesses” Acts 1: 8), “baptize” (Mt 28:19), “do this in memory of me” (Lk 22:19), “love one another” (Jn 15:12). The Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, proclaims and spreads the Gospel through ‘proclamation, witness, teaching, sacraments, love of neighbour’[i]. However, as part of the overall process of evangelisation, the Church is also involved in catechesis – the handing-on of faith within the community of believers.[ii]
Those working within Catholic school communities today continue the Church’s work of responding to the revelation of God and so participate in its twofold mission of evangelisation and catechesis. Because of its focus on faith development, religious education in the Catholic school endeavours to promote the relevance of the Catholic faith to everyday human life and experience. In this regard, it is understood that God’s grace is at work in all people’s lives and that theological concepts addressed in religious education make explicit what has, at a deeply human level, already been experienced to varying degrees.
Teachers in Catholic schools need to be aware of the spectrum of faith commitment among learners, so as to be able to assist them in their personal search for meaning, value and purpose in their lives and in their personal response to the revelation of God. For all learners, religious education contributes to this personal search and, as such, should be central to their educational development.
Students will surely have many different levels of faith response; the Christian vision of existence must be presented in such a way that it meets all of these levels, ranging from the most elementary evangelisation all the way to communion in the same faith.[iii]
[i] General Directory for Catechesis (GDC ), Congregation for the Clergy, 1997, No. 46
[ii] Catechesi Tradendae (CT), Apostolic Exhortation, Pope John Paul II, 1979, No. 18
[iii] LCS, No. 28