The central purpose of religious education in the Catholic school is to assist learners to make an informed, mature response to God’s call to relationship.
Religious education is designed to engage learners in an educational process which, showing fidelity to God and to the person, will:
- assist them to develop their knowledge and understanding of significant aspects of Catholic Christian faith (including an awareness of other Christian traditions and other world religions)
- develop the skills of reflection, discernment, critical thinking and deciding how to act in accordance with an informed conscience in relation to matters of morality
- exemplify and foster the beliefs, values and practices which are compatible with a positive response to God’s invitation to faith: “Come, follow me . . .” [i]
knowledge and understanding
Together with all other curricular areas and school activities, religious education operates within the context that is the nature of the Catholic school, as described above. The knowledge and understanding nurtured within religious education is based firmly on the sources of Catholic Christian belief and practice. These sources are: Scripture, especially the life and teaching of the historical Jesus, and the ongoing Tradition of which Scripture is a part, found in the official documents of the Church. Wherever the Church’s teaching about beliefs and morals is part of the content of religious education, this must be based on Sacred Scripture and Tradition, especially the Second Vatican Council which the Catechism of the Catholic Church presents.
The factors which will determine the choice of specific content for particular stages relate to:
- the importance of religious education being ‘Good News’, relevant to the age, stage and experience of the learner in whose life the Holy Spirit is already at work
- the importance of the overall programme of study constituting a systematic and developing study of the various sources of Catholic Christian faith.
Thus, religious education will involve a process of continual dialogue between the life experience of the learner and the various elements of Catholic Christian faith.
To ensure that learners are appropriately equipped to develop a mature response to God’s invitation, religious education in Catholic schools aims to develop in them:
- the capacity to interpret their experiences and the teachings of the Church
- the skills of critical thinking and analysis in searching for meaning in life
- the skills to express a coherent understanding of faith and life
- awareness of, and respect for, the views and ways of life of others
- the skills of making moral decisions with an informed conscience
- the capacity to participate effectively in celebrations, rituals and prayer.
beliefs, values and practices
Central to Catholic Christian faith is the person of Jesus Christ whose invitation to all people to live life in all its fullness presents the challenge which lies at the heart of religious education. Ways of responding to this challenge are facilitated through regular reflection upon the impact of the message of Catholic Christian faith on learners’ understanding of life and on their personal response to their life circumstances.
Such reflective consideration leads to the growth of knowledge and understanding and provides opportunities for the development of beliefs, values and practices which result in the making of religious and moral decisions and commitments in life. Contexts for such opportunities may include:
- appropriate experiences and celebration of prayer, reflection, meditation, liturgy
- consideration of relevant life situations which present moral challenges
- experience of engaging with the community of faith in home, school and parish
- participation in acts of charity and in service for communities, locally and globally.
[i] Mark: 1: 18