Parents and Parish Religious Ed

What should a parish offer families to support the religious education of their children?

First and foremost, where possible, a parish should provide a good Catholic school. When I was a girl, every parish had its school, but times have changed here and the Catholic school system is no more. There are but a handful of private Catholic schools, and of those, fewer still live their Catholic identity. That is a rant for another day.

Most parishes provide some religious education for their children, especially in preparation for the sacraments. Typically they purchase a textbook series that spans the elementary and perhaps junior high level. The textbooks are designed for weekly catechism classes at the parish, derived from the classroom version, which is more comprehensive.

The bishops in the United States completed a project a number of years ago that ensured that all textbooks in use are doctrinally sound, so they all hit upon the essential teachings and do so without error. That seems like it would be obvious, but let’s just say that what Disco did to music, liberal theologians did to catechesis. It took awhile to recover.

Parents can have confidence in the books their children are using, but what about the catechists? Parishes generally rely upon parent volunteers to carry out this work and, like all volunteer arrangements, are happy if they can fill the necessary slots. As a result, it’s usually a mixed bag. People have good intentions but are not necessarily well formed themselves. Depending on the diocese, there can be excellent training provided or none at all.

In my experience, volunteer catechists are generous with their time and care about their faith and that of their children. I have nothing but good things to say about them personally. Some are excellent, but the difficulty is that others are sometimes victims of poor catechesis themselves – decades of felt banners and “meaningful” skits – without the foundational theology of the Catholic faith. They don’t know what they don’t know.

Yesterday, I asked about what parents want from their parish and this is high on that list. They want reliable catechesis. Parents need to have confidence in what their children are learning. They also would like to be acknowledged for making the necessary sacrifices for their kids to attend catechism classes. They know it is their responsibility as parents, but nevertheless, they are spending time bringing the children to and from class, foregoing other activities that are also important to them. They seek a level of professionalism that includes classes starting and ending on time and time not wasted with filler activities.

Parents also would like some support. Periodic meetings are helpful, although not all parents are willing to give up the time. Those that do enjoy the camaraderie of discussing issues pertaining to Catholic family life. People are so busy today but their hearts are in the right place. A little TLC and practical applications and parents are truly happy to bring the lessons home. (It was this experience that led me to begin this blog now that I am retired from parish work.)

Whether it is the parish or the local Pee Wee Hockey team, parents know that the secret of success is their own involvement, but they are sometimes stretched pretty thin. And, whether church or hockey, the answer is practice, practice, practice. Whatever else, just keep on… attend catechism classes, get to Mass on Sunday, and pray – a lot.

A cyber-hug to all of you trying to make it all work. (((God bless!)))

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