Religious education is an essential and integral part of the life and culture of a Catholic school. Through religious education, students are invited to develop the knowledge, beliefs, skills, values and attitudes needed to build a relationship with God and community through the person of Jesus Christ. In Catholic schools, students participate in a religious education program that is authorized by the Bishop of the local diocese.
Religious education shares the same goals and objectives set forth for all good education; that is, the growth and development of the whole person in all his or her dimensions—physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual.
Religious education has four essential characteristics.
- It is Trinitarian. It recognizes God as the creator of all things who gives us Jesus. It is Jesus who reveals God to us, and in turn reveals God’s Spirit, through whom we understand our faith.
- It is based on Sacred Scripture through which we hear the mystery of God revealed, we hear the call to be in relationship with God and each other, and we learn how to pray.
- It is based on the life experience of the students through which they are invited to discern signs of God in their daily lives.
- It is presented within the tradition of the Catholic faith community which, based on Church teachings and sacramental and liturgical life, provides students with experiences of faith, prayer, love and justice.
With an awareness of the uniqueness of each student and a recognition that religious development takes place through a process of stages and within a community, it is expected that program presentation will vary from place to place to meet the diverse learning and religious formation needs of all students.
The school, working with the local parish, complements parents in their role as principal educators of their children. Home and family play a vitally important role in the faith development of children. Within the family, seeds of faith are planted. Family relationships and daily experiences are major factors in shaping a child’s values, attitudes and Catholic identity. Regular religious practice and the application of classroom learning to daily life are critical parts of religious formation.
Prayer is an integral part of the religious education program and of each school day since intimacy with God is the ultimate goal of catechesis. Respecting the individual differences of children and our changing human needs, prayer is experienced in many different ways: silent reflection, guided imagery, scriptural prayer, song and formal community prayer. As we enter into prayer, we give praise and thanks for God’s loving presence, and call upon the Spirit to guide, nourish and empower our lives through Jesus Christ.
Teaching the sacraments occurs within the religious education program. Sacraments celebrate the presence of Christ in our lives. They are effective signs that make God’s grace present to us in love, healing and the transformation of our lives. Eucharist and Reconciliation are an essential part of each child’s religious formation and a necessary grounding for a mature faith. As with many basic themes, Eucharist and Reconciliation are introduced in Grade 1 but continue to be deepened and intensified in each year thereafter. Children who have not yet celebrated First Communion or First Reconciliation are always welcome to contact their parish to begin their immediate preparation for the sacraments. The sacrament of Confirmation typically happens in Grade 6, and just like the other sacraments, preparation classes are provided through the parish.
All of what Catholics believe is stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). In 1997, The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) was written to guide Catholics in faith formation. Within The General Directory for Catechesis, the goals and aims for religious education are named: the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people in touch, in communion, and intimacy with Jesus Christ (GDC 80). The fundamental tasks of catechesis are 1) promotion of knowledge of the faith, 2) liturgical education, 3) moral formation, 4) teaching to pray, 5) education for community life, and 6) missionary initiation (GDC 85-86). Excerpts from both the CCC and the GDC are quoted for the teacher at the end of each lesson to help root the contents and activities of the theme in Church tradition. The religious education program resource interprets for students these six tasks in a manner appropriate to their age and development.
As said, the religious education program is structured around the Church liturgical year, which is based on the life of Jesus Christ. This enables students to live and express faith in an integrated way at school, at home and in the parish community.