Catechism Is Reinvigorating Catholic Schools, Author Says

Article excerpt

The new universal catechism is inspiring creators of religious education curricula to tell the "whole story" of Catholicism rather than remain mired in their favorite parts, according to a top curriculum writer.

Thomas H. Groome, principal author of the "Coming to Faith" series, the most widely used curriculum in the United States, gave the Catechism of the Catholic Church an endorsement during a recent telephone interview. Groome's series is published by William H. Sadlier for kindergarten through grade eight.

Groome, senior professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, listed three developments in Catholic religious education he said are making headlines in the field:

* Catholic schools are experiencing "a new vibrancy, a new spirit of elan and revival" expressed in the reopening of some Catholic schools. Groome said his home diocese, Norwich, Conn., reopened three or four elementary schools this year.

* Recent research found that good parish catechetical programs successfully inculcate faith, a contrast with all previous research that said only religious education in Catholic schools was successful, The Educational Testing Service's findings are contained in its May 1994 report, "Toward Shaping the Agenda: A Study of Catholic Religious Education/Catechesis (NCR, July 15, 1994)."

* "The Catholic school religion curriculum is probably one of the most sophisticated in the world," better than ever before and better than in other nations and other subject areas, Groome said. Religion texts "have the best contemporary theology" and are "pedagogically very sophisticated, much better than most other social science" or other subject curricula.

He mentioned not only the Sadlier series but also curricula published by Benziger and Silver Burdett.

Groome said the Sadlier series was recently revised to reflect the church's new catechism. As curriculum creators endeavor to make sure their curricula tell the church's whole story, they "haven't lost the spirit of renewal of Vatican II," he said.

Giving an example, he explained that during the past 15 or 20 years, the theology of Eucharist in grade school curricula focused on Eucharist as community. That was an excellent, beautiful theology, he said, but many children who went to their local parish did not see a community meal. "We were speaking metaphorically," he said, and in so doing, left out the Mass. …