Magazine article Momentum

NPCD Celebrates 30 Years

Magazine article Momentum

NPCD Celebrates 30 Years

Article excerpt

National association provides continuing service to parish catechetical directors

Anniversaries are wonderful occasions for celebration and reflection and this is certainly true for the National Association of Parish Catechetical Directors, known to most as "NPCD," as it celebrates 30 years of existence this year. Let's take a journey back to "those thrilling days of yesteryear" and see how NPCD was born, where it has been and where it might be going.

The year was 1976. The Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck, Austria, and Dorothy Hamill became America's sweetheart when she won the gold medal in figure skating. NASA's Viking Probe landed on Mars and China's Mao Tse-rung died. Jimmy Carter, the governor of Georgia and former peanut farmer, became president of the United States.

"A Chorus Line" won the Tony Award and sang and danced its way into our hearts, remaining on Broadway for the next decade and a half. The Apple II computer was introduced and a new term entered our lexicon: the Internet. "Roots," by Alex Haley, changed forever how we would view slavery and the suffering of our African-American brothers and sisters.

In New York City, the twin towers of the newly opened World Trade Center pierced the Manhattan skyline and Sept. 11 was merely a day in late summer. Terrorism was still a world away but in this year it was played out in vivid color before our eyes in the Israeli raid on the Entebbe airport in Uganda and the rescue of 103 hostages and death of 10 terrorists.

Against this backdrop, the church embarked on the second decade after Vatican Council II. The newness of the sweeping changes brought about by Vatican II was dissipating slowly but surely. Two postconciliar documents promulgated by the church-the "General Catechetical Directory" and the "Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults"would have a profound impact on how the Christian message should be proclaimed and passed on to others. From these documents emerged a deep paradigmatic shift from an instructional model to a formational model of catechesis.

Seismic Shift

Concurrently, the tectonic plates of Catholic education were experiencing a seismic shift. The pool of women religious, who staffed 90 percent of Catholic schools, was shrinking rapidly as many of these women began to answer the call to ministry in new forms of apostolic service. Faced with the economic reality of paying lay salaries and charging high tuition fees, many schools consolidated or closed. This in turn caused parish CCD programs, as they were called then, to explode. A newly minted term arose for those persons who bore the responsibility of managing these programs: director of religious education (DRE).

Many of these DREs were college graduates with degrees in education who were teaching in Catholic schools. They now sought master's degrees in newly designed programs of religious education at universities such as Fordham, Boston College, LaSalle and Notre Dame. They were reading and being taught by giants of the field whose names read like a Who's Who of Catholic Religious Education: Gabriel Moran, Gerard S. Sloyan, Maria Harris, Berard Marthaler, Padraic O'Hare and Gloria Durka. The DREs were a formidable group looking for a place they could call home, seeking an organization that would meet their professional needs and provide the support they needed in this new parish ministry.

A year or so before 1976, a place for parish DREs was found within the National Forum of Religious Educators at NCEA. Membership in this group began to grow quickly as the professionalization of the parish ministry became a dominant issue in catechetical circles. The need for services to parish DREs grew as membership in Forum grew. In early 1976, the NCEA Department of Religious Education published a preliminary newsletter titled Parish Coordinator/Director of Religious Education. Later that year a separate and new association for parish DREs was created within the department. …

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