SECONDARY SCHOOLS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ( An excerpt from the Ontario Catholic Secondary Religious Education Policy Document (pages 1-2)
The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples.” (120) Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) (2013)
The first revision of this religious education policy document occurred in 2006, a time when the Church, the People of God, was beginning to more fully appreciate the implications of St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. Since that time, our world, indeed our Church, has continued to change, to challenge and to be challenged by political, economic, social and ecological crises which have exploded around the world with increasing regularity, complexity and severity.
If St. John Paul II is to be remembered as “the great communicator” on that global stage, Pope Benedict XVI is surely to be remembered as “the great teacher”. The core of what we stand for, as a community of faith, had never been clearer as this third millennium has been unfolding.
Today, in the emerging era of Pope Francis, we find a vision of the new evangelization characterized by increasing transparency and humility within the Church, and a profound renewal of the Gospel’s call to mercy and compassion in all of our relationships. Quite simply, how we witness to the gospel, in order that it is found compelling by others, is as essential as any intellectual presentation of the contents of that faith tradition. Indeed, the joy of the one to whom we are faithful, the person of Jesus, must inform and inspire any efforts to share the Good News. These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made complete. (John 15.11)
This policy revision builds upon the themes and pedagogy outlined in the Ontario Catholic Elementary Curriculum Policy Document, Grades 1 – 8 for Religious Education (ICE, 2012) as well as the Ontario Catholic Elementary Curriculum Document, Grades 1 – 8 for Family Life Education (ICE, 2012). While it is understood that every student enrolled in a Catholic secondary school is not necessarily a graduate of a Catholic elementary school, nonetheless, the principles that have guided catechetical strategies for the home, parish and school remain the same. To that end, the themes and principles outlined in the Vatican document, the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC, 1997) remain foundational to the development of religion programs in all settings. Furthermore, the important Canadian resource, Criteria for Catechesis: Infancy to Age 18 (CCCB, 2015), will provide those engaged in the creation of courses useful guidelines for the development of specific topics.
Catholic education addresses the fundamental human search for meaning:
… the desire of the person to understand human life as an integration of body, mind, and spirit. Rooted in this vision, Catholic education fosters the search for meaning as a lifelong spiritual and academic quest. The expectations guiding the journey of learning for all students in Catholic schools, therefore, are described not only in terms of knowledge and skills, but necessarily in terms of values, attitudes and actions informed by reason and faith. Institute for Catholic Education, Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations (2011) p. 13
The religious education curriculum, rooted as it is in Sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and creedal statements, is a kind of map of the rich treasury which is the deposit of faith. Study it; analyze it; know it – all that we may live it – and that map remains but a description of the spiritual journey in which we have been invited to participate. As a Church, sharing in the one baptism in Christ, we have a serious, if not sacred, responsibility to ensure that we preserve and share this faith map that is our tradition. Nonetheless, it is even more important that, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we entice those with whom we share our faith to undertake and continue ever deeper on that journey themselves. At the end of the day, each person must utter his or her own “yes” to Christ’s invitation. Catholic educators must rejoice when our teaching and our witness contribute to the transformation of a human life, now and for eternity.