Directory for Catechesis clearly states:
Parents receive in the
sacrament of Matrimony “the grace and the ministry of the Christian education
of their children, to whom they transmit and bear witness to human and religious
Expanding on this, the GDC
emphasizes that “Parents are the primary educators in the faith.”
As a “locus of catechesis”,
the family “has a unique privilege: transmitting the Gospel by rooting it in
the context of profound human values….”
Religious education in the home “… is, indeed, a Christian education
more witnessed to than taught, more occasional than systematic, more ongoing and
daily than structured into periods.” 
The Code of
Canon Law also calls attention to the rights and responsibilities of
Because they have given life to their children, parents have a most serious obligation and enjoy the right to educate them; therefore Christian parents are especially to care for the Christian education of their children according to the teaching handed on by the Church. [can. 226 2]
unequivocally recognizes the parents’ role as primary educators of their
children in the faith. And the
Church realizes her vital responsibility not only to
support parents as they pass on the faith to their children but to assist them as well.
The General Directory for Catechesis reminds us that education in the
faith is carried out in different ways in different places. The Church, catechetical leaders, catechists, and parents all
realize that much if not most education in faith takes place outside a classroom
setting: in the family, in the neigh-borhood, in the parish community.
It is in these settings that children see and experience the faith lived.
Liturgy in the parish community is where the proclamation of the Gospel
begins and where we, regardless of age, are invited to conversion and to follow
Christ. The way the parish community responds
to the Gospel, in worship, education, and service will impact all members of the
parish – especially the children. Parish communities should make certain that
families know that they are welcome members of the parish and are welcome with
their children at liturgy. Parishes
should provide opportunities for children to participate, in special but
appropriate ways, in liturgy and in parish service opportunities.
It has been said that the parish does not have an educational program, it is
an educational program. How
While the Church
acknowledges the right and responsibility of parents to educate their children
in the faith, she must also exercise her role as a vigilant mother in matters of
faith. Religious education is both instruction
in the truths of our faith and a guide to a way of life that leads to communion
with the Triune God. To put it another way, genuine religious education informs,
forms, and transforms. The Church, through the local parish, must take care to
ensure that catechesis of children and young people is carried out with
attention to all dimensions and facets of religious education. Fostering
Catholic doctrinal literacy in young people is one “intended outcome” of
faith is rich in tradition. Authentic religious education must be faithful to
the Tradition (and traditions) and the teaching office of the Church. When one professes the Catholic faith it must be with
knowledge of what it means, in an age-appropriate manner, to be Catholic.
This is the information dimension of religious education.
The scope and sequence
arrangement used by all major religious textbook publishers assures an orderly
and thorough presentation of the faith, from year to year and age to age.
The field of religious education uses and benefits from studies and
advances in the human sciences, pedagogy, and teaching methods.
These are part of the religion texts and teacher’s manuals today.
It is both foolhardy and potentially dangerous for any religion teacher to attempt to
catechize without the help of a reputable religion text, judged by the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops to be in conformity with the Catechism
of the Catholic Church. While
there is always room for enrichment, the text provides the basic source of
information, the content, in an organized and engaging fashion.The Office
of Religious Education has prepared Curriculum
Guidelines for kindergarten through grade eight.
These Guidelines are a
necessary reference for a parent/catechist.
The Code of
Canon Law directs pastors “… to take special care for the Catholic
education of children and young adults;”. [can 528, 1]
The catechist entrusted
with teaching and handing on the faith has an important task.
In the religious education of school age children, the roles of parent,
parish, and catechist are complementary and ought not to be viewed as competing
agents. Each makes significant and
unique contributions to the spiritual growth of the child.
parent is also the
catechist, the parent
must be particularly
attentive to her or his own grounding in the faith and ability to hand it on effectively.
The Archdiocese strongly encourages all catechists, regardless of their
setting, to participate in catechist formation programs offered in the parish
and through the Office of Religious Education.
The Archdiocesan Institute for Ministry (AIM) offers courses throughout
the year and in different locations in the Archdiocese.
Because the pastor is responsible for the religious education of
parishioners, it is imperative that he, or his designee, the parish catechetical
leader, is in contact with the parent/catechist regarding catechist training and
formation just as the catechetical leader is in contact with catechists in the
The issue of home
schooling, with parent as catechist, must be seen from two perspectives: parent
and parish, again, not as competing influences but as complementary influences.
Good will is presumed and demanded from both parties.
Even when children are home schooled, religious education remains a joint
venture of parent and parish.
In home schooling, a child misses out on
the communal dimension of
religious education and the opportunity to be in dialogue with peers as they
learn. This does not mean that children should never receive their formal
instruction in religion privately from the parent in the home; it does
mean that extra care is needed to make
certain that the child and family remains connected with the parish community.
It is essential that the parent/catechist be in touch with the local
parish, with the pastor or his representative, and the catechetical leader
regarding the decision to home school. The
choice to home school should not be made lightly; it is a serious decision with
serious implications. The Religious
Education Office strongly recommends that parents and the local pastor and/or
the parish catechetical leader discuss the decision and this Office is ready and
willing to assist all parties in this discernment.
The General Directory
for Catechesis makes clear the importance of catechist preparation and
formation: “…the adequate
formation of catechists cannot be overlooked...”
The formation of catechists must be an “absolute priority”. 
includes training in doctrine and methodology as well as attention to the
spiritual needs of the catechists. Formation
should be ongoing. As the GDC
states: “This activity [catechist formation] is principally and fundamentally
the responsibility of the priests of the respective Christian communities;”.
 The respective Christian community is the local parish.
What the local parish provides for catechists who teach in the parish program should be available to the parent-home catechist as well. This includes but is not limited to:
assistance in ordering texts and lesson planning if needed
access to supplemental material from the parish resource center
inclusion in spiritual and social gatherings of parish catechists
inclusion in discussions regarding catechetical texts and materials
invitation to diocesan sponsored catechetical opportunities
inclusion in In-Service presentations and faculty meetings.
The lines of communication between parish and home need to
be open and grounded in respect.
Parents have an obligation
to provide the very best religious education possible for their children.
This obligation should prompt them to seek out and benefit from the expertise of the parish catechetical leader as well as the
Archdiocesan Office of Religious Education. To this end, parent-catechists are
expected to participate in catechist preparation and In-Service opportunities
that the parish provides.
Because the Church entrusts
the local pastor with the responsibility to tend to the religious education of
his parishioners, he has the responsibility himself, or through the parish
catechetical leader, to make certain that children who are home schooled in
religion are using appropriate materials. Although
there are definite advantages to using the same text in the home program as is
used in the parish program, that is not absolutely necessary.
Again, the Archdiocesan Curriculum
Guidelines are most helpful in selecting effective material.
The pastor and catechetical leader, together with the
parents, must see to it that home schooled children feel part of the parish. The
children should be included in parish prayer services, liturgies, and service
opportunities that are available to their peers in the parish program.
An important part of any religious education program – in the parish or
in the home – is the opportunity to participate in these worship and service
Preparation for the Sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and
Confirmation offers additional opportunities and challenges to parishes and home
school families. The Code
of Canon Law and the Pastoral
Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments [PG]
from the Archdiocese of Boston provide the blueprints for sacrament preparation.
These should be the foundation for dialogue with home-schooling parents.
Guidelines, citing the National
Catechetical Directory, charge that “Catechesis for the Sacrament of
Penance is to precede First Communion and must be kept distinct by a clear and
unhurried separation.” [PG, ch4, V.,
B] This directive stands
regardless of where the child receives formal instruction.
Home schooled children should be invited and encouraged to receive First
Penance with their peer group at the parish celebration.
Preparation for First
Eucharist is very much and very naturally a family affair.
An important part of this preparation stresses participation at Sunday
Mass. This is directed more to the
parents than to the children since it is the parents who actually bring the
children to church. Again,
the home schooled child should be invited and encouraged to receive First
Eucharist with her or his peer group at the parish celebration.
In order for the child to feel at home with the peer group
at the parish celebration of the sacraments, the child should join the parish
program for any prayer services, rehearsals, or even classes scheduled for the
weeks prior to the celebration.
unique challenges to the home school family.
The Pastoral Guidelines clearly
state that the Confirmation program for adolescents should encompass “…the
catechetical elements of community, message, worship and service.” [PG
ch.2, IV., A) Working these
elements into a home program is truly a daunting challenge!
The Guidelines further state that, “The parish is the ordinary place
for Confirmation catechesis…” [PG
ch.2, IV., D)
Because of the community aspect of Confirmation, and
the very nature of the sacrament, it behooves parents and parish to agree on
what components of the parish program the student should participate in
(Commitment Mass, Retreat, Interview, Service Opportunity).
All three of these sacraments, Penance, Eucharist, and
Confirmation, involve and impact the worshiping community.
For most home school families, this means the local parish. Preparation
for and celebration of sacraments with minimal engagement of the parish does a
disservice to everyone. The child
will not see or realize the importance of the parish as a community of faith. The parents will not see and feel the support, the prayers,
and the example of the parish. And the parishioners will miss the opportunity to
have their own faith renewed by participating at the reception of the sacraments
for all parish children.
A parish is one expression of the Mystical Body of Christ.
To separate children from the life of the parish deprives them of rich
spiritual benefits and wonderful faith experiences.
Most especially in the preparation of children for reception of
sacraments, parents ought to give careful consideration as to where instruction
takes place. Preparation done in a parish program surely does not mean
that parents are kept at bay. In
fact, arguably the most important part of sacrament preparation always occurs in the home – as children experience the faith,
forgiveness, nurturing and service that occurs in the family.
Bringing children to the parish program of preparation further enriches
their lives by bringing them into contact with other adults and with peers on
the same faith journey.
As always, the Office of Religious Education is ready and willing to assist parents and parishes in the area of home schooling and religious education. Please contact us at 617-779-3625.
© 2000 Archdiocese of Boston Office of Religious Education
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