Catechetical Institute to break new ground
New online class format to engage media and culture, easier
Catechesis, the process of teaching the Catholic faith, will be breaking new ground in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati over the next three to five years as it uses new media to facilitate an encounter between Christ and culture, according to Father Tom Wray.
Director of the Office for Evangelization and Discipleship, Father Wray explained that the Catechetical Institute announced in February in a letter from Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr will being an online training program for those who teach religion in the parochial schools and parish religion programs for the archdiocese. Catechesis means to “echo” the voice of Jesus, he said. “Catechists must know the teachings of Christ and his Church. That’s phase one of the Institute — teaching and certifying the teachers.”
Phase two will “echo the voice and teachings of Christ to all the faithful,” he said. The effort will not only challenge several generations of Catholics “saturated in secular culture.” But it will also apply the principles of life-long learning and missionary discipleship to Catholic teachings.
“You want to know who and what you love,” Father Wray said. “You want your love to be made visible in acts of love.” He compared the study of the faith to the study of a family’s genealogy. As you never stop learning more about your family’s ancestry, stories, and traditions, he said, the encounter with Christ and His transformative message should be a continuous journey for all Catholics, from youth to senior adult.
Father Wray said the online, interactive classes will make catechetical certification flexible and accessible for teachers – and eventually for parents hoping to deepen their faith as well. He contrasted the new digital advances with the religious education programs of the sixties and seventies when, “frankly, we stopped telling our story on our terms. This will allow us to share the teachings of Christ and His Church in beautiful, relevant and faithful ways.”
“It has been difficult especially for parish religion program teachers and volunteers to have to drive to in-person workshops and classes because they often don’t have that kind of time or financial resources,” he explained. “Online certification classes will help them say ‘yes’ to the calling to teach the faith in their parishes and homes.”
Father Wray said Catholic teachers and parents should think of cyberspace as the early evangelists thought of the Roman system of roads. “Web sites are the new Roman roads,” he said. And while the Romans were persecutors and conquerors, that didn’t keep early Christians from using Roman roads to advance the message and teachings of Christ.
This Institute is similar to, but not the same as, FORMED, the Catholic digital adult faith formation library now being used by 140 parishes in the archdiocese. (See below for information.)
It is also related to, but not the same as, another catechetical project announced late last year by Archbishop Schnurr and also promulgated by Father Wray’s office: a religious education curriculum for grades K-4 . Created by Ruah Woods Theology of the Body Institute in Bridgetown, it weaves in St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teachings into school and parish religious education curriculum and will eventually expand to all grades. Other dioceses throughout the country, Father Wray said, are expressing interest in doing the same.
The Catechetical Institute will launch in June, and the classes currently offered by the Archdiocese will end. While the new classes will be online, they are meant for small group use as well as use by individuals. “Online classes in the Institute will not be plug-and-play.” Father Wray said. “We’re not replacing the art and craft of real teachers teaching the Catholic faith. But the days are over when we could be one-dimensional in terms of media.”
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a continuing series of articles that will share the details of the innovative approach being taken for catechesis in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
For a printable, comprehensive list of frequently asked questions about the Catechetical Institute, go to CatholicCincinnati. org and search for “Catechetical Institute.”
An online library of Catholic books, videos, audio programs, and other materials from several leading publishers, FORMED includes feature films and documentaries, study programs and leader guides, and more. Materials include the Catholicism Series from Word On Fire, Hearts Afire programs, a growing number of programs in Spanish, children’s programs, the Truth and Life Audio Bible, and more from Lighthouse Catholic Media, the Augustine Institute, and other publishers. Materials can be usedfor enjoyment, study, or evangelization by individuals, families, small groups, and entire parishes. To find out if your parish is one of the 140 with a parish subscription in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, call your parish office to get your parish code to log in.. If your parish is not a subscriber, individual subscriptions are available for $9.99 a month. For information visit FORMED.org.