The formal term for faith education and formation is “catechesis.” The Catholic church identifies all those with delegated responsibilities for leading faith education in the name of the church as “catechetical leaders.” Catechetical leaders serve in many roles, including parish directors of religious, Catholic school principals, diocesan directors of catechesis, and superintendents.
Education and formation in the Catholic faith is a lifelong, multi-dimensional process (National Directory for Catechesis, USCCB, 2005). No matter the setting or role, the goal is the same: helping each person to know and love Jesus Christ, inviting deeper intimacy and communion with him in and through the Catholic church. Faith education in the twenty-first century also involves helping learners understand their own faith so they can confidently and respectfully engage with people of other religions or beliefs in ways to reflect God’s love and plan for the world.
Each NCEA department provides leadership, direction, and service for those catechetical leaders serving in a particular setting or role within the broad scope of Catholic education. All departments, particularly the Religious Education Department, work together to support professional development that helps members grow in their personal, intellectual, and technical capacities to provide quality, effective catechesis among the diverse people of God.
“A comprehensive parish-based catechesis harmonizes the catechesis of adults, families, parents, youth, children in the parish catechetical program and Catholic school, children in the parish catechumenate, and small Christian communities” (National Directory for Catechesis, 61).
Inter-parish collaborations such as regional religious education centers are also important to providing accessible, quality faith education to learners of all ages and needs.
NCEA’s Religious Education Department offers particular support to parish catechetical leaders through the National Association of Parish Catechetical Leaders (NPCD). The Boards and Councils Department also provides resources for faith formation advisory bodies. Chief Administrators of Catholic Education (CACE) includes diocesan leaders of parish catechesis.
Catholic schools “exist in order to educate the whole person: mind, body and soul. They present the totality of the Catholic faith. Whether Catholic schools are part of a parish structure, or are regional, diocesan or private, growth in the Catholic faith for the children and young people who attend them is essential to their identity and purpose. A parochial school is an integral part of the total parish catechetical plan. It is an evangelizing community within the larger evangelizing community that is the parish” (National Directory for Catechesis, 61 A.4b).
Four NCEA departments give particular attention to faith educators serving in Catholic schools: Boards and Councils, Elementary Schools, Religious Education, and Secondary Schools.
“Since catechesis is an integral part of so many diocesan efforts to proclaim the Gospel, the diocesan catechetical office should collaborate with other diocesan offices and agents that have a catechetical dimension, most especially the Catholic school office” (National Cathechetical Directory, 59.D).
Three NCEA departments give particular support to diocesan catechetical leaders: Chief Administrators of Catholic Education (CACE), Boards and Councils, and Religious Education. The Seminary Department also works with those forming ordained ministers for service within the diocese.
A local bishop is the pastor and chief teacher of the faith in the diocese entrusted to his care. This role includes managing catechesis in the parishes and Catholic schools of a particular area. “Diocesan “councils and diocesan catechetical leaders work with the bishop to identity the educational and catechetical goals for the diocesan church and to determine the diocesan catechetical plan to achieve these goals” (National Catechetical Directory, 59.B).
“As centers of authentic Catholic theology, Catholic colleges and universities should, as much as possible, provide undergraduate and graduate programs in Catholic theology, catechesis, and related fields for those preparing for professional careers in catechetical ministry” (National Directory for Catechesis, 61 B.3).