I read an article yesterday by a priest pertaining to the catechization of incoming Catholics prior to the 1970’s. He said there were so many immigrants in the United States that there was an explosion in the Catholic community. More churches were being built and more schools created. Some Churches had 10 Masses/day on the weekend. Because of the massive quantities of incoming Catholics the churches had to make a decision on how to bring people into the church. It was decided that schooling would work best, with the availability of clergy and religious brothers and sisters who worked at a minimum for their vocation. So, the Catholic school system taught the children about their faith. The classes were large, and rote memorization worked best for large groups. Memorizing the Baltimore Catechism was the way to bring children into the faith. Parents were taught that their children would learn all they needed to know about the faith and how to be good Catholics at school, not at home.
Then things changed drastically. The religious brothers and sisters dried up and laity started to take their place. However, the teaching of the teachers was not as in depth and the teaching of the students suffered. Parishes have closed, schools have merged and the parents who were raised with the Baltimore Catechism understood the authority of the church but were not taught how to live the faith beyond the memorization and abiding by the rules. It’s not as though they are not good Catholics, they are, but they were taught in that way.
As a Catholic lay woman earning my Master’s degree in theology from Loyola University, I can attest to the fact that teaching, catechizing, is no longer about memorization. It is about recognizing where God already exists in your life and acknowledging him. It is about enculturating the faith into the lives of our students. It is about understanding why the Church has the beliefs it holds and grasping the meaning behind the “rules”, not just following them blindly. We are trying to form Catholics who live the faith in a different way.
No matter how you have been taught if you are a practicing Catholic God brought you to it on purpose. What you believe and the way you were taught included the Holy Spirit, it is not to be demeaned or negated. On the contrary, those who were raised with authority have a strong sense of morals, character, and dedication to their faith. Change is a constant in life as well as in the Church, the way the faith is passed on. The Church believes that the family is the core of the “domestic church” and that the parents are the first teachers of the faith. We need to catechize our parents, families and children together. We need to teach how to embrace faith, different ways to reach God, and ways to live the faith in our everyday lives. I think the Church is trying to go this way. As Catholics we should support the changes and share our faith with our children and families. Stop making it a private affair and don’t be afraid to pray together, to talk about faith and the Church even if you don’t know all the answers (Google Catholic Websites together and you can find the answers).
Copyright 2016 Lori Hadorn-Disselkamp