“Let’s just stop catechising children”

classroom

Joanne McPortland over at Patheos has been causing something of a stir… She is proposing that what is wrong with the parish formation set-up is that it has, for too long, been catechising the wrong people – children, not adults. It’s true that the Church attempted to make the shift from child-centred catechesis to adult-centred catechesis certainly since the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC 258 “Adult catechesis must be given top priority” is just one reference made to the paradigm-shift in this document), if not before that. But, on the whole, this ‘paradigm-shift’ has remained in the catechetical documents of the universal Church, and the national documents of the Bishops’ Conferences, and has not been translated into reality.

Why? I think one reason is that it is far easier to focus on children’s catechesis than adults’. There’s an institutional set-up in schools and sacramental preparation which means that children are captive audiences. Catechising adults is the Mount Everest we still have not conquered because it requires evangelising people first (exceedingly hard and slow work) in order to get them there. And, if we are parents, it is so much easier to focus on our children’s faith formation than our own.

But, we can’t deny that focussing on adults is the real deal; this is where it’s really at. The fact that it is so relentlessly difficult shows us that this is precisely where our efforts, energy and resources need to go.

I think to some extent Joanne is right. I would love to see the results of a parish stopping all their sacramental programmes one year and focussing all its energy into evangelising and catechising adults. I’m fascinated by a new approach in a parish in Wales. Here, the parish priest has announced that this year he will not, as they normally do, invite the archbishop to confirm candidates after a short course. Rather, young people of Confirmation age are being invited to undertake twelve months of learning discipleship – through mentoring, attending Mass and the sacraments, service, and prayer. What a courageous move, and one that I am sure the Lord will bless, since it seems faithful to his desire for us to be his disciples, not just sacramentalised, tribal Catholics.

About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

4 responses to ““Let’s just stop catechising children”

  • Marianne

    I could not agree more. Perhaps we should catechise the parents during the First Holy Communion preparation and leave it to them to prepare their children. could we take the risk??

  • Tonia

    I like the Confirmation mentoring idea, isn’t that what the sponsor was always meant to be? No doubt the mentors receive some sort of training and that’s a way of introducing adult catechesis.

  • 1catholicsalmon

    It just makes sense. So much sense.

  • Richard Chonak

    I can’t say I agree with the parish’s approach to Confirmation. It suggests that the pastor would only recommend children for Confirmation after they’ve shown they can embrace discipleship without it. That doesn’t make much sense.

    The Code of Canon Law gives a better indication of the mind of the Church: Confirmation may be given in the Latin Church at any time after the age of reason. (From what I read on-line, some bishops are conferring it at age 8.)

    Children can (and I say, should) get the benefit of the sacrament when they are younger (and often more devout), to help them persevere as they are exposed to more temptations in the following years.

    OTOH, the emphasis on adult catechesis is well-placed. Thanks for mentioning Joanne McPortland’s commentary.

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