Guest Columnists

Our Mission is to Form Saints and Scholars

By Dr. Thomas Chadzutko

In recent days, some have voiced concerns regarding the implementation of social justice activities as part of the Diocesan religion curriculum. While social justice is certainly a buzzword in the secular world today, it is not a new concept to the Church.

The earliest conversations around Catholic Social Teaching were introduced in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII and have since developed into its status within our faith. Catholic Social Teaching is intended to provide the faithful with a lens through which to view social issues that may differ from secular perspectives. As such, it is necessary for students to engage in conversations around social issues through our faith.

This is not a way to appease or tailor our faith to the secular world. This is a way to ensure that a faith-based approach to social issues is at the forefront of our students’ understanding. Students must also be aware that the beliefs of the Church are not always aligned with the secular world, and as proponents of the Catholic faith, we must stand strong in our beliefs.

The foundations of these conversations begin in the primary grades but are truly focused as students reach middle school. Students are encouraged to become leaders of the faith, using their moral tenets as guides within the secular world. In grade 7, students “discuss challenges that exist in modern society to living out the faith and how our role in the Catholic Church is important to its growth” while students in grade 8 “develop strategies and practices for dealing with words and actions that conflict with Church teachings.”

The incorporation of Catholic Social Teaching in religion is not a new approach, nor is it a reflection of the current politicization of many social issues. Adding Catholic Social Teaching is a small piece of the puzzle in our approach to redesigning the Diocesan religion standards. Catholic Social Teaching represents one out of seven themes that make up the new religion standards. Catholic schools are at the forefront of evangelization opportunities.

We are deeply committed to strengthening the Catholic faith by sharing the love and knowledge of Christ with an incredibly important part of our Church community, the children. Religion standards from grades K-8 have been redesigned to include social justice elements but also to reflect a greater rigor in Catholic faith formation.

By expanding upon existing standards, we are establishing a clear pathway for teachers to support a deeper understanding of the faith.

The following is an example of a shift of the kindergarten standards.

Deepening the faith is continued in the intermediate grades with an emphasis on strengthening student understanding of prayer and Scripture as a foundation of our religious understanding and connection to God.

As students enter the middle grades, the focus of the standards shifts to the practical application of our faith in the modern world while continuing to build the historical and foundational aspects of Catholicism.

The new standards aim to provide a detailed outline of measurable outcomes like those implemented in other subject areas. More detailed standards provide both teachers and families with a clear understanding of the age-appropriate development of faith.

The measurable outcomes shown above also increase our ability to evaluate program efficacy throughout the Diocese which ensures that all students are receiving a robust religious education.

Catholic Social Teaching will not be singularly taught in the religion classroom.

As noted in previous descriptions of this coursework, there are close ties to religion, social studies, and literacy. It is our goal for students to explore religion and Catholic Social teaching in a cross-curricular context.

Religion should not be isolated to a single class period during the day.

Our mission in teaching the knowledge and love of Christ is to form saints and scholars, in that order, understanding faith-based education prioritizes our Catholic identity above all other aspects of education.

Previous Standard

Cultivate the habit of prayer

New Religion Standards

  • Recite and demonstrate the sign of the Cross.
  • Recite or repeat age-appropriate prayers.
  • Understand that we can always talk to God and identify different times/purposes for prayer (before meals, bed, in thanks, etc.)
  • Practice giving thanks through prayer
  • Attend liturgy with family or as a school community.

Previous Standard

Catholic teaching is based on Sacred Scripture, the Creeds, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

New Religion Standards

  • Be familiar with the Apostle’s Creed and be able to recite it independently.
  • Begin to discuss themes and messages that are presented within the Bible. Make connections between passages with similar meanings.
  • Describe how God reveals himself to us through Scripture.
  • Differentiate between the Old and New Testament. Describe their importance to our understanding of the faith.
  • Begin to locate passages in the Bible using the index, chapter, and verse. Identify chapters or verses that demonstrate a specified theme.

Previous Standard

Catechetical programs teach the reality of sin and evil in the world.

New Religion Standards

  • Understand the reality of sin within the world and its relationship to our free will.
  • Describe the difference between the terms mortal sin and venial sin.
  • Understand that the only way to truly be forgiven for mortal sin is to go to Confession and receive absolution from a priest or bishop.
  • Identify and practice the steps involved in developing a formed moral conscience. Describe its purpose in our faith journey.
  • Describe and practice Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.
  • Understand that respect for life includes respect for oneself, both physically and mentally. Discuss ways to promote self-respect.