Education Required for Religious Education?


#1

How are religious education teachers chosen in your diocese?

Are they required to have a degree or to pass certain courses or even an oral exam before we let them into the classroom?

Is there any supervision?

Are they given sufficient resources to answer elementary questions?

Should there always be teaching teams in each class?


#2

there are national standards for catechetical leaders (the person hired by the parish to direct all religious education) but they are voluntary, enacted by a couple of professional organizations at the request of the USCCB. Many dioceses use the standards, and job description to set requirements for hiring (which are recommendations only). Usual for a DRE is a MA in theology or related topic, or BA with Master catechist certification (150 hours of study in relevant topics which are specified) plus and additional 30+ hours in theology. A CRE (coordinator) or ARE (administrator) has less education, and even can be a volunteer. Depends on the diocese. Our diocese has not had a certification program in house for several years. You have to go outside the diocese and take a summer course over several years (at your own expense) to qualify. We have just started a Lay Ministry Institute but they have not come up with a DRE certification program. We do have professional days with presentations on various topics for continuing education.

To certify catechists in most dioceses is 100 hours of training in specific topics: the role of the catechist, scripture, the catechism and teaching methods, and various theological and pedagogical topics. Master catechist is 150 hours. In our diocese a popular national program for initial certification of catechists is the 32 hour Echoes of Faith Program, a video-assisted program with a trained facilitator.
My pastor does not approve of this program, thinks it is too lightweight (which it is) so we have to come up with our own. Our parish offers Alpha and Touching Jesus through the Church as basic catechist preparation, plus other courses offered by the DRE or outside presenters.
the diocese also offers courses for Catholic school religion teachers that can be taken by catechists.

However, there is no requirement, or way to enforce such a requirement, that all catechists be certified. It comes down to the best judgement of the pastor or the person he designates.
If you need catechists, you take who volunteers. If the people in the parish who should be teaching refuse to serve, well, you will not have the quality of teaching you should have.

bottom line: get involved in your child’s CCD program, know the director, know the teachers, know the books and resources, and know what your child is being taught (or what is omitted). YOU are the child’s first and primary teacher of the faith.


#3

I am in a diocese nearby puzzleannie’s in Texas. We do have catechist certification in our diocese and all catechsists are expected to be working toward certification. Most parishes are pretty strapped for teachers so we aren’t too picky about degrees or certifications. All our RE staff, including the DRE are volunteers (in my parish). The DRE has a MA in Theology but she is near retirement and her likely successor won’t. The catechist certification is not conveniently laid out. I am planning to do alternate certification through Catholic Distance University myself.


#4

I see this from two different perspectives. I have been Chairman of Religious Education at a parish have taught 6th, 8th, high school, Confirmation prep, adult, directed RCIA, spent 3 years as a youth minister, have been an acting DRE while a new one was being looked for. I have attended the diocesan Parish Catechetical Leaders meetings for the past 6 or 7 years. But I don’t qualify to apply for a paid DRE position because I don’t have a BA or MA in theology. religious studies, or whatever. I believe that there may be many qualified people out there but they don’t have the papers!

However I have also seen as DRE and RE chairman the damage that people who don’t know the teachings of the Church can do when they are placed in a catechist position. But then again if you require certain certifications or you can’t teach, then there might not be any catechists. Catechesis is not something you do because no one else will. It has to be something that you do to serve Christ and His Church. It needs to be something you do because you want to do it. Should we test Catechists? Yes. Should parishes provide them with Catechist formation programs? Yes, I think so. Should we require them to have certain papers? No, we should require them to have a certain knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Faith. Can a person with a MA in theology teach RCIA better than Joe Smith who comes to Mass every Sunday and practices his faith with devotion? No, not necessarily.

When discussing this in the past this image comes to my mind:

Jesus speaking to Andrew and Peter at their boat.
Jesus: Hello Peter
Peter: Hello
Jesus: Where did you get your degree in Marine fisheries.
Peter: I don’t have a degree. I’m just a simple fisherman
Jesus: Oh, um, I’ll let you get back to your nets, have a nice day.
Jesus: Andrew what degree do you have?
Andrew: I’m simply a fisherman too.
Jesus Oh, um, ok
Jesus: Has anyone here studied Greek under the Pharisee Gamaliel and is well versed in rabbinical principles?

I believe that team teaching is the way to go.
Putting a person who can relate to an age group and knows how to present material with a person who knows the material but may not have the relational or presentational skills works well.


#5

I guess this is another unintended result of Vatican II. We lost the teaching nuns, thus we lost many of our Catholic grade schools, and it was decided that our children were not required to attend Catholic elementary school. Even within our Catholic schools, much is not being taught that should be taught and the children are being given information that is incorrect or politically slanted.

We need a new apostle for the children – a living saint who will work tirelessly for the correct and full education of those who are the Church and who will continue the Church. If none should appear, just what is the outlook for the future? Children who do not know are not going to be able to properly form their consciences and are not going to be inflamed with the desire to work for the propagation of the Faith.

Of course, the primary place for this education is the home; but so many Catholics who now are parents were not educated correctly or fully themselves. So many parents simply do not care. That duty now falls on the whole Body of Christ in America. If there are those who can teach but who choose not to do so, we need to find a way to bring them into the classrooms. If the current method of certification is not doing the job, we need to figure out just what will.

It is my opinion that leaving this important job up to individual dioceses and parishes is not going to accomplish the long-term goal. We need to expand the system devised through the USCCB and make it mandatory. Most importantly, we need to pay the religious education teachers. We pay those who make music at Mass; if necessary, give that money to RE teachers. We can make music with our own voices; but if our minds are ignorant, we won’t care about the music. If we find a way to pay the teachers in our schools for teaching math and science, surely we must find the funds to pay those who are teaching the Faith. If we pay RE teachers, we can monitor them more closely and we will attract many who may not be able to volunteer.


#6

As a RE teacher, I know I do not have any degrees. I do try to go to classes for further education, but do not actually get to many of them.

When I first volunteered, my actual knowledge was not even discussed. Just my willingness to teach.

I team taught the first year, (thank you God). She moved away the next year. Although there was someone available that year, most years, if a teacher moves, it is difficult to find a replacement much less team people up.

All prayers are needed and welcomed from the RE Teachers and directors!!!

God Bless,
Maria


#7

What about this ---- (It may already be a program in some areas)

Have a required course in RE in all Catholic high schools. Make it mandatory that each high school senior conduct an RE class each week. Such a requirement could also be implemented in all Catholic colleges and universities, although there would probably be much opposition both from the administrations and the students.

If each teacher in each Catholic elementary, middle, and senior high school had it in his/her contract to teach one class, for pay; and if tutorials were made available for them to bone up on the Catechism, then there would be hundreds of these people available to team-teach with volunteers and/or other paid RE teachers from the community.

Further, each seminary could require one or more class be taught by each seminarian. This would only help in a few locations; but each warm, educated, willing body helps!


#8

as a CRE my qualifications for catechist are basically the same as for godparents and confirmation sponsors: you are a fully initiated adult CAtholic (includes teens who have been confirmed) living in harmony with CAtholic moral teaching, including church laws on marriage. You are someone who lives their Catholic faith and is eager to learn more. You may not be a theologian or have a certification but you love Jesus and love His Word. If you have a family you are doing your best to raise good Catholic children.

WE can teach you what you need to know, but I cannot put faith where it does not exist. As I told the parish my first year here when trying to recruit Catholics - give me 12 people with strong faith and we can transform this parish.

Catechist is a calling, and one who is called to this all-important vocation (not a career or job) is given the charism by the Holy Spirit. We are all given charismatic gifts by virtue of Confirmation. Some to be priests, some deacons, some to teach, preach, administer, serve, prophecy, speak in tongues, interpret tongues etc. All CAtholics are called by virtue of baptism to evangelize, to spread the good news of the gospel in whatever circumstances of your life. If you are called to serve as a catechist, but decline to serve that is a very serious disobedience. By the same token, not all are called to be catechists. If you feel a strong call to learn more and to teach it but not to work with children, consider working with adults especially in RCIA.

If you are already doing several other ministries in the parish, then do not become a catechist. Discern which ONE of these ministries is the one you are called for. If you are doing too much, you may be taking the place of the person whom the Holy Spirit has designated for that ministry. Think about it, pray about it. Don’t worry about what you know or don’t know, that can be remedied if you sincerely desire to learn.

If you are one who got shanghaied into teaching, and handed the manual and a roster, my advice is this: spend one hour in preparation for each hour in the classroom. Start by reading the scripture passage and the Catechism paragraphs given in your catechist manual for the lesson. Meditate on what you read, then make a lesson plan. The day before the class, gather the materials you will need, pray again on the scripture. Before class, pray again, and pray at the beginning of each and every class session that the Holy Spirit will be the teacher, and you will be His instrument.

Team teaching is preferred in every classroom, in fact, there really should not be a classroom without two adults present. If you don’t have a team member, recruit someone, your DRE will bless you unto the 3rd & 4th generations.


#9

[quote=Patjoe]What about this ---- (It may already be a program in some areas)

Have a required course in RE in all Catholic high schools. Make it mandatory that each high school senior conduct an RE class each week. Such a requirement could also be implemented in all Catholic colleges and universities, although there would probably be much opposition both from the administrations and the students.

I!
[/quote]

I don’t know what dream world you inhabit but I have never heard of paid catechists in the 4 dioceses I have worked in. I disagree with your prescription, someone who is made to teach is not a good teacher or a good catechist. Rather than a required RE course, return to required theology and philosophy courses on Catholic campuses, but before you do that, require any high school or college that uses the name Catholic in its advertising to be truly CAtholic, to have its theology professors sign the Mandatum, and get rid of all faculty and programs that are undercutting and attacking Catholic teaching and morality. The so-called theology programs and DRE Programs and catechist certification institutes run by these heretical colleges masquerading as CAtholic have done untold harm to the church, to the professional organizations which most Catholic school teachers and DREs belong to, and to the children and youth taught by people who “graduate” from these programs.


#10

posted by puzzleannie

If you are already doing several other ministries in the parish, then do not become a catechist. Discern which ONE of these ministries is the one you are called for.

So true!!! I know there is frequently a call in the Church for other things, counting of money, donuts, altar society. So much need everywhere. And everytime I think oh I could help, I feel God Thank me for my willingness and tell me to shut my mouth.

I am using my talents exactly where I need to be, teaching.

If you are doing too much, you may be taking the place of the person whom the Holy Spirit has designated for that ministry. Think about it, pray about it. Don’t worry about what you know or don’t know, that can be remedied if you sincerely desire to learn.

That is so true. Although I know teaching is one of my gifts, I did not volunteer when I returned to the Catholic Church. I even held back when there was an announcement at Mass. After all, so many others had so much more knowledge than I did. After the second announcement, and no one had stepped forward, I approached. If someone else had stepped forward even though they really did not feel called to teaching, it would have probably been years before they would have asked again because of someone doing something out of duty instead of a true calling.

God Bless,
Maria


#11

I’m thinking of getting an MA in Religious Education. What can that qualify people for? In the US and Canada that is?


#12

[quote=puzzleannie]I don’t know what dream world you inhabit but I have never heard of paid catechists in the 4 dioceses I have worked in.
[/quote]

Our music director is not paid, nor are any of the teachers. Your parish must be much more prosperous than ours. Granted we have few Catholics and a poor parish. I think that paying teachers would get people who are just there for the pennies (because the salary would not be enough to get a competitive pool of qualified applicants) would not ameliroate the system.

I do think the idea of allowing confirmed kids (provided they are educated about their religion and sincerely are interested in promoting the faith) teach younger kids is a good idea.

But forcing people to participate would not improve the quality. That’s half the problem now; parents who know little feeling obligated to teach because their children are enrolled in the system. And I dont’ know about your churches, but here there seems to be an unspoken rule that you must have a kid if you want to teach.


#13

puzzleannie,

How sad, both what you convey about the education system for catechists and what you think about what prior knowledge a catechist should have. We are not talking about energy and good intentions. We are talking about intricate facts in an intricate subject. In my opinion, not just anyone who is willing to do so can teach that subject. Take, for example, our very good-willed forum member who teaches a third-grade RE class and who does not know the difference between angels and saints.

There probably are many, many such teachers out there – moms who just want to pass on to youngsters what they feel about the Faith. Good. Pass on what you know after you have demonstrated that you have learned. If the current method of teaching this at Catholic universities is bad and even harmful, we need to begin the process anew. Have a test for each RE teacher so that we can learn the extent of knowledge of each new teacher. Periodically review what has been taught and correct errors immediately. There could even be monitoring equipment in each classroom.

Relying on your advice to study one hour for each hour you are in the classroom is pitiful! No wonder there are so many younger Catholics who simply don’t know anything about their Faith.
I disagree with you that requiring teaching of older students would prove to be a dead end. If there were teams, it would be a challenge. And they themselves would learn in the process. More and more these days, high schools and colleges are requiring community involvement for graduation. For Catholic students, the immediate community is the parochial school system.

Most kids really want to teach – they glory in the fact that they are in charge; they love being looked up to. If there are those who would be unacceptable, leave them out of the classroom; but require them to do other work involved, such as preparing handouts, and so forth. Unlike the present situation of volunteers, student-teachers would be graded, making the outcome more satisfactory. And they are in the classroom themselves and have insight into what needs to be known and how to teach it.

As for requiring parochial school teachers to do RE, they already want to be in our schools, so that is half the battle. Presumably they have some education in the tenets of Catholicism. Being teachers, we must be able to assume that they can learn a new course relatively easily. In any case, it would be much better than grabbing Mom from the sofa and putting a book in her hands and asking her to go blindly into the fray. She may have the best of motives, but more than likely she will fail. And we just cannot afford to let that happen anymore!


#14

I was a volunteer teacher for one year at the high-school level. The only teaching experience I had was as a TA at my colloge. My priest must have liked what I did because he hired me as the director. Of the team I collected, only one was experienced in education, a Phd in English in fact (another has since decided to go into the deaconate but will still teach). What they all did have apart from the willingness (which I agree is not enough itself), was love of God and especially love of God’s truth as taught by the Church. The priest discerned that even with my lack of creds, that I knew the Catholic faith and would not brook any funny, new-age crapola. I then picked volunteers who were the same way.

So while I have no problem with getting credentialed (which I will do if ordered), I think a good priest with a spirit of discernment is worth more than a dozen sheep-skins.

Scott


#15

I never suggested that simply being handed a catechist manual because your kid is in a class with no catechist is the preferred way to go, I offered my suggestion for those who find themselves in that situation because they volunteered to fill a need, and feel that they are inadequately prepared. You can’t stop and get all the theology you need, but you can prepare to teach next weeks lesson, and in the process learn what the catechism and scripture have to say about the topics covered in the grade you are teaching.

As for how to choose catechists, teaching experience is great but not essential, and just because someone has completed a so-called certification program is no guarantee, because in my experience most are seriously flawed. It is easier to teach someone who know how much they don’t know, than to correct the errors of somebody who thinks they learned it all in a class or institute run and taught by rank heretics.

I cannot imagine what you mean by “monitoring equipment in each classroom” or who would pay for such technology. we do have monitoring, it is done by me and the session coordinators who sit in on classes periodically for all catechists to determine what and how they teach. we also test catechists to help them ascertain what they need to study, and provide on-going catechist formation before and after each CCD year, and during the year. they have plenty of opportunity to learn what they need to teach.
but you can’t hold a gun to their head and make sure they take the classes.

All adult Catholics should be committed to “continuing Christian education” in some way shape or form beyond the Sunday sermon. If you are not, there is a serious question about your commitment to your faith. Somebody that has not picked up a bible, catechism or spiritual book (or visited a good website) since Confirmation is going to be deficient in understanding and practicing the faith. Volunteering as a catechist is a great way to remedy the defect, because teaching others is the best way to learn. It quickly humbles you, and shows you how much you have to learn, and motivates you to learn more. Our challenge as DREs is to make sure our catechists, and all adults of the parish, have access to good bible study and faith formation classes and other opportunities.


#16

[quote=porthos11]I’m thinking of getting an MA in Religious Education. What can that qualify people for? In the US and Canada that is?
[/quote]

Director of Religious Education for a parish or a Catholic school or school system. the number of dioceses and parishes where this will get you a living wage is finite. Please do not even waste your time doing this at a college that is Catholic in name only. consider a theology degree which has broader applications. the office of catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenvill, Prof. Barbara Morgan, can give you good direction and counselling on your choice of major in this field and where you can go with it. They also have an excellent placement center.


#17

Good priests are good judges of those who should teach. Let’s work toward giving the teachers the knowledge to go along with their calling and their willingness.

As for our bad Catholic universities and colleges, our bishops could boycott graduates from same unless each individual proves his allegiance to Rome. I realize that many bishops are not up to snuff also; but we hold the key to that. No one should give one red cent to any diocese where the bishop is not in compliance with the tenets of our Faith as we have been taught. No parish that is doing unorthodox things should be supported financially. “Bad” dioceses and parishes will not long survive if the faithful give their money only to legitimate priests, charities, schools. We must ask the good bishops to do something NOW about the bad teachers at universities and we must never let any truly erroneous practice in our parishes go unchallenged. We must take our grievances to the top, if necessary.

We have seminaries with “built-in” teachers of religion. It would be relatively inexpensive to have classes in catechetics in the off hours there. If the novice RE teacher cannot afford to pay for classes, give scholarships. If the now paid “volunteers” cannot go to the seminary for classes, the sems could send the priests, deacons, seminarians to the parishes to teach the would-be teachers.

There are many solutions to the overwhelming dilemma. We just have to begin to DO something.


#18

maybe you have seminaries with built in RE teachers where you are, but our diocesan seminary is brand new, and taxed to educate the seminarians they have. The teachers are priests who all have their own parishes and other diocesan duties, and little free time to run around to parishes giving classes to catechists. In any case, if you believe a lot of other posters on these forums, the seminaries in many areas are doing and abominable job of forming priests, so surely cannot be trusted to form lay catechists. (ours was started just to make sure our prospective priests have a solid, reliable place to study and begin their formation)

We just started a lay ministry institute in the diocese now in its second year, trying to train those who will train others. problem is many of those who took the courses (some subsidized by their parishes) now decline to give their time and gifts to handing on to others what they have freely received.

All our priests and deacons are filling other diocesan assignments, as well as their parish duties, and manfully working on properly forming the adults in their parishes for RE as well as other ministries.


#19

for my parish that means make sure no one steals the chalk!


#20

This is a crisis! If we neglect to properly educate another generation – well, we can’t! If any priest, deacon, seminarian, lay person has an ounce of energy, it must be dedicated to the education of our children. Seminaries train priests, but what happens when the younger people don’t know enough to want to be priests (already so true in most cases)?

I am not suggesting that people “run around” to teach the children, or at least to form the teachers. I am suggesting that this be one of the top priorities of every single ordained and religious. For the able priests, for the presidents of companies, for the attorneys and physicians, it should be “Mass and a Class.” If there is a nun in a hospital taking care of the sick, she should spend one or two hours on Sunday in a RE classroom. College professors (screen them if you don’t trust them) should be turning down the invitations to parties and going directly to parish classrooms instead.

Screen each and every teacher for his/her beliefs. Don’t put one single person in front of our children who does not believe what the Church teaches and who is not able to convey those beliefs to the children.

If we look at this as we have begun to be used to thinking about it, as “Where are we going to get someone to stand in front of the children for an hour each week?” we are going to continue to get mediocre-at-best results. We have to rededicate ourselves as a body, as The Body, to this task.

Monitor by tape recorder, not video. You can get one for less than $100. Have tapes that can be reviewed during the week and point out errors. The goal is not to “catch” someone in a mistake, but to make deadly certain that the truth is taught and to help the teachers do that. Have a theological genius in the building who can be called on when questions arise that are beyond the knowledge of the individual teachers.

We must put our money, our sweat, our thoughts, all of our people into this effort. We cannot rely on the parish bulletin to recruit. Our bishops – the good ones – must go out and bring back the brightest and the best to teach. They must tap their money resources in the community-at-large to donate big bucks toward salaries for RE’s. The bishops must show up at classes. Each child must know that this is serious stuff, not just the fulfillment of a vague Church requirement.

It must be organized from the top, just as the school system is, wherever the top might be. It cannot remain “That’s my mom up there at the front desk, isn’t this fun?” time for the children. It must rank as one of the most important times of everyone’s week; or we could go back to requiring that Catholic parents put their children in Catholic schools. That would be quite the scene!


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