Today we get a new topic, ongoing faith formation, covered in GDC 69-72. Language is more than political lingo, and I think there are good reasons to avoid “education” where “faith formation” is a more descriptive term. The heading for sections 69-72 is “Catechesis at the service of ongoing formation in the faith.” That’s what we’re talking about.
69. Continuing or on-going education in the faith follows upon basic education and presupposes it. Both fulfil two distinct but complementary functions of the ministry of the word while serving the process of continuing conversion. Initiatory catechesis lays the basis for the Christian life of the followers of Jesus. The process of continuing conversion goes beyond what is provided by basic catechesis. In order to encourage this process, it is necessary to have a Christian community which welcomes the initiated, sustains them and forms them in the faith: “Catechesis runs the risk of becoming barren if no community of faith and Christian life welcomes the catechumen at a certain stage of his catechesis”. (Catechesi Tradendae 24) The accompaniment which a community gives to the initiated is eventually transformed into their being totally integrated by the same community.
Unfortunately, the Church is dogged by the reality that religious education is viewed as being a matter for baptized children. Additionally, it is colored by the association with classrooms–and nearly all parishes have most of their rooms dedicated to the education of children.
One might argue (with admittedly mixed results) that we have no problem with the imparting of faith information to young people. But catechesis to children–not to mention catechumens–bears barren branches in many places because of little or no connection to the life of the community. I think Catholic schools do a fairly excellent job at developing the life of community within their walls. But they don’t always connect to other faith loci on their campuses or of their students’ families. There is a concern that catechumens are integrated into the mainstream life of a faith community. We can and should ask if our schools accomplish this task. I don’t think they always do.