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The World Has Changed, So We Work Harder and Smarter
As a child, I attended Catholic school when our local communities — and the country — were predominantly Christian. While learning the tenets of my faith in school, most outside influences, such as music, television, and movies (all G-rated), complemented, rather than contradicted, my faith. Raising a Christian family and teaching the faith were easy when the whole world was there as a safety net. In fact, many parents delegated the teaching to their Catholic institutions and seemingly enjoyed the picture-perfect life depicted by Norman Rockwell.
My generation grew up, had children and enrolled them in Catholic schools and/or CCD programs, making sure all sacraments through confirmation were received. All boxes were checked, just as our parents did before us.
But the world had changed. That safety net of a Christian-based society was gone. New technologies, the media and culture promoting its enticing but non-Christian and alternative lifestyles were now in conflict with much of the Church’s teachings. Economic and social pressures resulted in more two-parent incomes, which just kept everyone busy, too busy to notice that those competing outside forces were winning over our children away from the faith.
But there is no time for reminiscing, regret or inaction. Living in a predominantly secular culture requires parents, teachers and catechists to join our religious in working harder and smarter to bring souls to Christ. We will even be called to defend our faith from attack, so it is critical we know and love our faith, for it is hard to love what you do not know and difficult to defend what you do not love. How we teach, especially during these times, must result in a profound love for the faith, God and our neighbor.
With our many existing Catholic institutions in place, we need them directed to assist, not replace, the parental role, especially in teaching the faith.
For parents: You have the primary role of catechist, not only by instruction but by example. Our children watch our actions much more than we realize.
For catechists: Use your brief time given with students to encourage parental participation throughout the year. Include a co-retreat for parents with their children who are receiving the sacraments. Not only will this help to catechize parents, but their presence shows children what priority the faith holds.
For Catholic school employees: From principal to maintenance worker, truly embrace with head and heart the primary mission of Catholic education and always be faithful to all the Church’s teachings.
Watered-down or conflicting messaging cannot compete with the one-voice megaphone of secularism. We need to re-emphasize the ultimate rubric for success of our institutions: Catholics working in all walks of life so that their journey ultimately leads them to heaven. Everything we do must be done with charity, knowing the Holy Spirit is evermore present to guide us. We have hope and trust that “with God, all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
Cynthia J. Wood, JD, is a writer and presenter. She has taught religious education for more than 40 years. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.