Catholic faith formation is a form of evangelization. Evangelization is the fundamental mission of the Church. It describes all the ways the Church—including clergy, religious, and all the baptized faithful—teaches, celebrates, and witnesses to the gospel message with the aim of conforming hearts and minds to Jesus Christ. Evangelization includes an introduction to the gospel message through word and deed with a focus on receiving the gift of faith. Faith formation primarily focuses on deepening initial conversion to faith. It incorporates the catechetical, liturgical, and pastoral ministries. Because it is a form of evangelization, faith formation is a lifelong process.
Conversion is the primary goal of faith formation. Conversion describes a commitment to Christ, reflected in a person’s decisions, actions, and relationships. Receiving the gift of faith begins the conversion process. Conversion has a beginning, often referred to as “initial conversion.” We are never done conforming our lives to Christ. It is an ongoing process or “journey.” The role of faith formation is to both inspire initial conversion and, subsequently, deepen it.
Faith includes both a set of beliefs and a set of actions that correspond to those beliefs. But faith is not lived in isolation. The life of faith is lived in community with other believers. We are called, by God, to community. The Word of God, the Sacraments, Ordained Ministers, and the witness of the faithful, together, inspire and nurture faith. To be formed in the faith, in part, is to be prepared for life in a community—a life marked by service, humility, and charity.
Catholic faith formation nurtures conversion that is directed not only toward service of the believing community, but also to society at large. Jesus called his disciples to go out to all the world to spread the good news of salvation. Catholics do this when they use their gifts and talents in the service of others. Evangelization—proclaiming the Good News of Christ—is not just a matter of preaching but showing kindness and charity to others. Faith formation nurtures the mind and the heart so that the gospel message may be evidenced by words and deeds.
Knowledge of the faith is key to conversion and ongoing discipleship. Understanding and reason inform our experience of faith. Being a disciple is a way of life that includes both the heart and the mind. Sacred Scripture and Catholic Tradition inform our understanding of faith. They give us a language for speaking about our faith and celebrating it (liturgy).
Faith is a relationship. It is how we relate to God. Our relationship with God is something we not only think about, but also celebrate. Liturgy, with the Mass as its culmination, is how we celebrate our faith together. When we celebrate, we pray, hear God’s Word, and receive his grace sacramentally. The sacraments are not only milestones in the disciple’s life, they begin, nourish, and renew it.
We choose our faith when we follow the Ten Commandments and, in a particular way, the Beatitudes of Jesus. Life as a disciple necessarily includes a moral component. God has a will for us to discover and live. To follow God’s will, we have to make daily choices for or against God. When we choose to follow God the Father, we most resemble his Son, Jesus. The grace of the Sacraments helps us to follow God. The Word of God and the Teachings of the Church also inform our choices.
Prayer is our lifeline. When we pray, we connect with God, the Communion of the Saints, and each other. Like Scripture and Church Tradition, prayer is a language of faith. It gives expression to our heart’s desires and hopes, as well as our fears and anxieties. The Psalms is a book of prayers put to music. They cover the entire human emotional experience. Learning to pray includes understanding the different forms and methods of prayer the Church provides.
All who are baptized are called to be disciples. To be a disciple means to be a person of mission. Christ sent his disciples out to share the good news. We share in that same mission. We share the gospel message when we offer a witness of faith and life that is consonant with Jesus as he is presented in the Gospels. We also witness with words. The mission fields in our lives are our homes, parishes, and communities.
We are baptized into a faith community. Our faith is nurtured by the corporate witness of faith the community provides. To be a disciple, then, is to be a person who lives in community with others. Community is the structure of the Church and the context in which believers receive God’s grace, grow in faith, and share their gifts with others. Life in a faith community is the context in which we carry out the tasks of catechesis.
One could say that faith is the great gift of evangelization; and the appreciation of faith is the great gift of catechesis. The word catechesis comes from the Greek word meaning “to echo.” Catechesis is the process of forming people as witnesses of Jesus Christ. Catechesis builds on the faith received through systematic instruction. It is a deepening of the mysteries of the faith. Catechesis is a life-long process of initial conversion, formation, education, and on-going conversion. Catechesis takes many forms, including the catechesis of children, families, and adults.
Encounter is a meeting. In a religious sense, it is the beginning of a relationship with God and the Church. However, encounter is not reserved for sacramental preparation and initiation. Hopefully, we encounter God, anew, throughout our lives. To further mobilize Catholics to be a “people of encounter,” Pope Francis offers a few other actions that are critical to appropriating the dynamism of Christ in the Gospels within the work of catechesis: Invitation, Welcome, Listening, and Service.
Encountering Christ is actually a first phase in a larger process known as “Accompaniment.” Accompaniment is focused on nurturing interpersonal relationships, connecting faith and life experience, love of God, and love of neighbor. Accompaniment has three phases: Encounter, Sharing Faith Experiences, and Systematic Instruction. Recognizing that meaningful relationships are key to religious conversion, accompaniment is a process that has applications beyond catechesis: It is a way of being church today.
Our Church is a community of missionary disciples who experience Christ and witness to Christ. We can be missionary disciples within the contexts of our daily lives, a moment-to-moment commitment to being Christ-bearers to all those we meet. Missionary disciples are characterized by the joy of faith and their work entails evangelizing, peacemaking, compassion, and accompaniment.
Christ In Us, a K–6 fully online or blended learning catechetical program with Parish and School Editions, is rooted in the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Creed, Worship, Morality, and Prayer). It provides a blended opportunity for elementary-age students to grow in their faith. Critical to this growth is the movement from encounter to accompaniment to missionary discipleship.
A blended approach to catechesis offers unique advantages for today’s Catholic kids and families. Using a blend of traditional instruction and educational technology can enhance promoting the Gospel and Gospel values and offer more engagement to families and students. Christ In Us School and Parish Editions offer a blended approach to catechesis to reap these well-document benefits.
Each Christ In Us lesson begins with prayer. As children moves through the program, they will experience a variety of Catholic prayer forms including Lectio and Visio Divina, traditional prayers, and more.
Doctrine is a word used to describe church teaching, both individual teachings and the whole of catholic teaching. The Catechism of The Catholic Church is a summary and synthesis of the whole of Catholic doctrine; it is segmented into four “pillars:” Creed, Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer. In part, Christ In Us is a catechetical resource that presents Catholic doctrine in a systematic, engaging, and age-appropriate way, with an eye to helping children and parents apply their faith through family activities and mini-tasks. Doctrine is made more accessible and applicable through activities and in-class sharing.
Saints are friends of Jesus who are our role models in faith. In Christ In Us, saints are identified as “Partners in Faith.” Children learn about the saints at the lesson, unit, and grade levels and can follow their example in the context of their own lives.
Christ In Us tasks students and families to put their faith into action. Every lesson concludes with a call to action knows as a “mini-task.” Each mini-task connects to one or more tasks of catechesis, ensuring a more comprehensive formation.
Connecting religion with other academic subjects in meaningful ways supports Catholic school students in understanding that faith is at the core of everything they learn and do. Christ In Us offers point-of-use activities to tie what students are learning in Religious Education to other subjects in school, including STREAM.