Discuss about the Religious Education for Human Existence.
Religious education is fundamental for those who are affiliated with various religions or faiths. Other than informing one's faith, religious education also plays a significant role in providing spiritual nourishment. Thus, it is inarguable that Catholic teaching has in the previous decades made noteworthy positive changes. Nonetheless, the journey has not been without obstacles. The challenges have been as a result of numerous challenges, among them, the effects of globalization and the complexity that emanates from the plurality of the modern society. For this and other reasons, the Catholic schools, religious teaching, and learning are at a crossroad. The scope of this paper, therefore, is to provide a reflection on the Catholic Schools at a Crossroad, an NSW which is a bishops' document on religious education. The reflection will be based on the document's perspectives on the following issues; evangelization, new evangelization, religious education and catechesis; the relationship between faith and reason in religious education as well as the role of families and communities in religious education.
Evangelization has been conceptualized as the means by which the good news of salvation is brought into every aspect of human existence. It is also linked to the way by which individuals and the societies are converted through the power of the gospel. The bishops point out that although the role of evangelization is a mission of the entire Catholic Church, greater of hope of evangelization has been entrusted in the Catholic believers who have been educated in the Catholic schools. In essence, evangelization calls Christians to go beyond the boundaries of their faith community to enhance the mission of evangelization which is to challenge, transform and convert (Catholic Schools at Crossroads, 2007: Kenyon, 2010). The Catholic schools have thus been placed at the center of this evangelization.
In respect to the new evangelization, the Catholic bishops view that it is a calling for all the believers to deepen their faith for the purpose of perpetuating the gospel. Therefore, the new evangelization requires that all the Catholics receive evangelization after which they should go ahead and evangelize to the others. Catechesis, on the other hand, is different from the two in that it is perceived as the act of deepening the very faith that has been received. For this reason, it is essentially the ultimate goal of the Catholic schools to promote catechesis in the Catholic-based learning institutions (O'shea, 2014).
According to the bishops letter Catholic Schools at Cross Roads, there has been considerable growth in Catholic based schools and so does the number of the students enrolled in these schools. Consequently, the demand for Catholic education has been on the rise. However, despite the rise in this demand, the teaching of religious education in the Catholic schools has been faced with various challenges. One of the challenges has been the enrolment trend. It has been noted within this era of growth, the majority of the students enrolled in Catholic schools are non-Catholics. Moreover, the majority of the Catholic families enrol their children in the State schools while others enrol in the non-catholic independent schools. Another challenge has been the shifting trends of the faithful commitment. That is, there are fewer people attending masses within the Catholic communities as well as the declining number of priests and other religious leaders (Catholic Schools at Cross Roads, 2007).
To overcome these challenges, there is a need to reform the religious education pedagogy such that it will facilitate differentiated learning, be based on the gospel as well as enhance critical thinking and religious literacy. Additionally, the religious education pedagogy should be authentic and relayed through enthusiasm and energy and should promote not only knowledge but also the understanding (Watson, Maher, O'Shea & Waters, 2014). Besides, the need to reform the curriculum may also help a great deal in enhancing religious education in the Catholic schools. Thus, for the sake of enhancing mutual enrichment, the curriculum must seek to integrate catechesis. The integration, however, must put into consideration the felt needs of both Christian and non-Christian students as this will promote religious freedom. For the latter, religious education is equated to missionary proclamation (O'shea, 2014).
The family and the community play equally significant roles when it comes to religious teaching (Watson, Maher, O'Shea & Waters, 2014: O'Shea, 2014). A similar argument has also been documented in the bishops' document, Catholic Schools at Cross Roads. In a family institution, parents are perceived as the primary educators of their children. In other words, the family is the first school that instils the socially accepted virtues in children. A Christian family enriched with the sacrament of matrimony and grace ensure that children learn about faith in early years, through the family teaching, children are taught about good companionship with the fellow men and those that they share faith with (Rossiter, 2013). The community works in collaboration with the family to impact religious teachings in children. In the context of religious teaching, it is also important to consider how reason and faith relate. While some people argue that Faith and reason are sometimes in conflict others, maintain that the two are inseparable. Through reason and faith, people have come to understand various worldviews about religious education (Sztanyo, 2010). The conflict between reason and faith emanates from the heightened levels of secularization, family dysfunction, consumerism and values disorientation (Ryan, 2013).
In conclusion, it is evident from the bishops' letter and other supporting literature that Catholic schools have contributed a significant role in every aspect of human life. Evangelization, new evangelization, and catechesis have assumed a new phase. Despite the various challenges facing religious education in Catholic schools the church has achieved recommendable milestones. In addition, family and the community have worked collaboratively with the church and the learning institutions to enhance and initiate positive changes within the scope of religious education. As a result, the significant steps that have been adopted to maintain and even make religious education more beneficial particularly in the Catholic schools cannot be taken for granted. For this reason, the Catholic schools have been able to establish a new identity.
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