Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

March 27, 2017

A Reflection on the Threefold Purpose of Catholic Education

In 1972, the United States Bishops released a popular and often-cited pastoral letter on catechesis: To Teach as Jesus Did. One of the main purposes of the letter was to give form to the vision of Catholic education, reeling in many ways at the time in the post Second Vatican Council years. The letter addresses aspects of Catholic education like education for adults, Catholic colleges, religious education in a parish, and youth ministry. One of the sections pointed a vivid and honest assessment of Catholic schools in the United States, already suffering from loss of enrollment and a changing model from which religious sisters, brothers, and priests were primary teachers.

Take some time to read the final paragraph (118) of the section on Catholic education. Share it with your students. Ask them to note the threefold purpose of Christian education as articulated in this paragraph: “to teach doctrine, to build community, and to serve.” Have the students write three or four full paragraphs that:

  1. Define each of the purposes
  2. Share how well their school enacts these purposes
  3. Offers suggestions for how their school may improve in acting on these purposes.

Paragraph 118, To Teach as Jesus Did:

We are well aware of the problems which now face the Catholic school system in the United States. WE also wish our position to be clear. For our part, as bishops, we reaffirm our conviction that Catholic schools which realize realize the threefold purpose of Christian education—to teach doctrine, to build community, and to serve—are the most effective means availed to the Church for the education of children and young people who thus may “grow into adulthood according to the mature measure of Christ” (cf. 2 Eph 4:13). WE call upon all members of the Catholic community to do everything in their power to maintain and strengthen Catholic schools which embrace the threefold purpose of Catholic education.

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