Rethinking “Religious Education”

chalkboardWords are important, and the words we use to name things should signify something about the object being named.

With that in mind I’ve grown restive about the terms we use to describe our catechetical ministries, especially those aimed at children and youth. It’s no secret that the titles used for parish formational programs are many and varied; in my diocese we tend to use PSR, which is commonly understood to stand for “Parish School of Religion,” although I’ve heard other variations as well. Other places use “religious education” and I still see “CCD” used in some dioceses.

The problem as I see is with many of these terms is that they mirror terms from secular education — terms that bring some unwanted connotations to catechesis. Faith formation is more than just information delivery. It includes participation in the sacraments, prayer, integration into the Christian community, and other tasks that have no direct corollary in secular education. As a result using words like “school,” “student,” and “class” grate a bit because they don’t properly convey the totally of what catechesis is about. (To say nothing about the graduation mentality around Confirmation.)

At the same time “faith formation” seems clunky and “catechesis” is foreign to most people (not to mention hard to spell). So I’m at a loss.

Do you see a similar problem? What words or titles do you use in your parish or diocese for faith formation?

I’m interested in more generic terms, not acronyms for specific programs. Leave a comment and share your experiences!