New Confirmation curriculum to be implemented
By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — The unveiling of a new diocesan seventh- and eighth-grade religious education curriculum and new Confirmation program was showcased to catechists, teachers, principals, religious education directors and pastors at presentations offered in both Fort Wayne and South Bend last week.
The curriculum called “Alive in Christ” has the intentions of helping children and young people to know, love and live the Catholic faith. Our Sunday Visitor in Huntington prepared the Confirmation curriculum exclusively for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
One of the components of the curriculum is the new diocesan Confirmation program. Candidates preparing for Confirmation will study four units, with each offering the elements of forming intentional disciples: to invite, discover and live the elements studied.
In a letter to the faithful, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades wrote, “By working together to ensure a consistent and rich formation in the faith for our seventh- and eighth-grade students, we will be offering them the foundation of faith essential to a lifelong journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “It is my vision to provide the same solid foundation to all students in seventh- and eighth-grades across our diocese by using the seventh- and eighth-grade levels of the ‘Alive in Christ’ religion series in combination with this new Confirmation program that was custom-made for use in our diocese.”
The showcases last week at the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center in Fort Wayne and Saint Joseph High School in South Bend introduced the curriculum.
Jane Sandor, co-director of the diocesan Office of Catechesis, worked closely with the program.
She noted that the new curriculum came about through a concern of Bishop Rhoades’, who after visiting all parishes for Confirmations, “wanted to make sure his students were being prepared the same with accurate information and the correct catechesis.”
“He felt that there were some deficiencies or differences. He put together this vision with OSV and with the Office of Catechesis. He wanted to make sure students understood their call, that it all emanates from the story of the Pentecost and going into discipleship and living a life of joy,” she said.
Normally, the creation of such a program takes more time than a year. John Christensen, national sales and advertising director for Our Sunday Visitor, said, “To start to create a new curriculum is a significant, financial and time-intensive process. The timing was perfect that it all came together when we were rolling out ‘Alive in Christ’ and the bishop’s needs. That came together seamlessly.”
Using the creativity of the OSV resource staff, Christensen said, “The Confirmation program is sort of where we broke all the rules — in a good way. We were able to say, ‘this is a normal process, but here is a need that is immediate. Let’s put our heads together and come up with an immediate solution so that we can have everything they need in a timely manner.’”
Valerie Vogel, an OSV sales manager who presented the showcases, said she is most excited about the partnership that was developed between the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Our Sunday Visitor and the people implementing it.
“There is a synergy,” she said. “There was a need. The bishop wanted to respond to the need. Our Sunday Visitor was able to support him and respond. And now it is about the implementation.”
Vogel said, “I’m really excited to see the transformations that will occur in parishes and schools because of ‘Alive In Christ.’ I want to hear the stories of excited catechists and parents and young people being comfortable and confident on reflecting on Scripture and applying it to their lives. I want to see — two, three or four years down the road — the impact that it’s made. And I have confidence that it will.”
Sue Sherburne, a director of religious education at St. Jude Parish in Fort Wayne, along with Teresa Oross from South Bend, will help guide catechists in implementing the curriculum. Tammy Healy, the OSV region sales representative for Indiana, will also be assisting parishes in implementing and ordering the books.
“There is so much wonderful information there for the catechist to fulfill the vision that bishop has in order to pull the kids into that full discipleship,” Sherburne told Today’s Catholic after the morning showcase at the Noll Center on Feb. 25.
In addition to the actual book, there are online resources.
Vogel noted that one couple with whom she spoke after the Fort Wayne morning showcase was happy to see the curriculum had a multimedia aspect — even incorporating YouTube videos in the lessons.
Sherburne noted what she found most useful was “having that weblink for the catechist to use so that they have the core basics there in their texts. They can go there and find materials for the seventh- and eighth-grade program. It can be multidisciplinary and … work with kids with all learning styles.”
“There is so much information there to give background to catechists,” she added, “so that’s going to give catechists a firm foundation so that they can go forth and bring their students into a full foundation.”
Sherburne also emphasized that the program is family-oriented. “We’re helping families to live out their job of being primary educators of their child’s faith life,” she said.
Christensen added that there are elements “online available to meet parents where they are, meet the kids where they are and utilize the flexibilities of the formats to really deliver a product that is useful.”
Another component that will be placed into the seventh- and eight-grade curriculum is the theology of the body, which will support the Confirmation component.
The theology of the body component will build on the Ascension Press version, according to Sandor, but the diocesan Office of Family Life will use eight additional lessons on chastity.
In June, there will be in-services on how to use the curriculum. A followup session will be held next fall in October.
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