Support of Parish Catechetical Leaders
In the last twenty-five years the ministry of the professional parish catechetical leader has proven to be the single most effective positive influence on the catechetical ministry. The Pastoral Associate for Catechetics/Director or Coordinator of Religious Education is the full time professionally trained pastoral minister who oversees and leads the catechetical process in the parish as the delegate of the pastor. It is their task to select curriculum in consultation with the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office and respecting the Archdiocesan Curriculum Guidelines, recruit, train and oversee volunteer catechists, oversee and administer the catechetical program budget, do programming for parent programs and adult education, coordinate with other parish organizations and ministries and various other tasks defined locally.
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office supports the ministry of the professional (as well as the volunteer) PCL through the Deputy Director for Catechetical Personnel in the interview and initial placement of PCL applicants, through programs of orientation for newcomers and on-going support through professional update programs (the "DRE Gathering" in the fall and the "DRE Forum" in spring) as well as days of recollection and regular monthly county level meetings.
Child and Adolescent Catechesis - Catholic School and Parish Programs
Much energy at the parish level is directed toward catechetical programming for children and youth. The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office directly supports these efforts through the Associate Director for Child and Adolescent Catechesis and the Associate Director for Family Catechesis. These staff persons are available for consultation in the selection of curriculum materials, program design and training at the pre-school, primary, intermediate, junior high and senior high school levels.
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office assists parishes in evaluating the effectiveness of their catechetical efforts through several means. Perhaps the most helpful is the Parish Visitation. The personnel of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office are organized to include two Associate Directors each with the primary responsibility as contact person for two of the four of the counties comprising the Archdiocese. These Associate Directors for Parish Catechesis are available for parish visitations at which they can consult with parish personnel to review their current catechetical programming and assist in identifying and addressing areas for improvement.
A second direct means of evaluation is through the use of the Assessment of Catholic Religious Education (ACRE) survey administered to fifth, eighth and tenth grade students which is currently mandated yearly by the Archbishop. The computerized reports provided to parishes and to the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office afford a means of identifying trends and weaknesses in the several domains of knowledge as well as indicate trends in attitudes, and practices among the youth of the Archdiocese. Another such computerized survey targeted for adults, Information for Growth (IFG), is a voluntary evaluative instrument which is available for parishes to use with their catechetical personnel as well as adult program participants to judge effectiveness and plan for future needs.
Recent Church documents make it clear that the catechesis of Adults is the normative experience toward which all catechetical activity is aimed. The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office serves the parishes' adult education needs through the Associate Director for Adult Catechesis and Adolescent Catechesis. One of the principal means for resourcing parishes in this regard has been the establishment of the Adult Catechetical Network which serves as a clearinghouse and method of maintaining communication among the parish catechetical leaders on topics of interest to adult catechesis as regards RCIA, adult scripture study and various subject matter and methodology. The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office also organizes and offers the Spotlight on the Catechism Series on a continuous basis which is open to all interested adults and is offered at four sites (one in each county) in the spring and fall semesters, focusing on the major divisions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Catechist Certification and Evaluation
One of the most important direct services of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office is the oversight, direction and resourcing of catechist certification and enrichment. Since the catechist, as a living witness of faith, is the critically important resource in the catechetical ministry, it is the task of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office to carry out the common policy of the Bishops of the State of New Jersey on catechist preparation and certification. Within the Archdiocese of Newark our policy which is contained in the Catechetical Administrative Manual calls for a three part program of initial preparation addressing first, the spirituality of catechetical ministry as one of discipleship in the Lord Jesus, second, specialization in the methodology of catechesis in an age appropriate manner and the content of catechesis as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In order to achieve certification in these areas, catechists complete several courses which have been designed by the Office: Jesus, Model of Catechists (spirituality), Spotlight on the Catechism (content), Catechesis with Children and Catechesis with Adolescents(Specialization in Methodology). While these courses are designed to be offered by "lead catechists" at the parish level, the Office schedules regular training sessions to help the lead catechists acquire the knowledge and proficiency to offer the courses at the local level. Upon successful completion of preparation on these three levels, catechists are certified by the Office and are provided further with on-going opportunities to validate that certification through additional opportunities for enrichment.
On the inter-parish level, both at the county and archdiocesan levels, the Office sponsors events for on going enrichment both for parish catechetical leaders and for catechists. For example, the Catechetical Congress and County catechetical days of enrichment have become popular methods for obtaining on-going formation and education in catechetical ministry offered each fall.
Catechesis in the Hispanic Community
All of the programs and major areas of concentration within the mission of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office are duplicated for our Hispanic constituencies within the Archdiocese. It is the task of the Associate Director for Catechesis with Hispanics to organize and carry out this mission. It involves the publication of a Spanish language newsletter, Actualidad Catequistica, a thorough series of courses in catechist certification, large group opportunities for prayerful reflection and on-going enrichment and through personal contacts with the parishes as consultant in catechetics for Hispanics.
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office, through the Associate Director for Catechesis with Families, provides training, materials, consultation and support for program design and implementation for families, pre-and post-baptismal programming (Families Beyond Baptism, Baptismal Ministry Team Training) consultation for programming in the area of family life education and in other areas having direct impact on the family as well as family based alternative models for catechesis.
Video Resource Library
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office maintains a video lending library available to all parishes and institutions of the Archdiocese on a minimal fee basis. Parishes may opt to become members of the library for a flat yearly fee which entitles them to use the lending service on an unlimited basis. Several hundred of the most up to date catechetical video programs and series are maintained in the collection which is expanded yearly as new materials become available. Parishes may use the library to preview materials which they plan to purchase or use the videos in their parish catechetical settings.
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office publishes two English language and one Spanish resource regularly. Actualidad Catequistica mentioned above is the Hispanic Catechetical resource and news publication of the Office. In addition, the Office provides parishes, priests, deacons, PCLs and other interested parties with two regular English-language publications. Catechetical Update is a four page newsletter serving the catechetical ministry in the Archdiocese with up to date information and events listings. Catechetics for Today is a more in-depth publication which is intended as a re-printable resource for use in parishes and with catechists as well as more professionally oriented articles intended for the enrichment of the catechetical leader. The Office also publishes support materials for the Families Beyond Baptism Program, the course material and videos for Jesus, Model of Catechists, Catechesis with Adolescents and Catechesis with Children, and various record keeping materials for use in administering catechist certification processes and children's catechetical programs.
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office provides additional services, consultation and representation on the Archdiocesan, inter-diocesan and national levels on behalf of the Archdiocese of Newark which have impact on the Catechetical ministry at large. It has been the focus of the foregoing information to focus on the direct impact at the parish level of the Catechetical Ministry. It has been with this in mind that this summary of the major areas of activity of the Office has been prepared. The Archdiocesan Catechetical Office is ready to assist the parishes of the Archdiocese of Newark in accomplishing the goals of the catechetical ministry in any possible way and is anxious to do so at the request of pastors and parish catechetical leaders.