WASHINGTON – The U.S. bishops are studying a draft curriculum guide for Catholic high school religion courses across the country.
Prepared by the Committee on Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the draft sets the framework for six core semesters plus five elective courses from which schools may choose two – preferably in the senior year or one each in the junior and senior years.
The curriculum framework, developed at the request of publishers of catechetical materials, is intended as a guide for those publishers and for diocesan offices and Catholic high schools to help them develop their own curriculum guidelines and evaluate religion textbooks for use in their schools.
“It is planned that this curriculum framework will also be adapted to shape catechetical instruction for high school age young people in parish religious education and youth ministry programs,” said Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, chairman of the Committee on Catechesis, in a letter accompanying the draft.
He added, however, that the committee recognizes that “not all the points in the curriculum framework can be fully developed” in texts and materials for such out-of-school catechetical programs.
The bishops have been asked to study the draft and submit comments and suggestions for revision by July 1 so that a revised draft can be prepared for final consideration and a vote when the bishops hold their general meeting in Baltimore this November.
Archbishop Wuerl invited the bishops to involve members of their diocesan staffs, school administrators and teachers in the consultation if they wish to do so. But each diocese should collate such responses into a single submission back to the committee, he said.
According to the framework, the first semester of the core curriculum should treat the revelation of Jesus Christ in Scripture, giving students an introductory understanding of the Bible and its meaning for Christians, with special emphasis on the Gospels.
The curriculum’s second semester is about Jesus Christ, Son of God. The third, on Jesus’ mission in the world, focuses on the paschal mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection for the redemption of humanity.
The fourth semester is about the church and the fifth is about the sacraments as privileged encounters with Christ. The sixth, about life in Christ, covers topics such as vocation, sin, virtue, grace and the commandments.
The five elective courses in the draft framework curriculum are titled “Scripture,” “History of the Catholic Church,” “Living as a Disciple of Jesus Christ in Society,” “Living the Call of Jesus” and “Ecumenical and Interfaith Issues.”
Within each semester the framework presents an outline of topics to be covered, citing Scripture and Catechism of the Catholic Church references where relevant.
The introduction to the curriculum framework says it is “strongly recommended” that publishers and school and catechetical programs follow the framework’s sequence of core semesters because it “reflects a systematic point of view in which each course builds on a foundation laid by those which precede it.”
Some national uniformity in sequence is also desirable because of the mobility of society, it says.