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Expanding Catechesis
by Therese Brown
It's the beginning of the Easter Season.
It’s the beginning of the Easter Season.

At this time, we turn our attention to the Acts of the Apostles and its stories of catechesis, evangelization, and service as demonstrated by the early Christians. One of the hallmarks of those whose lives are featured in Acts is their generosity—of spirit, of faith, of love and compassion for others, and of sharing their material goods. Generosity draws the community closer and reinforces the gospel message.

As the end of the school year looms, most of us are anticipating the sigh of relief that comes with summer, when religious education or school classes are finished and we have the chance to refuel our hearts, minds, and bodies for the fall. Easter season is a good time to reflect back on the year and to look for one or two ways in which we can “extend” our catechesis, be more generous as a community, and reinforce the gospel message in the classroom in the lives of our children and young people.

Strategic Reinforcement

Think about which lessons or topics would benefit most from additional reinforcement. Be strategic and select two or three lessons during the year. And be public about your choices. Tell parents—engage them as your catechetical support system. If you can, get your pastor, associates, and deacons involved as well. Include what you are doing in a newsletter, take-home handout, or column in your parish bulletin; or post something on the parish website. Most of the resources mentioned below are available at

* Help your priests and deacons prepare their weekend sermons with homily helps on topics such as immigrants, Respect Life, and Catechetical Sunday. Catechetical Sunday is in September, and October is Respect Life Month.

* Identify DVDs that further develop topics for the coming year that parents could view with their children. Create and send home a list at the start of the year or each month. Using the search engine at, search on “movies A-I” and the topic of your lesson.

* Include a USCCB-produced bulletin insert in your parish bulletin, on your parish website, or in your take-home materials for your students as a way to help parents better prepare to discuss current topics in the news or Church with their children. Downloadable bulletin inserts can be found at

* Help students’ parents be more comfortable with answering questions about the Sacraments, especially parents of children preparing for first Sacraments, by encouraging them to learn more about the Sacraments in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Catechism of the Catholic Church, or the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Create a handout that includes suggested paragraphs or chapters in any of these books that connect with specific topics you will be presenting to their children.

* Encourage your parish to actively use the themes for any of the seven “National Collections” as opportunities to talk about stewardship, charity, justice, discipleship, or Christian responsibility in your parish bulletin, at your parish website, or during homilies. Colorful posters and reproducible bulletin inserts are available online. If your parish uses social media, you might blog or tweet about the theme, or you could post thoughts or ideas on the theme at your parish Facebook page and invite others to share their comments.

* Take the learning outside the classroom. Invite your students to get involved in a social justice issue that is meaningful to them, such as poverty, the environment, or life issues. Look under “Issue Campaigns” or search on the chosen topic to find suggestions on what we can do to further educate or advocate on the subject. Ask your students to report to the class periodically with an update on the topic and activities.

The Potential to Reach Beyond

With the advent and ubiquity of internet technologies, we have more and more opportunities to expand our religious education beyond the four walls of a classroom. This coming year, give the community the chance to demonstrate its generosity in helping catechize our children and young people.

Therese Brown is associate director for marketing, sales, and service in publishing at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She has been a high school religion teacher, youth minister, and catechist. She is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and holds a master's degree in liturgy from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, and in business from Loyola University in Maryland.

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