Advice from a Master Catechist: Learning Benchmarks

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Question: Are there standards and benchmarks set for children taking catechism classes throughout the Church (in the United States)? For example, can we say that by such-and-such an age, the child should know such-and-such? — TIFFANY S.

Jonathan F. Sullivan responds …

Thanks for your question, Tiffany! Standards and benchmarks are an important component of catechetical programs, whether parish-based or school-based. The General Directory for Catechesis reminds us that catechesis is characterized by “a comprehensive and systematic formation in the faith” (no. 67). Knowing what lessons are appropriate to different age levels will ensure that this is reflected in our formation programs.

There are no national or international standards for catechetical instruction, most likely due to the logistical and cultural challenges such an undertaking would present! In this case, the principle of subsidiarity suggests that catechetical standards are best developed at the local level in order to accommodate the needs, cultures, and languages of those to be catechized.

Most dioceses have their own set of curriculum standards and benchmarks. Contact your parish’s director of religious education or diocesan catechetical office and ask if such standards exist. If they don’t, you might try searching the websites of other dioceses and archdioceses; their benchmarks may serve as a useful guide to see if your catechetical efforts are on the right track.

Jonathan F. Sullivan serves as the executive director of evangelization, education, and worship for the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana. He is also the creator of


This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, March 2017.

Image credit: Alex Millos / Shutter Stock 156569012

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