Evangelization is a primary function of Catholic schools. Although they provide quality education in a variety of subject areas, as agents of the Church, they share the larger mission of the Church: forming disciples of Jesus Christ. Catholic schools should and must be more than public schools that also happen to have religion classes. Speaking about the role of the Catholic school, the Vatican II Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis states, “But its proper function is to create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity, to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism as they develop their own personalities, and finally to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith” (8). A key role of the Catholic school, then, is as an agent of evangelization.
Schools can live out their mission to evangelize in a number of practical ways, including evangelizing students, evangelizing the family, and preparing students and families to evangelize the community.
Catholic Schools Evangelize the Student
Providing religious education is a key priority in the Catholic school, but religious education must be different than education in mathematics, science, history, or other subjects. If our objective is to form disciples, the Catholic Faith cannot be simply approached intellectually. Religious education in the Catholic school must be an immersive and formative experience that begins with an encounter with Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the kerygma.
Knowing Jesus is different from simply “knowing about” him. As we draw closer to Jesus, our lives are changed—we find the joy of becoming who we were made to be, we are challenged, and we are called to places we might have never gone before. A Christocentric catechesis—one that focuses on the person of Jesus Christ—facilitates an environment in which learners can get to know Jesus and draw closer to him.
Help learners become acquainted with the Gospels, particularly the Paschal Mystery: Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Periodically choose a passage from the Gospels that is developmentally appropriate for your learners, both in length and content. Invite your learners to relax, close their eyes, and imagine themselves somewhere within the Gospel story. After meditating on the Gospel passage, invite learners to reflect on their experience. What did they hear Jesus saying to them, and how does it connect with their lives today?