St. John Bosco, the patron saint of working with youth, was known not only for how he taught the boys about the faith but how he formed them in the faith. John Paul II, in his letter Iuvenum Patris, wrote that St. John Bosco’s concern for the evangelization of his boys ‘was not limited to catechesis alone, nor to liturgy alone, nor to those religious practices which call for an explicit exercise of faith and lead to it, but covered the whole vast sector of the youth condition.’
St John Bosco did not only want his students to succeed in faith; he wanted them also to succeed in life. He knew that leading the boys to holiness required an orthodox curriculum. And he saw that it required other things as well. It involved him in building community, in job training, in involvement in government, in a whole range of social interactions, in finding the boys a place to live, and so on.
The National Directory for Catechesis, released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, seems to agree with the saint’s vision. ‘The most effective catechetical programs for adolescents are integrated into a comprehensive program of pastoral ministry for youth that includes catechesis, community life, evangelization, justice and service, leadership development, pastoral care, and prayer and worship.’[i]
The phrase ‘comprehensive program’ and the list of components involved came out of Renewing the Vision, a USCCB document about youth ministry. Some wondered, ‘Are the bishops saying only youth ministry can do effective catechesis? Can nothing be done in the classroom anymore?’