Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Catechists, parents, pastors and parish CCD and RCIA coordinators can now find a host of resources on the Religious Education page of the Lincoln Diocese’s website.
“Even though sometimes we think of religious education as just for kids, it’s really part of being a Christian,” said Father Andrew Heaslip. “It’s vital stuff. It’s part of everyday life.”
After Bishop James D. Conley appointed him director of Religious Education last summer, Father Heaslip talked to a number of different teachers, administrators and others to get an idea of the most pressing needs and desires for religious education.
One message that came to him over and over again was that religious education resources needed to be highly accessible.
“Many catechists are very busy. They have family, they have careers, they have all kinds of tasks,” Father Heaslip explained. “The easier you can make good materials available, the more likely it is for those materials to be used and used effectively.”
Father Heaslip has been working closely with Father Gary Coulter, who oversees the diocesan website, to create an online resource center ever since. The result is a page loaded with downloadable materials and links to equip religious educators at virtually every grade level — including adults — plus more to come.
For example, Catholic school teachers, CCD instructors and parents can look at the elementary and high school curriculum to see what students are learning and when.
The elementary school curriculum revolves around the Faith and Life Series published by Ignatius Press and selected by one of Father Heaslip’s predecessors, Father Christopher Barak, a few years ago.
“The series is faithful to the Church and faithfully offers students instruction in how to live the moral life,” Father Heaslip said. “It takes the essential topics of faith and every year goes a little deeper.”
While this material is primarily meant for catechists, parents can use them as well.
“They can see the general scope of what kids are learning, but also we will eventually have summary questions for each chapter, so a parent can easily sit down and go through them with their children, just have one more touch point to speak about Christ in the home.
There is also a link to resources for families that include children with special learning needs.
“We all have different levels at which we can learn the faith. Students with special needs are no different,” Father Heaslip said.
With the help of a couple of parents and educators, he was able to identify materials that are ideal for teaching the faith. These resources apply to both children and adults.
For pastors and RCIA facilitators, there are links to several different resources.
“Every pastor is really the one who takes on the responsibility of educating his parishioners, especially adult parishioners,” said Father Heaslip. “It’s always nice to have some extra help.”
Among the offerings is “Symbolon: the Catholic Faith Explained,” a 20-video series that efficiently introduces adults to the powerful truths of the Catholic Church that has been produced by the Denver-based Augustine Institute. Several parishes in the diocese are now subscribing to that program.
Father Heaslip’s own Compendium Clips are also available on the web site. These videos break up the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church into short, easy-to-understand lessons that can encourage people to keep learning about their faith.
Ready-made PowerPoint presentations and audio tracks are also available for downloading.
“As supplemental tools, these are something to access that they can make their own to fit parish needs,” Father Heaslip said.
The site also includes links to “My Catholic Faith Delivered,” the catechist certification program that the diocese launched earlier this year. The program includes practical training in being a teacher as well.
“Going through that certification process can help the teacher see how important their role is in the life of the church,” noted Father Heaslip.
On top of all this – and more – that is already available on the website, Father Heaslip has plans for expansion. In particular, he is seeking more resources to use for the Faith and Life Series in Catholic schools and CCD programs.
His assistant, Sister Mary Alma, C.K., has been collecting lesson plans, PowerPoint presentation, videos, activities, etc., that other teachers have used successfully with the curriculum. Father Heaslip hopes that by the end of the year, there will be a veritable library of tried-and-true, diocesan developed resources, just for that facet of religious education.