On December 8, 1965 when the Second Vatican Council came to a close, parishes throughout the country were using textbooks such as those described these past two weeks, most of which were based on the structure and approach of the Baltimore Catechism. Vatican II brought with it a whole new understanding of our approach to theology, scripture and the human sciences, and this new approach was confusing to many volunteer catechists some of whom had spent many years teaching children the fundamentals of their faith. In their frustration, two such volunteer parish catechists approached the Archdiocese for help in presenting the new post-Vatican II approach to catechetics. The response was a program called the Master Teacher Program, conceived and spearheaded by a brilliant nun, a Religious of the Cenacle Sister Marion O’Connor. It consisted of a thirty week, ninety hour program intended to produce Master Teachers for the parish programs of religion originally called Catechism Class, then CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) and later Religious Education, since the new approach would reach out to adults as well as to children.
Drawing from the rich resources of academia in the area, a faculty was assigned to train the volunteer catechists in their area of expertise, not intending the result to be mini-theologians, but skilled Master Teachers who would return to their parishes and mentor other volunteer teachers in four areas, primary, elementary, junior high and high school. The courses were designed to reach the level of understanding of students in those four levels. The faculty consisted of religious nuns and brothers, priests and professional Directors of Religious Education working in parishes, lay men and women who were veteran teachers in parish programs and others such as those skilled in spiritual theology, psychology and experts in methodology designed for the specific grade levels. Graduating 350 Master Teachers per year, some 3500 volunteers were returned to their parish to mentor their colleagues and help in the faith formation of a generation of youth.
Next week I want to share a story from the program with you.
Fr John R. Mulvehill