• Catechetics

  • Our Vision St. John Bosco Msgr. Kevane Barbara Morgan A Catechist's Prayer

    Catechetics at Franciscan: Our Vision

    "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

    (MT 28:19-20a) This Great Commission of Our Lord closes Matthew's Gospel. With it, Christ charged the Apostles to spread the Good News of salvation throughout the world, setting the world ablaze with the love of the Father. This mandate continues to animate the Church and comes to us through the ages, passed along faithfully from one generation to the next.

    The Catechetics Program at Franciscan University of Steubenville exists to prepare students to join the "army of catechists" called for by the late Pope John Paul II, eager to help the Church in her mission of making all nations disciples of Jesus Christ. We combine a thorough study of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and magisterial documents with training in proper and effective pedagogical techniques to prepare our students to grasp the intelligibility and coherence of divine truths, and to pass them along effectively.

    Founded in 1994 by then President Fr. Michael Scanlan, Chair of Theology Dr. Alan Schreck, and Professor Barbara Morgan, the Theology Department's Office of Catechetics developed both an undergraduate degree in Religious Education and a graduate Catechetics specialization as part of the MA Theology Program. Alumni from these programs are now working as directors of religious education and adult faith formation at both the parish and diocesan levels, pastoral associates, campus ministers, youth ministers, catechetical writers, heads of religious education departments, and teachers in high schools and elementary schools. Students, including priests and religious, come from throughout the United States and countries such as Canada, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Sri Lanka, Australia, Belize, El Salvador, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Israel, England, and Ireland.

    The demand for graduates of Franciscan University's Catechetics program results from the unique combination of theological knowledge, pedagogical theory, and practical training students acquire in our program. Our professors make this integrated training possible, bringing a wealth of knowledge and broad experience from years of study and transmitting the Gospel through many different avenues.

    Our approach embraces three aspects: pastoral, doctrinal, and liturgical. These points, from the General Directory for Catechesis (GDC), will help aid in understanding the formation of catechists:

    • Give a comprehensive and systematic catechetical formation: the Christian message, knowledge of man and his socio-cultural situation, and the pedagogy of faith (GDC 249).
    • To ensure the working of the catechetical ministry...it is fundamental to have adequate pastoral care of catechists (GDC 233).
    • Any form of pastoral activity (catechetical ministry) is placed at risk if it does not rely on truly competent and trained personnel (GDC 234).
    • The christocentric purpose of catechesis, which emphasizes the communion of the convert with Jesus Christ, permeates all aspects of the formation of catechists (GDC 235).
    • By virtue of the fact that formation seeks to make the catechists capable of transmitting the Gospel in the name of the Church, all formation has an ecclesial nature (GDC 236).
    • Formation also constantly nourishes the apostolic consciousness of the catechist, that is, his sense of being an evangelizer (GDC 239).
    • The formation of catechists must also cultivate technique (GDC 244).
    • It is necessary for catechists to have a deep faith, a clear Christian and ecclesial identity, as well as great social sensitivity. All formation programs must accommodate these points (GDC 237).
    • Formation, above all, nourishes the spirituality of the catechist, so that his activity springs in truth from his own witness of life (GDC 239).

    The Office of Catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville has consistently responded diligently to this need for renewal in the area of catechesis. In light of the above and embracing the practical guidance proposed by the Church today, the Office of Catechetics aspires to follow closely the divine mandate which comes from Christ through the Church.
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    St. John Bosco, Our Patron Saint

    St. John Bosco is the patron saint of the catechetics programs at Franciscan University. Usually his name is connected with the care of young boys, which he did, but Don Bosco was a master catechist and left a very simple method of teaching. He was born in the Piedmont area of Italy in 1815. As a young child, he already had the desire to catechize the young. He taught his young friends about the faith as well as entertaining them with his juggling and acrobatics. When he was nine, he had a dream in which boys who were fighting and swearing around him. He tried to make them stop by arguing with them and then fighting with them. A beautiful lady then appeared to him saying, "Softly, softly if you wish to tame them! Take your shepherd's staff and lead them to pasture." From this experience, his approach to leading his boys to Jesus Christ became rooted in love.

    He was ordained to the priesthood and began his work in the area surrounding the city of Turin, deep in the heart of an industrial area, where boys roamed the streets uncared for and causing trouble. They became his life's work. He took care of them and taught them trades, but he felt his most important work was the salvation of their souls and that the most important place for catechizing was the confessional. But he was also rigorous in teaching the boys the Catechism; they needed to understand the faith as well as practice it in their daily lives. In 1979, John Paul II would write that the aims of catechesis were understanding and conversion (Catechesi Tradendae 20). Over a hundred years earlier, St. John Bosco had the same aims.

    His work attracted like-minded young men, and soon he formed the Salesians, named in honor of St. Francis de Sales, whose gentle disposition in the face of great heresy earned him the title of "The Doctor of Love." His congregation, which became one of the largest men's communities in the Church, followed Don Bosco's method of reason, religion and kindness. When asked about his method, he would simply reply that it was based on love. In fact, he boldly stated, "Get them to love you, and they'll follow you anywhere."

    Don Bosco died in 1888, after a life spent helping thousands of boys (including St. Dominic Savio Bosco) to know Jesus, to live a sacramental life, rooted especially in the Eucharist, to love the Church and the Pope, and to be useful citizens. He inspired St. Maria Mazzarello to found the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, for the care of girls. This congregation became the largest women's religious congregation in the Church. May he inspire all catechists to care for the salvation of souls.
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    Msgr. Eugene Kevane: 1913 - 1996 by Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.

    The teachings of Msgr. Eugene Kevane have had a powerful impact on the formation of the Catechetics program at Franciscan University, and in many ways we feel that we are carrying on his work. Each year, a graduating Catechetics undergraduate major is honored by receiving an award that bears his name.

    Eugene Kevane was born on June 5, 1913, on a family farm in the parish of St. Mary's, Storm Lake, Buena Vista County, Iowa. He attended a one-room country elementary school and a public high school. After college he spent four years in the seminary, including studies at the Gregorian in Rome. He was ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa. After earning an M.A. from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, he founded Heelan High School in 1949, where he was principal for ten years. In 1959 he joined the faculty of the Catholic University of America, where he received a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education with a doctoral thesis later published as Augustine the Educator. After some years as Dean of the School of Education at Catholic University, Msgr. Kevane left for St. John's University in Long Island, New York. Later he would found the Notre Dame Catechetical Institute in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, designed to provide an M.A. program in catechetics totally in line with Magisterial teachings at a time when such studies were hard to come by.

    His scholarly writings (nine books and innumerable articles in many languages) reveal a consummate grasp of the teachings of the Church as well as the underlying errors that make it so difficult for some contemporary Catholics to embrace those truths. With sometimes biting logic in his writings and teachings, Msgr. Kevane knew how to show up the erroneous teachings of modern philosophers whose ideas would serve to undermine Catholic belief. In a dramatic fashion this great teacher, after letting his students almost reach despair at the thought of the triumph of error in modern times, would suddenly begin to tell of the revival of true Catholic philosophy that came with the encyclical Aeterni Patris of Leo XIII. As well, he would pour energy into assembling all the catechetical documents of recent centuries so that a future catechist would never have to guess what the Church really taught about this unsung but absolutely necessary ministry.

    Due to a long, drawn-out ordeal with heart trouble that was eventually fatal, Msgr. Kevane spent most of his last years in frailty and suffering, no doubt offering up all his pain and diminishment for the Church he loved so profoundly. Msgr. Eugene Kevane died on October 13, 1996. May he rest in peace, but always intercede for those of us he left behind to carry on the glorious work of defending the truths which are our salvation.
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    Barbara Morgan, Foundress of Catechetics Program

    Barbara Morgan was invited to Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1994 by Father Michael Scanlan to establish the Catechetics Program in response to the growing number of students attracted to the University with a desire to serve the Church. Barbara's deep knowledge of the Faith, extensive experience in the catechetical field, her passion for teaching, and her love of the Lord and His Church made her the ideal candidate for this undertaking.

    Studying under the guidance of Msgr. Eugene Kevane, founder of the Notre Dame Institute for Catechetics, Barbara received her Advanced Apostolic Catechetical Diploma and a MA in Religious Studies from NDI. She brought to Franciscan University Msgr. Kevane's discipline and vision for the catechetical work which lies at the heart of the Church's mission.

    Barbara's catechetical career began at the age of 14 when she volunteered to assist her own catechist at local Native American reservations. Throughout her career she has served as youth minister, adult education director and director of religious education. With her pastor she also helped her parish become one of the first in the country to implement the newly released Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Her expertise eventually led her to be a consultant for Catechesis to the Diocese of Peoria, an RCIA consultant for the Archdiocese of Washington DC, and a Catechist training consultant for the Diocese of Sioux Falls.

    After arriving at Franciscan University, Barbara Morgan did more than found the Catechetics program. At the request of Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, she established a relationship between the Office of Catechetics, Maryvale Institute in England, and the Studium of Notre Dame de Vie in Venasque, France. To serve those catechists and teachers in the field who were unable to come to the University to pursue degrees, she also founded the St. John Bosco Conference for Catechists and Religious Educators held every summer at the University.

    Though Barbara retired from the University in 2005, she continues her work for the Lord, fulfilling her long awaited desire to contribute more regularly to the catechetical formation of her grandchildren. Though sorely missed at Franciscan University, her legacy will remain for years to come. Her zeal and enthusiasm to put others into communion with Jesus Christ has been infused into each of the Catechetics courses. As more and more students pass through the Catechetics program, there becomes a growing number of trained catechists ready to share the love of Christ with the world. Franciscan University of Steubenville, as well as the Catholic Church, will forever be grateful for the hard work and determination of Barbara Morgan, the foundress of Franciscan's Catechetics program.
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    A Catechist's Prayer

    Loving Father, Giver of all that is,
    Help me to remember that every gift I have comes from you.
    Expand my vision so that I can appreciate your goodness
    in the world around me.

    Jesus, our Redeemer,
    You are the path to the treasures of my heart and soul.
    Strengthen my commitment to be a catechist
    and deepen my capacity to share your truth with those in my care.

    Holy Spirit, Love Divine,
    All life and energy flows from you.
    Illuminate my thoughts and intensify my desire
    to grow ever deeper in my faith.

    I lift up my prayer to you, God—Father, Son,
    and Spirit—in humility and hope. AMEN
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