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Word of Life: The future of Catholic religious education is here


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Joanne McPortland - published on 01/27/23

Nurturing Catholic faith for a lifetime is the goal of Word of Life, a K-8 religious education partnership of the Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press.

Catholic religious education – if you’re a parent, a teacher, a catechist, even (especially!) a student, you probably have strong opinions about how faith is communicated to our young people. Catechesis of the next generation is one of the most important ways we grow as a Church and prepare young Catholics for a life of faith.

It’s no wonder we often second guess ourselves. Are we doing religious education as well as we could? Are we actually engaging and forming children and teens, or just checking off a box on Sunday morning? Do we really have the resources to help young people live authentic, joyful Catholic lives in a world that poses so many challenges?

Reinvigorating catechesis

Feeling the urgency of these questions, the Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press have collaborated on a groundbreaking catechetical program that seeks to revitalize Catholic education. Word of Life is a K-8 curriculum designed to immerse children and their parents within the story of salvation history. The Word of Life curriculum uses a dynamic combination of print, video, and digital media that resonates with students today.

But it’s not just the methods that make Word of Life a refreshing departure – it’s the recommitment to the joy of passing on the faith with liveliness and authenticity, a joy that’s catching.

“Our hope is that Word of Life answers St. John Paul II’s call to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, not only with new methods and expressions but with a renewed ardor,” says Kevin Clemens, senior director of curriculum at the Augustine Institute.

Since its release last year, Word of Life has become one of the most rapidly growing catechetical programs in the country, with over 700 parishes and schools using the program to grow deeper in their faith. The Word of Life curriculum is shaping how Catholic schools use new ways to teach their students unchanging truths. Going into the 2023 Catholic Schools Week (January 29-February 4), that’s good news indeed.

Four golden threads

The Word of Life K-8 curriculum is organized by four “golden threads,” or pillars, that help children, teachers, parents, and families discover their authentic Catholic identity to reinvigorate fruitful participation in the Church’s life and mission:

1. Salvation History Where do we see God’s presence and plan throughout history? What is our place in that plan?

2. Christian Anthropology What is our true human identity? Why are we here? Who are we called to be?

3. Heroic Virtue and Character Formation How can we cooperate with God’s grace and the supernatural virtues? How do we find our true dignity and purpose, so we are able to live with heroic virtue and character?

4. Learning through Discipleship Why does faith matter? How do we nurture and deepen the integration of our faith with our daily lives? How are we disciples?

Word of Life is one of the first catechetical programs to be approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) using the new accompaniment process. This new process seeks to develop more effective catechetical materials to present truths of the faith.

Catholic religious education without boundaries

Word of Life’s integrated learning model blends physical workbooks, interactive online learning, and video and audio enhancements. The curriculum also includes in-depth teacher and catechist formation materials to ensure high-quality learning. There are versions tailored for both Catholic schools and parish-based religious education. The parish editions are also available in bilingual English/Spanish. Because religious education happens first of all in the home, the Word of Life curriculum is created to engage, educate, and evangelize the whole family.

Through the Word of Life online portal – a window that widens the reach of the curriculum — teachers and catechists have access to a basic catechist certification program from the Augustine Institute. Parents have access to parent formation program resources that can be completed individually or in small group settings. The initial set of parent formation is built around three existing Augustine Institute programs: The Search,Forgiven, and Presence. These programs are available on Students have access to a library of digital activities and videos. The full student text is available on the online portal, along with complementary digital resources.

Why Word of Life? Why now?

If you’re happy with your children’s older catechetical series, or just haven’t given it much thought, you may wonder why Word of Life is worth exploring. It has a lot to do with the “now” we’re in and the future we hope for. Here’s how the publishers answer that question:

We live in a world full of turmoil, division, and increasing atheism. Word of Life seeks to unite students, parents, and catechists in the common goal of pursuing a life of holiness. The curriculum is not only faithful to Catholic teaching, but it is also faithful to the experience of the human person.

This dynamic curriculum creates a conversational learning environment for the classroom that is both prayerful and engaging, so that the children are sent forth as transformed followers of Christ. With Word of Life, children and their parents, parishes and schools are transformed by an immersive curriculum that speaks to the restlessness of the human heart.

Prayerful. Engaging. Transformed. Surely these are things we long for in the catechetical process. And to make that possible, the Augustine Institute and Ignatius Press have called us to focus, again and anew, on the One who is the Word of Life — to encounter him and be sent by him to a world in need.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life … that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you … so that our joy may be complete.

1 John 1:1-4

At its heart, then, Word of Life focuses on the Person of Jesus Christ and seeks to proclaim him to students, catechists, and families alike.

Visit Word of Life for more information or to set up a consultation with a Word of Life curriculum specialist for your parish or school.

This content is brought to you in partnership with the Augustine Institute.

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