Handing on the faith: Religious education past and present in the Catholic Diocese of Providence

Sandra J Flowers, Salve Regina University


Considering the dramatic changes affecting American Catholics, this dissertation investigates whether three third, fourth, and fifth grade religious education programs in one deanery of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island are succeeding in "handing on the faith." Examining the ways in which these parishes are implementing the U.S. Catholic Bishops' directives on catechesis and the degree to which the programs have adopted contemporary educational methodology, the researcher discusses the bishops' mandate to convey doctrine, to encourage worship, to promote community-mindedness and commitment to service. At the same time, theories put forth by Benjamin Bloom and Howard Gardner urge educators to adopt innovative approaches in teaching. Addressing current challenges within the Church, this study includes a historical review of religious education before, during, and after Vatican II (1962--65). Among the topics discussed are the development of the Baltimore Catechism and the dramatic changes affecting religious Sisters and Brothers in the wake of the Council. To ascertain the state of diocesan catechesis, this researcher undertook a survey of five sets of catechetical participants in each of the three parishes-pastors, directors, teachers, parents, and students. All were asked about their perceptions of key aspects of their parishes' programs: materials, methodologies, planning, and evaluation. Using different texts and approaches, each program appears to fulfill the bishops' mandates while incorporating Bloom's and Gardner's recommendations. Nevertheless, survey data indicate that some participants are insufficiently engaged in the program and that communication among all the participants needs to be enhanced. Pastors, while enthusiastic about their programs, often have little time to devote to them, and not all lay teachers are adequately prepared for their role as catechists. Finally, while each program is succeeding in its own way, they are using substantially different curricula, thus raising challenges for those students who leave one parish program for another. The researcher recommends formation of a collaborative between deanery parishes and area Catholic universities; increased opportunities for adult religious education for current and future catechists; and design of a scope and sequence chart to ensure commonality of instruction and fulfillment of standards among all deanery religious education programs.

Subject Area

Religious education|Education history

Recommended Citation

Flowers, Sandra J, "Handing on the faith: Religious education past and present in the Catholic Diocese of Providence" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3231318.