CCD or Religious Education?
You've heard them both, and you'll always find proponents of one or the other. Here's Rosie Bartel, Religious Education Director for the Diocese of Green Bay, providing a quick lesson on some definitions and history for this valuable ministry in today's church:
In any given week, I will hear someone refer to Religious Education as CCD. This someone can be a parent, priest, teacher, catechetical leader, catechist or even a diocesan employee. Acronyms die hard. Thousands of parents, children, youth and even teachers use the term CCD. They know it refers to the regular religious education programs sponsored by their parishes. But do they know what the acronym stands for?
In the religious chaos of 16th century Europe, many recognized the need to attend to the religious education of the poor and uneducated. In 1536, in Milan a “confraternity” or society of lay people was formed for the education of the poor. A “confraternity” is an organization of laity under the official direction of the Church. There have been many different confraternities in the Church that are dedicated to a particular “good work”. Their members follow a rule of prayer and they make a public profession. CCD or the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine referred to teachers and other adults who dedicated themselves to bringing the Gospel to those who were deprived of formal education. In 1571, St. Pius V approved the Confraternity and ordered that it be established throughout the world. The Confraternity flourished and gave rise to religious congregations of men and women who dedicated themselves to not only religious education of the poor but also formal secular education for those in need. The proliferation of Catholic schools might be said to have grown from the original Confraternity.
The Councils of Trent and Vatican I both raised awareness for sound religious education for everyone. CCD was very active in the years after each of these councils.
In the late 19th century, both the Second and Third Councils of Baltimore encouraged the establishment of CCD. Implementation depended primarily on local leadership and was at best sporadic. Even after St. Pius X’s encyclical in 1905, which called for the canonical establishment in every parish, “of a society known as CCD”, there were areas where it did not thrive.
The areas where it did thrive were in urban areas among the new immigrants and also in rural areas. The impossibility of a Catholic school in every parish, especially in the rural areas of our country, heightened the awareness for the need for religious education for those attending public schools. In 1935, a national center was established for CCD and the United States bishops called for CCD in every parish.
In the 20th century, renewed interest in Scripture, the liturgical movement and advances in the discipline of education all seemed to converge at Vatican II. Religious education or catechesis was central to the mission of the Church, and took its place as a core ecclesial ministry.
Modern parishes and dioceses do not have official CCDs, but it is helpful to examine some of the values of the original Confraternity. It was highly structured, even on the parish level. There was a board that supported the ministry. No member of the Confraternity was allowed to teach until he or she had completed fairly rigorous training and preparation. From the beginning, CCD attended to the education of adults as well as children. There were “fishers”. Fishers were dedicated to seeking out the lost, the missing and anyone who might benefit from religious education.
Today, we are called to a “new” evangelization that reaches those who were baptized but have not internalized the gospel. We need “fishers”! Our world is sorely in need of catechist and teachers who will bring the “Good News of Jesus Christ” to all.
As we end our religious education program year, let us celebrate our accomplishments but also remember the zeal and dedication of those who came before us. Let us recommit ourselves to the “Mission of the Church” and spread the “Good News of Jesus Christ” through our work as “fishers” in today’s world.
So the next time someone calls your religious education program “CCD”, you might want to share the history or you might just smile and say; “Thank you for the compliment!”