More About the Church's Catechetical Documents

The other day, I offered some quotes and reflective questions on the Church’s catechetical documents. I thought it might be good to follow-up with a little annotated bibliography of sorts, describing just what these various documents are about. In the weeks before many religious education prorgrams begin, you may want to read one or several of these documents (the shorter ones of course…if you wanted to read the Catechism, the General Directory for Catechesis or the National Directory for Catechesis before the program year begins, you should have started reading long ago!).


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)


A catechism is a written summary of the church’s understanding of God’s word as revealed through Scripture and Tradition. In a sense, a catechism is the what of our beliefs as Catholics. For many centuries, it was customary for children to “learn their catechism.” This was often done using a question-and-answer format known as the Baltimore Catechism. Today, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) is the official source for Catholic teaching, intended as the principle resource for bishops and catechetical ministers.


4 “Pillars”: Creed, Sacraments, Morality, Prayer


For the average adult Catholic, the bishops of the United States have provided the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2005—a synopsis of the Catholic faith in a question-and-answer format reminiscent of the Baltimore Catechism, but for adults) and the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (2006—an adaptation of the CCC with stories, teachings, sidebars




The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC)


Catechesis is the process of transmitting the Gospel. To help us understand this process, the church has given us the General Directory for Catechesis (1997) This document helps us to understand the how of catechesis. The GDC provides religious educators, teachers, and catechists with a single point of reference for all aspects of catechetical instruction. (“replaced” the 1971 GCD)



The National Directory for Catechesis (NDC)


The NDC (2005) is an adaptation of the GDC for the church in the United States. (“replaced” the 1979 NCD, “Sharing the Light of Faith”)


Catechesi Tradendae (On Catechesis in Our Time) – (CT)


Catechesi Tradendae (1979), Pope John Paul II’s first apostolic exhortation was on catechesis or religious instruction. It followed on the fourth general assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in October, 1977, which Pope John Paul attended before his election. The exhortation emphasizes the “Christocentricity” of all catechesis and the need for lifelong catechesis. This document laid the groundwork for subsequent catechetical documents, especially the GDC.


Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World) – (EN)


Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) is an Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Paul VI on the 10th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council focusing on making the Church better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the people. It is considered by many to be the “Magna Carta” on Catholic Evangelization.

Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us (A Pastoral Plan for Adult Faith Formation in the United States) – (OHWB)


OHWB (1999) is the basic plan for evangelization in the United States, centered on 3 goals:


·         Invite and Enable Ongoing Conversion to Jesus in Holiness of Life.

·         Promote and Support Active Membership in the Christian Community.

·         Call and Prepare Adults to Act as Disciples in Mission to the World.      


Go and Make Disciples (A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States) – (GMD)


Renewal of the Catholic Church in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) brought intense focus on Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) as a duty of the Church and its members “so that people can believe and be saved,” wrote Pope Paul VI in 1975. In 1992, the U.S. bishops responded with a national plan for Catholic evangelization to help Catholics to live their faith enthusiastically, share it freely, and bring gospel values to everyday life.

Guidelines for Doctrinally Sound Catechetical Materials (GDSCM)


In this 1990 document, the U.S. bishops provide guidelines for producing catechetical materials that are consistent with church teachings.



Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry (RV)


Issued by the U.S. bishops in 1998, this document provides all who minister to young people with an effective blueprint for building a truly meaningful ministry. This document builds on a 1976 document (A Vision of Youth Ministry) by emphasizing personal discipleship, evangelization, and leadership.




Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions


In this 1998 document, the U.S. bishops identify 7 key themes or principles of Catholic social teaching: life and dignity of the human person; Call to family, community, and participation; Rights and responsibilities; Option for the poor and vulnerable; The dignity of work and the rights of workers; Solidarity; and Care for God’s creation.



To Teach as Jesus Did


Issued in 1972, this was the first pastoral letter of the U.S. bishops devoted to the concern of Catholic education, using the language emerging out of the Second Vatican Council.



Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents


The Second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962-1965, produced sixteen documents which are compiled in this book without commentary or additional documentation. Of those documents, the following are key for the catechetical ministry:

·      The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium), December 4, 1963 – Basic document for understanding liturgy, a blueprint for ongoing liturgical reform in the Church

·      Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum educationis), October 28, 1965 – Basic document on Catholic Schools

·      Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei verbum), November 18, 1965 – Basic document on the Catholic interpretation of scripture

·      Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People (Apostolicam actuositatem), November 18, 1965 – Basic document on the ministry of lay people in the Church

·      Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (Ad gentes divinitus), December 7, 1965 – Basic document for understanding the scope of the Church’s missionary activity



The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA)


In 1988, the restored initiation process was promulgated in the United States in The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. This is a liturgical rite marking the deepening conversion of adults being led to baptism – a process that includes catechesis over 4 stages: inquiry (pre-catechumenate); the catechumenate; the period of purification and enlightenment (Lent); and mystagogia. 


About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at


  1. Thank you for sharing this list of the most important documents for us Catholics. It is very helpful not only in our catechetical ministry but to all baptized Catholics in general.

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