When I was a mere “babe” in the catechetical ministry (early 1980s), I was introduced to the notion of the catechetical process. At the time, those 2 words could not be spoken without also mentioning the name of Dr. Thomas Groome and his groundbreaking work, Christian Religious Education: Sharing Our Story and Vision . At the heart of Groome’s approach is an unmistakable connection between lived experience and the faith Tradition of the Catholic Church. Throughout my entire career in the catechetical ministry, I have strived to make clear connections between what we believe and our everyday life experience.
Interestingly enough, however, this approach to catechesis, often innacurately labeled the “experiential approach,” is falling out of favor in some circles and Dr. Groome is viewed in these circles as a “persona non grata.” The bishops, in particular, are very wary of any catechetical process that they perceive as using human experience as the “starting point.” In place of this so-called “experiential approach” is a process that is considered revelation-based and that follows a “divine pedagogy” – as summed up in this article by Caroline Farey (“The Truth Will Set You Free”, Faith Magazine, Vol. 41, No. 5, Sept-Oct 2009)
Here’s my dilemma. For over 3 decades, I have successfully (I believe) followed a catechetical process heavily influenced by Dr. Groome’s “shared-praxis approach” which emphasizes a strong connection to lived experience and, in my own opinion, I believe much of the criticism of his approach stems from a lack of understanding of the proper role that lived experience plays in this process. At the same time, I recognize how the Groome approach can be and has been abused (or at least executed poorly) and I have great respect and interest for those who are espousing a “revelation-based” approach to catechesis and a “divine pedagogy.” Unfortunately, I do not think anyone has yet to articulate those concepts in a way that is accessible for the average catechist nor am I aware of anyone who has effectively translated divine pedagogy into a practical methodology.
With that in mind, I invite conversation (not debate). I firmly believe that something can be learned from both approaches. I have some things I will share about the Groome approach and I earnestly desire more input from those who champion the “revelation-based” approach, especially in the form of practical approaches and resources. SO…
- what are your thoughts on Caroline Farey’s article?
- what are your thoughts on Thomas Groome’s “shared-praxis approach?”
- what is the role of lived experience in the catechetical process?
- how does “divine pedagogy” translate into actual effective methodology? What does it “look like?”
- as always…be respectful in your comments.