Transubstantiation – the idea that during Mass, the bread and wine used for Communion become the body and blood of Jesus Christ – is central to the Catholic faith. Indeed, the Catholic Church teaches that “the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life." However in 2019 before the pandemic, only 31% of Catholics surveyed believed this to be true and unfortunately, 42% knew this was the teaching of the Church but they did not believe it. This got me thinking about what has happened to Religious Education and how are Catholic Principles being taught today?
This was a disturbing finding from the Pew Research in August, 2019. However, since this study was completed, I am now even more sure about the need to have a robust Religious Education Program at every Parish all across the nation. Look at this chart. Only 31% believe in a major teaching of the Catholic. That means that 69% of the people do not. This was before the pandemic which has played havoc with Religious Education. Many parishes are not able to have Mass (Liturgy) let alone have Religious Education. Now, almost one year into this pandemic and with no end in sight- what is going to happen to this group of children with their religious education? Will their learning improve? Will more of these students learn more about the Church and its teachings? If this pandemic continues through 2021 into 2022 that would mean the Religious Education would take out parts of three years worth of Religious Education. Graduates of the Class of 2022. What will happen to these students as they attend college, go to the workforce, or when they marry? We had a problem with Religious Education before the pandemic. The Pew Study clearly showed this.
Now with the pandemic still in full force what will happen in the future? The answer may lay in what we are doing about this right now. One may ask how could a person just pick and choose what they want to believe or not? This is a common question and it really focuses the issue on Religious Education. Instead of teaching to the majority of students in each Parish, Religious Education is teaching to a lower and lower percentage of people. Before March of 2020 the average attendance at Church on a weekly basis was less than 20% with many of the people who are attending are over the age of 60. Now, since the pandemic these rates may not be reached for another two years.
Bishop Sheen clearly explained this more than seventy years ago when he said, ‘If you want your children to fight for their faith, send them to public school. If you want them to lose their faith, send them to Catholic school. I went to Catholic school grades K-8. I don’t know if it did more harm than good, to be honest.” Bishop Sheen knew what he was talking about. He was a teacher, lecturer, author, and inspirational speaker. His homilies are some of the best ever given in our country. What he said is exactly what is happening to us today. We are dropping our students off for Religious Education, but what are they learning? Our challenge today is two fold. If you are reading this, you will want to change something. Tell your priest that you would like to be part of the solution and you would like to teach in your Religious Education Program at your Church. If you are a parent of the Religious Education age students- make sure they attend each week. If you are a Religious Education age student yourself and you are reading this- you should attend each week. If they broadcast the Mass each week and you can not attend Church- then ask your Priest to start having Religious Education broadcasted as well weekly. You saw the chart, you saw the results, if not now, when will we tackle this? If our children are the future- let us invest more heavily in them and in the future of Religious Education today.