|Office of Educational Services
Melkite Eparchy of Newton
1710 Surf Avenue – Belmar , NJ 07719
Voice 732-556-6917 – Cell 201-417-3804
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the Scriptures, the Church has a number of aspects which determine its life. Every unit within the Church is meant to reflect these dimensions as its priorities. As a Christian people we are committed:
to be a worshipping community ((1 Pt 2:9)
to share life together (Acts 2:42-47)
to proclaim the Gospel (Mt 28:19-20)
to be of service to those in need (Jn13:12-15)
Each Christian community is meant to live out this vision of the Church as a people who worship, who support one another in fellowship, who provide opportunities for bringing people to the Lord (evangelization), for nurturing them once they have committed themselves to Him (catechesis) and for preparing them for ministry.
In one sense, catechetical activity in our diocese began many years ago. Parishes conducted church school programs, missions and youth activities. Wider activity began with the establishment of St. Basil’s Seminary in Methuen, Massachusetts. Here faculty and students involved in parish programs developed an initial catechetical text designed to supplement existing materials.
With the establishment of our episcopate in 1966 other resources were developed: an adult education bulletin and, in cooperation with other Byzantine Catholic dioceses, the God With Us catechetical series for children. During this time the diocesan council was urging the establishment of an educational department in our Church. At first this took the form of a committee of the diocesan council. Later a part time office was established and, in 1983, this office was upgraded to a full time ministry for our Church.
The Office of Educational Services presently consists of a part-time director, a full time associate director, and a number of associates from various parishes in the eparchy who are working on different projects.
From its inception, the Office of Educational Services has endorsed the concept of total parish education. Since Eastern Christians stress spiritual growth as a life-long process (theosis), the diocesan office attempts to provide resources and programs for all levels of parish catechesis. The following mission statement was approved by Archbishop Joseph Tawil and the Diocesan Pastoral Council in 1978 and has set the tone for the activity of this Office.
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION: A TOTAL VIEW
The goal of the Christian life, as intended by God, is theosis, the divinization of the believer. We are “to become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The Greek Fathers stressed that this participation is in fact a process, one that begins with the mystery of baptism but will not be complete until the resurrection of the dead at the Last Day. From the psychological standpoint, an important aspect of this process is the coming to awareness that we have indeed “put on Christ.” One of the patristic names for baptism was, in fact, photismos or illumination. Thus the dynamics of Christian education consists in making the illuminated conscious of the light enkindled in them by the Holy Spirit. “In your Light we shall see Light.” Or as St. Simeon the New Theologian has it, “we who have been divinized by grace and by adoption in Baptism are also to be divinized in awareness and knowledge.”
This realization of the magnitude of our calling may be brought about by a number of means. One of them is surely formal Christian education. As the baptized person is gradually introduced into a knowledge of the mystery of salvation, he grows, more conscious of the gift of divine life he has received.
WHO SHOULD BE EDUCATED?
For some time the application of this principle in the Western Church has been directed mainly to children, chiefly through parochial schools. While young believers certainly need to be formed in the tradition of the Church, an over-emphasis on children in Christian education has actually been counterproductive to that formation. This approach has lead to the unavoidable conclusion that once a person outgrows school age he is no longer in need of Christian formation.
This approach is clearly foreign to the practice of the East where the first catechetical schools were for adults and where the continual formation of adults by a spiritual guide is still a living practice. Furthermore, in the current renewal of the Roman Church the primacy of adult religious formation has again been stressed. Thus the General Catecheticol Directory, the current policy guidelines for Roman Catholic religious educators throughout the world, states:
“…catechesis for adults, since it deals with persons who are capable of an adherence that is fully responsible, must be considered the chief form of catechesis. All the other forms, which are indeed always necessary, are in some way oriented to it.” (#20)
The National Catechetical Directory of the United States declares the active faith is a free response to God’s grace; and maximum human freedom only comes with the self-possession and responsibility of adulthood. This is one of the principle reasons for regarding adult catechesis as the chief form of catechesis. To assign primacy to adult catechesis does not mean sacrificing catechesis at other age levels, it means making sure that what is done earlier is carried to its culmination in adulthood (#188).
INFORMATION OR FORMATION?
The Western identification of Christian education with the schoolroom had a second unfavorable consequence; it tended to equate Christian education with the communication of information on religious topics. Intellectual knowledge of correct doctrine, especially in controversial areas, was stressed rather than the spiritual formation of the person, which became something for the few so inclined.
In contrast the earlier— and more authentically Eastern—approach had been to foster a more integrated type of knowledge by a more all-embracing “program” of participation in the life of the community and individual formation by a spiritual father. This type of Christian education fostered, and continues to nourish a knowledge of God in the biblical and Eastern sense of experience in and through relationship. The revival of this type of education in our Church would depend on the raising up of a new generation of spiritual fathers but also on the integration of all the formational vehicles in a given community. Thus liturgical life, community directions and priorities must be seen as educative: contributing to the formation of the community members as much as, if not more than, formal programs. It is, after all, relationships and interactions rather than programs which truly educate.
As such, effort must be taken to harmonize all pastoral activities with the goals of Christian education, both to overcome explicit contradictions and also to unify all the educational experiences in the Church, formal or not.
A TRUE COMMUNION
The identification of religious education with the classroom has also tended to isolate age groups from one another. Combined with the practice of dealing with each age and sex group separately even on the social level, this custom provided its own kind of segregation, even dividing families into special interest groups.
The Church, on the other hand—especially in the East—has always seen itself as unifying its people. The concept of a parish family, which gathers at one Liturgy to share the one Loaf and the one Cup, is still the model structure of a church community in our tradition. Accordingly, every effort must be made to bridge generation gaps in the catechetical programs and, other experiences of the community. By bridging together young adults and their elders, by mobilizing adults in the community to care for its children, the parish catechetical program can demonstrate that unity which is the Church’s chief priority.
Placed as we are, an Eastern Church living in a time of the renewal in Western circles, it is doubly incumbent upon us to insist on an integrated and wholistic approach to Christian education on the three levels mentioned above. Christian education must be seen as a total effort, involving all age groups, especially adults, coming together in an. integrated experience, of growth within the total Church community. To mount such an al!-embracing and integral educational effort in our. eparchy, all the formational agencies and resource persons at our disposal must work together. Catechetcal programs, liturgical life, the lifestyle fostered in our communities and the programs and resources we may develop need to be harmonized. Only when this is a reality will we be able to foster an awareness of our Christian calling with one mind and one heart.
Consequently, it is the policy of this eparchy that:
- Christian education be recognized as intended for all believers, especially adults. and that programs are to be developed which aim at the formation of the total community in a family manner.
- 2. The wholistic vision of Christian education as embracing formal programs, liturgical life, personal formation and community lifestyles be recognized and that this recognition be expressed by the coordination of all formational efforts in the eparchy, pastoral life, seminary, publications. youth ministry, liturgical commission, educational services, convention and such others as may be developed.
|Currently the following services are offered to our parishes by this office:
- A. Parish Services:
- 1. Consultation on Parish Programs — The director and the associate director are available to visit and observe the church school or other programs, participate in their development or assist in their evaluation;
- 2.Workshops and Courses — Retreats, catechist formation, cantor training, and adult enrichment offerings are available. A list is published annually.
- B. Communications:
- 1. The Link, an informational newsletter for catechists issued periodically from the office.
- C. Prayer Ministry:
- 1. Society of Publicans – a network of church members committed to daily prayer for the spiritual renewal of our parishes;
- 2. Inter-parish Days of Prayer are coordinated periodically by parish Theosis groups.
- D. Renewal Programs:
- 1. Antioch— a parish initiation program consisting of a week-end retreat and a continuing study group;
- 2. Theosis — an interparish retreat focusing on Eastern spirituality, followed by ongoing parish-based support groups and leadership formation;
- 3. Family Fellowship Days — opportunities for parents and children to gather for common prayer, fellowship, and learning experiences around common themes.
- E. Ministry Training:
- 1. Catechetics — Courses in the inter-diocesan catechist formation program developed by the ECDD are implemented annually in various regions of the eparchy.
- 2. Leadership – A leadership weekend designed for parish councils may be arranged by parishes upon request.
- 3. Resources for Parish Ministry — Self-study materials for parish council and cantor’s training are available..
- F- Publications: