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ND launches theology training program

Tori Roeck | Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Echo, a subset of the Institute for Church Life, added a new program this year, titled “Echo Teaching Theology,” to train recent college graduates to teach high school theology and to equip them with a Master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame.

Echo Teaching Theology combines a focus on formation with an intense study of theology, Echo director Colleen Moore said.

“We hope to prepare young people who are not only trained to be successful theology teachers but to be mature and integrated and inspiring witnesses of the faith,” she said.

Echo addresses intellectual and professional-ministerial formation to foster a strong understanding of theology from academic and career angles, Moore said.

“The main part of the intellectual formation is the [Master's] in theology,” she said. “There’s professional-ministerial formation, which is their placement, whether they’re in parish ministry or campus ministry or in high school teaching theology.”

Moore said the program also seeks to foster communal and spiritual formation.

“[Participants] live in intentional faith communities,” she said. “That means they share not just the living space but they share their lives, they share faith. … There is a serious commitment to prayer and spiritual direction within the Echo program. We also have a very rich series of theologically-based retreats.”

Moore said Echo incorporated a teaching program because many of its graduates had gone on to teach theology and credited Echo for their success.

“We also had diocesan partners around the country who have said, ‘We have a need for stronger high school theology teachers. What you all are doing with your parish catechetical apprentices could be very helpful in preparation of high school theology teachers,’” Moore said.

John Cavadini, director of the Institute for Church Life, said the United States has a shortage of good high school theology teachers.

“There’s no such thing as an unemployed Echo student because they’re so much in demand,” Cavadini said. “We thought the need for education in the faith, the catechetical need, is a need that comes through at school. too.”

Moore said teaching theology used to be predominately a job for professed religious, and now fewer American Catholics choose a religious vocation. Schools often ask teachers with other areas of expertise to teach theology, which is not an ideal situation for students’ spiritual growth, she said.

Cavadini said expertise in theology should influence how one teaches the subject.

“Theology has its own pedagogy, you might say,” he said. “So the pedagogy has to be directly related to the theology and flow from it.”

To be able to train young people to pass on the faith and educate the next generation of Catholics is an invaluable opportunity, Cavadini said.

“I think somebody’s high school theology experience can be one of the most important ones of their whole lives,” he said. “And I think to try to increase the chances that it’s really properly theological and oriented toward the faith and to faith formation and to just really helping students become attached to the faith and understand it more deeply – that’s something I can’t pass up.”  

Contact Tori Roeck at vroeck@nd.edu