We received a wide range of responses to our request to America readers to rate their experiences of parish-based religious education. Some, like Maria Barrera of Brooklyn, N.Y., described religious education as a “wholesome” time for her children that positively affected how her family practiced the faith, thanks to the hard work of her parish and her children’s Catholic school. Many catechists also noted that their work provided welcome challenges to their own faith. One catechist from California explained, “Helping families has helped me think outside the box with ways to creatively connect with God in my own life.” Other readers, largely students or parents who did not have access to Catholic schools alongside their parishes, described their experience in opposite terms. Madeline LeBlanc from Sunshine, La., went so far as to say that her religious education “frustrated” rather than fostered her faith. Several other readers commented that their faith had “survived” religious education.
The majority of responses, however, described parish-based religious education as having little to no impact on their Catholic faith and practice. Matt Browne, a young seminarian from Long Island, N.Y., wrote, “Most of my formation as a Catholic Christian did not occur during C.C.D., which I attended for eight years of my life.” Elizabeth Pfantz of Appleton, Wis., had a similar experience. “C.C.D. has had a neutral impact on my faith,” she said. Ms. Pfantz, alongside many other readers, called for families and parish educators to work together to improve religious education: “We need to better engage students so that they are encouraged to live their faith outside of the classroom.”