Life after the school: Parish catechesis in the state of New Jersey

Michael Peter Orsi, Fordham University


The purpose of this research was to explore catechetical programs and their organizational structures in parishes where parochial schools have closed.^ The problem investigated program orientation, design, educational focus, leadership, Liturgy, budget, and the overall perception of the effect that the closing of the school had on the parish. Perceptions were limited to pastors and/or their designated alternates.^ The study was conducted through a combined methodology of a purposive survey and focused telephone interviews. The results of the survey's statistical analysis targeted demographically representative and nonrepresentative parishes for the interviews that followed.^ After the surveys had been analyzed by descriptive statistics, salient categories and themes were further investigated through a cross-site analysis of the interview data. The empirically based findings indicated that parish life and catechesis continue after a parish closes its school with demography a strong determinant of program and focus. Parishes reported more emphasis on adult education, though adult catechesis is often tied to sacramental preparation for children. A more inclusive type of parish religious education has emerged offering lifelong programs that require more diversified parish leadership but the role of the pastor remains crucial. Lectionary based catechesis has become a primary teaching tool in many parishes with the Liturgy replacing the school as the focus of parish life and identity. The emphasis on total parish religious education has resulted in a new layer of paid parish professionals causing an increase in the catechetical budget. Most respondents perceived the closing of the school as helpful to the parish catechetical program insofar as it provided an opportunity and an impetus to redefine the parish's mission and catechetical program according to present parishioner needs.^ From the findings, in parishes where schools have closed, the fourfold elements of message, community, worship, and service that constitute complete catechesis have been adapted to meet the challenges of changing parish environments. ^

Subject Area

Religion|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Orsi, Michael Peter, "Life after the school: Parish catechesis in the state of New Jersey" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9226425.