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Magisterial Documents: Sharing the Light of Faith

Magisterial Documents: Sharing the Light of Faith

National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States US National Council of Catholic Bishops
March 1979

Brief History

Sharing the Light of Faith was eight years in preparation. The idea of a national directory originated after the International Catechetical Congress held in Rome from September 20-25, 1971. The main topic of the conference had been the newly published General Catechetical Directory. The method of consultation in preparing the GCD was a motivating factor to begin the same process on the United States national level.

Mary Charles Bryce writes, "Sharing the Light of Faith is distinctively 'American' in that it addresses the catechetical needs of the church in the United States in concrete terms, adapting the best catechetical theory to existing situations. It presents a comprehensive view of American Catholic life unlike any other official statement. It is basically a self-portrait, with warts and all."[1] The sheer size and diversity of the national directory, a first of its kind for the United States, is remarkable. For instance, stage one of the request for public response to the commission's preparatory work, reaped 17,412 replies from 113 dioceses, i.e. 83% of the dioceses. The second consultation, based on draft one, brought in 76,342 recommendations. This represented 90% of the dioceses. The third draft was submitted to the American bishops at their plenary session on November 17, 1977. Finally, early in 1978, the fourth draft was sent to Rome for approval.

Mary is mentioned in five of the eleven chapters: in the statements about the hierarchy of truths in the catechetical ministry of the Church, and in the section entitled, "The Church and Catechesis," particularly under Part B: The Church in Dialogue, the Jewish People and the Moslem People. The main doctrine on Mary is given in the chapter on the principle elements of the Christian message. The Blessed Virgin Mary is included in the discussion on the worshiping community, particularly under devotions and liturgy. Mary is also mentioned in elements of methodology and the catechesis for infancy and early childhood.

Mary Charles Bryce, "Religious Education in the Pastoral Letters and National Meetings of the U.S. Hierarchy, Sourcebook for Modern Catechetics, Ed.: Michael Warren. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press, 1983, p. 261.


Preface 1-11
I. Some Cultural and Religious Characteristics Affecting Catechesis in the United States 12-29

II. The Catechetical Ministry of the Church 30-47
[hierarchy of truths: born of VM, VM's pre-eminent place 47]

III. Revelation, Faith and Catechesis 48-61
[no Marian examples]

IV. The Church and Catechesis 62-81
[Jewishness of Jesus, Mary 77; Islam 78]

V. Principal Elements of the Christian Message for Catechesis 82-111
[the more outstanding elements" include Mary 82, 87, 106]

VI. Catechesis for a Worshiping Community 112-148
[devotions 143; liturgical year 144]

VII. Catechesis for Social Ministry 149-171

VIII. Catechesis Toward Maturity in Faith 172-203
[elements of methodology, formulations 176; infancy and early childhood 177]

IX. Catechetical Personnel 204-219

X. Organization for Catechesis 220-248

XI. Catechetical Resources 249-266
[textbooks 264, 266]

Appendices A (commandments), B (duties of Catholics)


US National Council of Catholic Bishops

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2005.

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