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Transmission of the faith

Some Thoughts on the Teaching of Christianity to Young Adults in the Twenty-first Century

September 2013 | Gary Macy (California, EE.UU) | Youth

First of all, I want to thank the Company of Mary for asking me for my thoughts about teaching young people in the twenty-first century. I am honored and humbled by the invitation. I doubt I can contribute much to a group who has been a leader in education for four hundred years. I will, however, do my best to offer what insights I have gathered in my nearly thirty years of teaching undergraduate university students.

I must immediately add that those insights are limited by my social and educational location. I have been teaching in the same institution, the University of San Diego, for nearly my entire teaching career. That means that the students with which I am familiar are somewhat homogeneous. The University of San Diego is an independent Catholic school that attracts mainly wealthy Anglo students from the southwest of the United States. The vast majority are between eighteen and twenty-one years of age. The University of San Diego has a very small percentage of students who are older. Even though we are a Catholic school, over forty per cent of students are not Catholic. Many are not Christian and very many, whether Christian or non-Christian, have little or no experience of religious practice. This means that they may not be a typical group even for the youth of the United States. I should add that I am not only a theologian but also an historian, so my understanding of Christianity is very much influenced by an historian’s bent. We tend to look at Christianity as it developed over centuries rather than how it happens to be at the moment.

As a University professor, I am not involved directly in the personal life of the students. I do not do counseling, as might, for instance someone in campus ministry. Unlike some of my colleagues, I quite deliberately avoid personal topics with the students. I am not trained as a counselor and I feel that it would be unfair for them to think that I can handle their personal problems. This means that my discussion here will have more to do with how to teach Christianity rather than how to foster the spiritual development of students or how to deepen their faith. Of course, understanding Christianity might well deepen their faith and, in fact, offer them the possibility of a more mature and richer understanding of their own faith life.

Given these warning, I will proceed to describe the student body with which I work, the world which they seem to inhabit, and how I feel they might best be engaged with the good news of Jesus’ message.

The world of youth is well described in Challenges in the Educational Mission of the Company of Mary Our Lady and so I apologize in advance if my comments seem to be redundant.

Read the entire article here

Gary Macy: Professor of Theology, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Diego, San Diego, California, USA



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