Two years ago, the Diocese of San Diego adopted an educational curriculum designed to counter a leading cause of young people leaving their faith: the myth that faith and science are incompatible.
Cardinal Robert McElroy required that it be taught at Catholic schools and in parish religious-education classes throughout the diocese at the middle-school level.
Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, who created the Credible Catholic curriculum through his nonprofit The Magis Center, recently returned to the diocese to lead his third conference for local catechists and Catholic school educators in as many years.
In 2021, he introduced “Evidence of God’s Existence from Science,” the second of Credible Catholic’s “seven essential modules.”
In 2022, he returned to present on Module 6, “True Happiness,” which identifies four levels of happiness that range from pleasure to the transcendent level; the latter is associated with one’s relationship with God.
Father Spitzer’s most recent conference, held Aug. 11 at St. Pius X Parish in Chula Vista, was intended to provide a refresher on both modules and an opportunity for educators to share best practices on implementation.
The conference, like the previous ones, was a joint project of the diocesan offices for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry and for Schools. About 135 people attended.
Father Spitzer had high praise for the diocese’s implementation of the curriculum, which consists of a series of online video modules. They were developed in response to a study showing that 42% of young Catholics will stop believing in God before age 25, and half of them will do so because they mistakenly think that science disproves religion.
“Nobody could have been more collaborative and cooperative than the San Diego Diocese,” he told The Southern Cross.
He praised the teachers and catechists who attended the recent conference, saying that they “care enough to learn something new.”
“What I love about San Diego,” he said, “is there’s enough love of the students in this diocese (to learn to teach this material). … They’re not experts in this area, but they’re willing to give something new a try.”
Along with Father Spitzer’s presentations on Modules 2 and 6, this year’s workshop included a “Faith and Science Fair,” with tables staffed by catechists and teachers who have been leaders in implementing the curriculum locally.
Access to the fair, which was held in the parish parking lot, was via a tent decorated to represent a “wormhole” through space. Participants received a “passport” to make their interstellar journey and, in doing so, experienced firsthand an example of the type of fun activities that they can use to bring this curriculum to life for their students.
Marioly Galván, diocesan chancellor and director of the Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry, said that the event equipped participants to take what might be considered “a dense topic” and “unleash the creativity,” presenting it in such a way that “it’s fun and it’s exciting for students.”
Leticia Oseguera, diocesan superintendent of schools, said that participation in the Father Spitzer-led workshops has “increased dramatically” since the first one in 2021….
Gaby Peña, a catechist at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, showcased some of the activities that her parish uses to teach the curriculum, including having the students create pop-up books and “squash” cards filled with summaries of their lessons.
Rachel Miller, a teacher at St. Didacus School, admitted to feeling “a little overwhelmed” two years ago when Module 2 was first presented by Father Spitzer.
She was concerned that the science involved was “beyond” her, let alone her students.
“But it’s presented in such a simple way … that the kids have a blast,” she said.
From the Southern Cross