The Religion Department of the Academy of Notre Dame fosters faith development and critical thinking through a seven-year curriculum that challenges, inspires, and educates each student in the foundational elements of the Catholic tradition. Course content is aligned with the eight religious education domains identified by the National Catholic Education Association: God, church, worship, sacraments, scripture, morality, religious terms and Christian hope.
In high school as well as middle school, religion courses emphasize building a strong foundation of faith while approaching religion as an academic discipline that demands scholarship and critical thinking. Cross-curricular projects and activities foster an understanding that each student’s work in religion informs her character and spiritual growth, and also pertains to her larger curriculum. As part of their study of the Paschal Mystery, Freshman Religion classes explore the Judaic-Christian Creation myth of Genesis and then compare this story to the Egyptian creation myth that is part of their World Cultures course. Sixth graders are firmly grounded in their experience of Catholic culture as they study the Catholic Faith Handbook which provides insight into the prayers, sacraments, and beliefs of the Catholic Faith. Sophomores studying Scripture explore literary and analogical reading of sacred texts, and author short research papers in Biblical exegesis and comparison. Juniors in eleventh grade Morality classes are assigned a specific moral issue to research and report on to their classmates. Additionally, two days of service in the area of their topic further informs their understanding of the issue. Other research projects that are included in our high school program involve the writings of the doctors of the Church, the rituals and beliefs of other faith communities, and the difficulties encountered by marginalized members of our society. Our religion program is designed to keep our students informed about Church history and tradition while, at the same time, challenging them to evaluate the ways in which that tradition manifests itself in the twenty-first century.
Notre Dame religion students are frequently asked to represent our school at area functions, particularly Archdiocesan events like the Papal Colloquium, and conferences for students in independent private schools, such as Haverford’s Honors Conferences. Field trips have included the Vatican Splendors exhibit at the Franklin Institute as well as a special viewing of Urban Trinity: The Story of Catholic Philadelphia, both of which are part of Philadelphia’s celebration of the papal visit. World Religions students experience services in mosques and temples, and the Junior Service Inquiry is closely aligned to the Junior year morality curriculum.