Catholic Educators

Picture of James DeGiacomo

James J. DiGiacomo (born Nov. 22, 1924): high school teacher, youth minister, university professor, popular national and international lecturer. DiGiacomo has been a member of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) since 1943. He is known for his abilities to tell a good story and a humorous anecdote. He has made many important contributions to discussions about religious education and ministry in the post-Vatican II Catholic Church.

Biography

James “Jim” Joseph DiGiacomo is the second of three children born to Philip and Catherine Margaret (Gargiula) DiGiacomo in Brooklyn, NY. He has an older brother Vincent and a younger sister Phyllis. Philip DiGiacomo was a construction foreman, and Catherine DiGiacomo worked in insurance sales. Jim attended St. Jerome’s Elementary School in Flatbush (Brooklyn, NY). A scholarship enabled him to attend the Jesuit-run Brooklyn Preparatory High School. After high school (1943) he entered the Society of Jesus. Jim DiGiacomo earned three degrees from Woodstock College, MD: a Ph.L. (Licentiate in Philosophy) in 1950, an M.A. in 1952, and an S.T.L. (Licentiate in Sacred Theology) in 1957. DiGiacomo was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1956, and he took final vows as a Jesuit in 1960.

 

A Primary Vocation as a High School Teacher

          DiGiacomo’s primary vocation was as a high school teacher at all-male, Jesuit schools. He began his teaching career at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C., where he taught Latin, Greek, English, and religion from 1950-53. After finishing his formation as a Jesuit, DiGiacomo taught at three high schools in New York City: Brooklyn Preparatory from 1958-1970, Fordham Preparatory from 1970-1976, and Regis from 1978-2003. From 1965 to 2003, DiGiacomo’s specialty was teaching religion. (Information about and quotes from DiGiacomo in this and following paragraphs are, unless indicated otherwise, from an interview with DiGiacomo by the author on August 8, 2011.)

          DiGiacomo describes his teaching during the 1950s and early 1960s as having a dual focus. On the one hand, he presented information to students, and employed primarily a question and answer method – with student’s being evaluated on how well they could memorize answers to questions about the Christian religion. While this may sound like a rigid and even superficial way of presenting religion, DiGiacomo notes that many students took to heart what they learned and that throughout the student body, and indeed much of the church, there was a deep and genuine piety.

           On the other hand, DiGiacomo focused in his early teaching on learning how to teach. He says he realized that if he wanted to connect with students he had to try to understand them and how they experienced the world. Hence, in addition to teaching answers to questions about religion, DiGiacomo discussed with students how they internalized the truths of Christian faith and how these truths shaped their lives. He notes that despite their religious commitments, many students also experienced an underlying sense of restlessness.

          A critical turning point in the development of DiGiacomo’s understandings of education, religious education, and teaching came in 1963 when he entered into sustained conversation with Vincent and Joseph Novak and John S. “Jack” Nelson. The Novak brothers and Nelson were in the process of creating a Graduate Institute of Religious Education within the Fordham University Graduate School of Education. This institute evolved into the Fordham Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GSRRE). The Novaks and Nelson sought to gather together a group of religious educators who could help to shape a new vision of religious education within the Roman Catholic Church that drew its inspiration from the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Because of his efforts to address the restlessness of the high school students he taught and his recognition that the established question and answer method of teaching religion was not fully adequate, DiGiacomo was interested in the effort underway at Fordham to reshape religious education.      

          The Novak brothers and Nelson helped DiGiacomo develop a plan for his own ongoing education so that he could explore new approaches to religious education. Subsequently, DiGiacomo spent 1965 studying at the International School of Religious Formation in Brussels and earned their Diplome de Lumen Vitae. According to DiGiacomo, this was the most formative educational experience of his life. DiGiacomo’s teachers included many theologians who contributed to the renewal of the church at Vatican II. They helped him to recognize the importance of having a sense of history and tradition. At the same time they taught him the value of critical reflection and the benefits of being open to ongoing renewal within the church.

          Another critical turning point came in 1968 when DiGiacomo had what he describes as an “‘ah ha’ moment” while teaching a class at Brooklyn Preparatory. DiGiacomo describes teaching in the 1960s as “a wild ride.” Students, he comments, questioned everything, and teaching was never dull and often exhausting. Students raised very tough questions about the then-raging war in Vietnam and often questioned the authority of the church to teach about birth control, sexuality, and other issues. Despite the intense discussion taking place in the 1960s, DiGiacomo notes that the experience of being in the classroom became less exciting and could, at times, be frustrating. On the day of his “ah ha” experience, DiGiacomo was feeling especially frustrated and knew that he was not connecting with students.

          In an effort to reorient the class, DiGiacomo walked from the front of the class into the middle of the students, stopped, and asked, “So how are we doing?” One student replied, “When are we going to get some answers?” After some additional probing DiGiacomo realized that students were feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues they were discussing. Students were looking for “answers” in the sense that they were struggling to see how they, personally, could address these issues. At that point DiGiacomo recognized that in order for discussion of contemporary social issues to be fruitful, it needed to help students learn to respond to these issues. He needed to help students develop both a sense of social responsibility and a sense of social efficacy.

          DiGiacomo continued to present insights from church teaching and contemporary scholarship when discussing social issues. However, from the moment of his “ah ha” experience onward he began asking students to look at the “pros and cons of every perspective on an issue,” and he challenged them to take responsibility for their own points of view and commitments (or lack of commitment) in addressing the pressing issues of church and society. Additionally, DiGiacomo began using in-class written reflection exercises to provide students with time to reflect upon their perspectives about religious, social, and moral issues. He often collected these written reflections, stored them in a file cabinet, and would periodically read them to help him understand better the young people he taught.

          During his teaching throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s and into the new millennium, DiGiacomo continued to be attentive to the needs and interests of his students, and to try to nurture them toward greater maturity. On the one hand, he sought continually to deepen his understanding of the journey of growth and self-discovery that adolescents take as they transitions from childhood into adulthood. On the other hand, he sought to take into account the unique social influences and trends in the church and broader society that impact the lives of each generation of young people.

          Most notably, DiGiacomo points out that in the 1970s there was a much greater focus on the learner in education in general. He also notes that the church attended more fully to the lives of adolescents, and that this led to the development of the field and ministerial specialization of youth ministry. Christian youth ministry includes catechesis/religious education, but also provides pastoral care, meaningful prayer experiences, and strives, overall, to offer comprehensive faith formation for young people.

          As a teacher in the 1980s DiGiacomo had to contend with the increasing effects of consumer culture on the lives of youth and young adults and a rise in excessive individualism. He notes that teaching often became more challenging as young people began to think of religion as just another product to be consumed. They also tended to evaluate liturgies, retreats, and other church activities by how satisfying an immediate experience they provided. Yet, DiGiacomo notes that the 1980s offered new opportunities to present Christian faith as an alternative vision and life style to a consumer culture that is bound to disappoint because it promises, but can not possibly provide, an endless stream of satisfying experiences for people to consume.

          During the 1990s DiGiacomo recognized that there was often a greater diversity of perspectives and divisions among students, mirroring the greater plurality of the broader social world and the growing divisions between so-called liberals and conservatives in the Catholic Church. During this decade there was often a touting of tolerance for all perspectives as a new cardinal virtue. Negatively, some students began to lose their bearings in life, and to fall into moral relativism – adopting the stance that all moral perspectives are equally tenable and should be respected or at least tolerated. Others retreated into a conservative authoritarianism and refused to think for themselves or to deal with the plurality and ambiguity of the times – looking, instead, to the church as an authority that can provide clear answers to all questions. Positively, the 1990s offered new opportunities to explore disputed moral issues and raise questions about the nature of moral truth and value.

          DiGiacomo notes that in the new millennium one of the most important issues is the increasing religious disaffiliation of young people.  More fully, many contemporary teens are receptive to discussing issues of faith and are open to spiritual experiences; yet more and more young people are choosing not to participate actively in religious communities. That is, many of today’s young people are spiritual, but not religious. Moreover, many of these young people are not returning to the church at some time during young adulthood (as often happened in the past).  This issue, according to DiGiacomo, provides an opportunity to reflect upon and renew an understanding of what it means to be church and how the church can be a living and attractive example of the Good News of Jesus Christ. (See DiGiacomo 2004, in which DiGiacomo offers an extended reflection on being a high school teacher in the last half of the twentieth century and into the new millennium.)

          Overall, DiGiacomo admits that teaching was always challenging for him. He notes that while he had many successful days as a teacher, he also, even up to the end of his teaching career, experienced times when he was not able to connect with students and guide them toward greater insight and maturity. Using one of his frequent baseball metaphors, DiGiacomo says that in his days as a high school teacher he “won some, lost some, and some just got rained out.”

 

University Teaching and Service, Lecturing and Presenting

            DiGiacomo’s collaboration with Vincent and Joseph Novak and Jack Nelson in the mid-1960s not only expanded his understanding of religious education, it also opened up new horizons. After his studies in Belgium, DiGiacomo became an adjunct assistant professor of religious education at the Fordham Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GSRRE) and taught courses on the religious education of youth and youth ministry there from 1965 to 1993, primarily in the summer. DiGiacomo claims that the first thing he had to learn when he became a professor at Fordham was how to teach adults – which, he notes, is very different from teaching youth. One of his former Fordham students from the 1980s, who is now a Catholic school religion teacher in Connecticut, says that DiGiacomo’s classes were always exciting and challenging. She notes that students were often presented with a controversial issue or case study, and asked to respond. Then, drawing insight from church teaching and contemporary scholarship, DiGiacomo would systematically question everyone in the class about the stance he/she took.

            While teaching at the GSRRE, DiGiacomo met Edward Wakin, a professor of communications at Fordham. Before joining the Fordham faculty Wakin worked as a journalist and travelled extensively. He is best known for his analysis of the Coptic Christian community in Egypt (see Wakin, 1963). He also had an interest in the effects of media, especially television, on U.S. society. DiGiacomo and Wakin shared interests in religious issues and moral education. Building upon these shared interests, they worked together on four books about the education and religious education of adolescents – with DiGiacomo focusing their efforts on religious educational issues and Wakin guiding them in looking at the effects of media and other social influences on the lives of youth.

          Additionally, from 1981 to 1987 DiGiacomo served on the Fordham University Board of Trustees. DiGiacomo comments that “quite frankly, those [Board of Trustee] meetings were boring.” Yet he was glad to serve Fordham in whatever way he could.

            Drawing insight from his experiences as a high school teacher and university professor DiGiacomo began in the late 1960s to produce a steady stream of scholarly and popular articles, books and religious education textbooks, book chapters, audiocassettes, and multimedia materials about religious education and ministry – focusing primarily, though not exclusively, on adolescent religious education and youth ministry. These publications and other materials led DiGiacomo to become fairly well-known within and beyond the Catholic community and, as a result, a number of new opportunities opened up for him. Specifically, DiGiacomo was invited to lecture at high school and diocesan gatherings throughout the United States and Canada from the 1970s through the 1990s. During this time DiGiacomo also taught as a visiting professor in the summer programs at Boston College, Notre Dame, Loyola University (Chicago), the University of Detroit, the University of San Francisco, Loyola Marymount University, and the University of St. Thomas (Houston). On the international stage, DiGiacomo accepted invitations to lecture and teach in Australia (3 trips), New Zealand, Micronesia, and Germany (at a US military base).

            In discussing his public lecturing and university teaching, DiGiacomo comments that he focused on five themes. First, he shared what he learned as a high school religion teacher about how to connect with young people, how to nurture them in faith, and how to encourage growth toward moral maturity. Second, he talked with parents, school teachers, and pastoral ministers about continuing to nurture their own spirituality so that they could be effective teachers and mentors for young people. Third, DiGiacomo notes that he often discussed “the unfinished business of religious education.” He points out that “many new things were tried in religious education after Vatican II. Some worked. Others didn’t.” He adds that there was and continues to be a need to reflect on the successes and failures of post-Vatican II religious education and to “figure out where we should go from here.” Fourth, from the early 1980s onward DiGiacomo sought in many of his public talks and teaching forums “to place youth ministry in the context of religious education.”

          Finally, DiGiacomo contends that in his teaching and public speaking from the 1970s onward he was “an advocate for a broader vision of religious education.” According to DiGiacomo, too often contemporary religious education veers toward one extreme or the other. For instance, sometimes religious educators over-focus on offering enriching personal religious experiences, and religious education is reduced to providing “warm-fuzzy” experiences of God. Other religious educators tend to place too great an emphasis on combating religious illiteracy, and religious education is reduced, much as it was in the pre-Vatican II era, to teaching religious doctrine with little attention to how the truths of faith are integrated into everyday life. In contrast to extreme positions, DiGiacomo has and continues to argue that religious education must be academically rigorous yet also attentive to the affective dimensions of life and the call to act responsibly as a person of faith. He also speaks about the importance of religious education being grounded in the teaching and wisdom of Christian faith communities and traditions, while at the same time remaining open to critical reflection and ongoing renewal.   

 

Ongoing Education 

            While he was devoting time to university teaching and public lecturing, DiGiacomo was also committed to his own ongoing education and formation as a religious educator and youth minister. He read broadly in the fields of religious education, education, theology, and related disciplines, and also had an interest in books on the history of baseball. Occasionally, DiGiacomo would publish his reflections on the books he read as book reviews in America, a national Catholic weekly journal about contemporary issues in church and society that is published by the Jesuits.

          The most significant of his ongoing education experiences, according to DiGiacomo, was his participation in the Jesuit Secondary Education Association, Commission on Religious Education (known as CORE) from 1970 to 1988. CORE consisted of a group of seven men who met every two to three years to discuss positive development in the church and their implications for religious education. James Fowler, known for his theory of faith development, participated in and helped to lead the group. Most significantly, the CORE reading and discussions provided DiGiacomo with an in-depth understanding of Fowler’s theory of faith development and Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. These theories offered DiGiacomo a more precise language for discussing the dynamics of growth that he had been observing since he began teaching in 1950. As DiGiacomo points out, “what a difference there is between a 14 year old and a 17 year old. This is something every good high school teacher knows.” Fowler and Kohlberg provide a helpful way, according to DiGiacomo, for educators to talk about this difference and its implications for how they teach.

          During the time he was studying Fowler’s theories DiGiacomo met and was influenced by John Walsh, a priest and member of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Catholic religious order. Walsh had just returned to the United States after serving for 13 years as a missionary in Japan. In describing Walsh, DiGiacomo writes: “He is one of those unusual people who is at home in the ivory tower and the trenches. He not only engaged in fruitful parish work, making and ministering to converts, but he also theorized about his work, describing and analyzing the conversion stories in which he played a role” (DiGiacomo, 2004, 63). Much the same can be said about DiGiacomo. He is also at home in both academic and pastoral circles, the ivory tower and the trenches. Hence, it is not surprising that Walsh and DiGiacomo were drawn into many mutually enriching conversations. In particular they found “many points of resemblance” between missionary work and high school teaching and youth ministry (DiGiacomo, 2004, 63).

          In 1977 DiGiacomo and Walsh co-authored a high school religious education text book series (the Encounter Series). This was followed by a number of other co-authored books for religious educators and pastoral ministers and others interested in their ongoing religious education. According to DiGiacomo, Walsh always had great ideas. He and Walsh would outline their writing projects and then DiGiacomo would often take the lead in writing. DiGiacomo and Walsh also taught a few graduate courses in ministry together and collaborated in creating an audio cassette series on evangelization.

            Due to Walsh’s influence, DiGiacomo developed a deeper appreciation for the relationship between evangelization and religious education. That is, he recognized that religious educators can often be more effective if, before leading students into a process of faith formation and religious education, they begin by identifying peoples’ questions of ultimate concern – that is, questions about what is truly important in life – and explore how focusing on these questions can lead them to search for the Ultimate or God. DiGiacomo notes that once students have a heightened awareness of God’s presence in their lives, they are ready to explore Christian faith in a systematic manner.       

          DiGiacomo’s outlook on religious and ministerial issues was also shaped by this participation in the Jesuit Spirituality Seminar from 1991 to 1994. The seminars were personally renewing for DiGiacomo. They also helped him to develop more fully his understanding of how to nurture the spiritual growth of young people.

            Overall, by drawing together insights from his own experiences, his ongoing studies – especially his explorations of faith and moral development – and his conversations with Walsh, DiGiacomo was able to develop a more comprehensive approach to religious education and youth ministry.

 

           

Scholarship and Recognition of his Work

           As noted above, DiGiacomo began in the late 1960s to produce a steady stream of high school religious education textbooks and scholarly and popular materials on religious education and pastoral ministry. His first writing project was the Conscience and Concern series. The series was produced primarily for use in Catholic high school religious education. Rather than offering didactic instruction about the doctrines of Christian faith, it raises core issues or concerns about life and religious belief, fosters reflection, and strives to help young people develop more intentional and mature religious commitments. As part of the series DiGiacomo published, between 1969 and 1975, short books titled Violence, Race, Church Involvement, Conscience and Authority, Faith, Sexuality, Would You Believe…?, See You in Church, Meaning, Jesus Who?, and Abortion: A Questions of Values. A Conscience and Concern filmstrip was released by the publisher in 1970 based on the Violence, Faith, Sexuality, and Conscience and Authority books. The book Conscience and Authority also provided the foundation for two lectures by DiGiacomo that were recorded and released on audiocassettes in 1978 as Conscience and Authority I and II. Additionally, as part of the Conscience and Concerns series DiGiacomo co-authored Sacraments: Signs of Community (published in 1973) with Eileen Denver Mimoso and Cathy Winter.

          DiGiacomo’s first extended discussion of the religious education of youth is found in We Were Never Their Age, published in 1972. The book was co-authored by Edward Wakin. It explores why it is important to attend to the influence of social and culture factors in religious education, and how the youth of that time were different from their parents and teachers because of their greater rebelliousness and social idealism, the drug culture, and new attitudes toward sexuality. It also discusses how parents, teachers, and other educators could be honest and credible guides for the youth of that day. In 1972 DiGiacomo, with some assistance from Wakin, published the short book Bringing Religion Home: What Parents Can Do. The book explores how parents can be models of faith for their children, and nurture faith within their families. Bringing Religion Home was translated into Spanish as a resource for Spanish speaking Catholics in the United States. Building upon their other collaborative effort, DiGiacomo and Wakin published in 1973 a practical guide for the religious educators of youth titled Questions Young People Ask about Jesus and the Church. DiGiacomo and Wakin also published a sequel to We Were Never Their Age, titled Understanding Teenagers, in 1983. They described the sequel as a “new book” that, while it explores many of the same issues as We Were Never Their Age, attends to the very different social context and teen culture of the 1980s (DiGiacomo and Wakin, 1983, 3). Additionally, chapter 7 of Understanding Teenagers examines the emerging field of youth ministry. DiGiacomo used the text of Understanding Teenagers as the basis for a video recording about adolescents that was released in 1984 with the same title.

          DiGiacomo was invited to collaborate on a writing project with Thomas Shannon in the late 1970s. Shannon had written An Introduction to Bioethics. The publisher wanted to make the book more accessible to readers so DiGiacomo was asked to write reflection and discussion questions for each of the chapters. These questions provide examples of DiGiacomo’s ability as an educator to encourage rigorous critical reflection, foster social analysis of the ways social factors influence decision making, and prompt personal reflection about core moral commitments. Although he wrote only the reflection questions, DiGiacomo was credited as being a co-author.     

          Beginning in 1977 DiGiacomo and John Walsh published a series of co-authored books. Their writing partnership first produced The Encounter Series: three sequential books based on the premise that God seeks a personal encounter with each person and that, if human beings examine their deepest human desires, their most treasured relationships with others, their need for others and community, and their own limitations and inability to make sense of life on their own, they can become truly open to encountering God – to reaching out to God as God reaches out in love to them. The series has a Trinitarian structure, and the three books in the series are titled The Longest Step: Searching for God; Meet the Lord: Encounters with Jesus; and Going Together: The Church of God. The series was designed primarily for use in the religious education of youth. After the Encounter Series was complete, DiGiacomo and Walsh explored many of its central themes in an audio cassette series titled Coming to Faith: The Dynamics of Evangelization. This audio series was released in 1978.

          In 1986 DiGiacomo and Walsh published So You Want to Do Ministry? The book looks at how the church has changed and continues to change, and how ministry must be re-envisioned if it is to keep pace with the times. The book also offers a step by step approach for pastoral ministers to lead people to authentic encounters with God. Because it attracted a notable audience, a second edition with minor revisions was published in 1993.

          DiGiacomo’s and Walsh’s last collaborative project was Christian Discovery: The Road to Justice, published in 1992. The book was written to guide adult Christians in developing a deeper sense of the meaning of their faith and their lives. In the book, DiGiacomo and Walsh contend that the excessive individualism found in contemporary societies leads to loneliness and a loss of a sense of meaning, and that the fulfillment of the religious impulse can only be found within community and, for Christians, in encounters with the Triune God of Christian faith within Christian communities of faith. The central claim of the book is that if human beings recognize that their religious longings can only be fulfilled through encounters with God in community, they will realize that they must commit wholeheartedly to seeking greater justice in both their religious institutions/religious communities and the broader society/social community. 

          DiGiacomo wrote a number of other articles and books and released numerous audio cassettes in which he further developed themes from his public lecturing. Specifically, When Your Teenager Stops Going to Church, published in 1980, is directed at parents. It invites them to consider how patterns of psycho-social development, social and cultural influences, and the natural human impulse to raise questions about the ultimate meaning of life (that is, the human religious impulse) affect the ways young people think, feel, and act, especially with regard to church involvement. Teaching Religion in Catholic Secondary School and Teaching Right from Wrong: The Moral Education of Today’s Youth, published in 1989 and 2000 respectively, were written for Catholic school educators, especially those teaching religion. They present broad and holistic views of religious education and moral education. Ministering to the Young, a short book published in 1991, discusses how religious educators and pastoral ministers can address the issues and obstacles they are likely to encounter as they strive to nurture the spiritual development of young people. Morality and Youth: Fostering Christian Identity, published in 1993, presents DiGiacomo’s holistic vision of religious education, with a focus on moral education, for youth ministers and teachers of all subjects in Catholic schools. (One of the chapters in Morality and Youth is a shorter version of Ministering to the Young. The chapter does not contain many of the reflections on spiritual formation and the spirituality of Jesuits found in the slightly longer book.) DiGiacomo’s last book on religious education, Mission Possible: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going in High School Religious Education, 1950-2003, maps the development of DiGiacomo’s vision of religious education from when he first became a high school teacher until his retirement. The books also explores how one must have a sense of history if one is to recognize how church traditions and practices have evolved over time and how their evolution has affected the church.

          A number of DiGiacomo’s articles on adolescent religious education and youth ministry are especially noteworthy. Specifically, “Theology for Teens,” published in 2000, discusses how religious educators can use foundational religious questions about the existence of God and the meaning of human life as a starting point for exploring theological and moral issues in a way that nurtures an understanding of, and possible commitment to, Christian discipleship. Additionally, “Educating for a Living Faith,” published in 2007, presents a short yet fairly comprehensive summary of the approach to religious education that DiGiacomo developed over the course of his 57 years working in the field. Most of DiGiacomo’s audio lectures explore basic issues in the religious education of youth and youth ministry. They demonstrate his humorous yet often challenging teaching style and his ability to use images, metaphors, and stories to engage his audience. (For example, see DiGiacomo, 1978).

          DiGiacomo’s other single-author publications reach out to a broader audience and contribute to adult religious education and faith formation. In Do the Right Thing: A Guide to Christian Morality DiGiacomo begins with the approach he developed to teach morality to teens and uses it to explore issues such as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and sexual morality. He strives to show how adult Christians can be informed by the wisdom of their faith traditions as they explore controversial issues in an intellectually rigorous manner. DiGiacomo’s last three books, Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the Year of Luke (published in 2006), Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the Year of Matthew (published in 2007), and Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the Year of Mark (published in 2008) offer reflections to guide preachers preparing homilies that can also be used for personal and small group spiritual enrichment. Among DiGiacomo’s articles that are intended for a larger audience, “Little Gray Cells: Our Minds Persist in Thinking even after Respected Authority Speaks,” published in 2005, is especially noteworthy. The article explores how Catholics can examine disputed issues (such as the restriction of ordained ministry to men) in a critically reflective and thoughtful manner while, at the same time, showing respect for the teaching authority of the church.

          A review of DiGiacomo’s teaching and scholarship reveals the many contributions he made to Christian education. These contributions were recognized when he received the Michael J. Guerra Leadership Award from the Secondary School Department of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) on April 4, 2004; and the Founders Award from the Fordham University Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GSRRE) on November 1, 2008. A discussion of DiGiacomo’s contributions is provided in the next section.    


Contributions to Christian Education

          James J. DiGiacomo’s primary contribution to Christian education was to help reshape Catholic religious education, especially the faith formation of youth, in the post-Vatican II era. He also made important contributions to the development of youth ministry, especially Catholic youth ministry, and to adult religious education. In the subsections that follow, I discuss DiGiacomo’s secondary contributions to Christian education first, and his primary contribution after that. 

 

Youth Ministry

          From the 1970s into the 1990s there was an ongoing discussion within the Roman Catholic Church in the United States about how to define the various elements or components of youth ministry. DiGiacomo was one of the people who made significant contributions to this discussion. In commenting on the discussion DiGiacomo writes that “one of the best things that happened,” beginning in the 1970s, “was a gradual clarification of the different elements involved in religious formation of the young. A new term, ‘youth ministry,’ came into vogue. It embraced not only religious instruction but also the more pastoral activities like retreats” and “service programs” (DiGiacomo, 2004, 73).  From the 1980s onward, DiGiacomo also discussed evangelization and involvement in a Christian faith community as essential components of youth ministry. (See “Evangelizing the Young,” in DiGiacomo, 1993, 45-52; and DiGiacomo and Wakin, 1983, 118-120.) The consensus that emerged from the national discussion about youth ministry was expressed by the U.S. Catholic Bishops in 1997 in Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry (USCC, 1997). In that document the U.S. Catholic bishops, echoing much of what DiGiacomo and other religious educators and pastoral ministers had been saying about youth ministry for many years, identified the following as the core components of Catholic youth ministry: Evangelization, Advocacy, Catechesis (Religious Education), Pastoral Care, Prayer and Worship, Community Life, Leadership Development, and Justice and Service.

 

Adult Religious Education

            There has been a greater focus in the Roman Catholic Church since Vatican II on the importance of life long and ongoing adult religious education. DiGiacomo has contributed to the development and maintenance of this focus. First, in arguing that adults involved in youth ministry and adolescent religious education must be committed to their own ongoing religious education, DiGiacomo contributed to efforts to highlight the importance of adult religious education. For instance, in discussing how children and parents must grow together in faith DiGiacomo states:  “Parents can introduce the young person to God…. At every turn, though, a comparable and analogous kind of development must be going on in the adult” (DiGiacomo with Wakin, 1972, 40). In making this and similar statements in his many discussions of youth ministry, DiGiacomo helped to counter the misperception that religious education is only for children and youth and to foster a greater understanding of the need for adult faith formation.         

          Second, DiGiacomo has contributed to the contemporary adult religious education movement by offering seminars and workshops for adult faith formation and authoring materials designed specifically to nurture the faith of adult Christians. Most notably, his co-authored works with John Walsh Christian Discovery and So You Want to Do Ministry?, his book Do the Right Thing (which is a practical guide for adult Christian moral education), and his three books of reflections on the Scriptures, Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the Year of Luke, Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the Year of Matthew, and Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the Year of Mark, all demonstrate DiGiacomo’s commitment to the spiritual enrichment and religious education of adults, a commitment which has helped to highlight the need for adult religious education.

            Finally, DiGiacomo has modeled a commitment to adult religious education. Throughout his life he has made a commitment to be involved in ongoing religious education and faith formation. This commitment has fostered the progressive deepening of his religious education perspective and fueled his creative efforts to write and reflect on religious educational and ministerial issues. Hence, DiGiacomo has and continues to contribute to the adult religious education movement by demonstrating on a personal level the benefits of an intentional commitment to ongoing growth in faith.

 

The Religious Education of Youth and Religious Education

            In the post-Vatican II era the Catholic Church has moved beyond a singular focus on a transmissive, largely cognitive-based approach to religious education, an approach exemplified in the United States by the Baltimore Catechism. During this time period, James DiGiacomo made a significant contribution to religious education by working out and presenting in numerous forums a comprehensive approach for the religious education of youth that can also be adapted for adults. Unfortunately, despite his prodigious scholarly work, DiGiacomo has never provided a comprehensive presentation of his approach to religious education. Hence, the following analysis draws together insights from the corpus of DiGiacomo’s work, and presents a systematic overview of the approach to religious education that he developed over the course of his career. I will then discuss the overall contribution DiGiacomo has made to the field.     

 

Religious Existentialism: The Search for Meaning, the Religious Impulse, Faith, and Church

 

          From the late 1960s until the end of his career, DiGiacomo adopted an existentialist stance as the foundation of his approach to religious education. Existentialist thought begins with the individual, and the individual’s efforts to find meaning in human existence. From an existentialist perspective, while human existence is shaped by the potentials and limitations of human embodiment and the social and cultural contexts of human living, human beings must take responsibility for their free choices. That is, each individual is responsible for constructing a sense of self and a meaningful philosophy of life that freely and authentically expresses who he/she is as a person. DiGiacomo’s existentialist stance is clearly presented in his descriptions of his interactions with students. For instance, in discussing high school students he states: “I tell them I don’t want to hear any complaints like ‘The Church won’t let us do such and such.’ Short of breaking the civil law, you can do anything you please, and the Church can’t do a thing about it…. Take responsibility for your choices. Choose your life” (DiGiacomo, 1993, 8).

          While adopting an existentialist perspective, DiGiacomo carefully distinguished his outlook from atheistic existentialism. For example, DiGiacomo and Walsh point out that the existentialist philosopher John-Paul Sartre held that “if God existed He would be everything and we would be nothing. For him, the death of God was a precondition for our coming alive.” Underlying Sartre’s stance is “a pervasive suspicion that religion involves not only self-denial but also the denial of self-worth” (DiGiacomo & Walsh, 1993, 49; see also DiGiacomo, 1971). Adopting a stance that stands in contrast with the focus on the solitary individual making free choice for him or herself that is found in Sartre’s early work (Sartre, 1994), DiGiacomo argues that if human beings truly focus on self, self-worth, and self-development; they are led to two foundational convictions.

          First, adopting a stance that is similar to that of educational theorist Nel Noddings (Noddings, 2003 and Noddings, 2002), DiGiacomo argues throughout his writings that if human beings focus on the self they discover that the foundation of life is human relationships: We are who we are because of our encounters and consequent relationships with others – our language, our thoughts, the material conditions of our lives, and all other aspects of our being or existence are based on our interdependent relationships with others. Hence, DiGiacomo contends that in all aspects of life, human beings must recognize the importance of human relationships. For instance, in Christian Discovery: The Road to Justice, DiGiacomo and Walsh claims that in order to maximize the potential to exercise human freedom and self-expression, human beings must make a moral commitment to solidarity with others and to seeking greater justice in the world. Similarly, in Do the Right Thing, DiGiacomo contends that people must find a way to move beyond divisive moral stances and learn to relate respectfully with one another if they are to make truly free and responsible moral decisions.

          Second, DiGiacomo argues that in an honest and critically reflective search for meaning aimed at developing an authentic sense of self, an individual must “come to grips” with religion, faith, and church (DiGiacomo, 1980, 34-47, quote from 34). (DiGiacomo provides a foundational exploration of religion, faith, and church is his Conscience and Concern Series book on Faith. His ideas on the subject are developed more fully in the three volume Encounter Series which he co-authored with John Walsh). According to DiGiacomo, an honest examination of the “deeper levels of existence” reveals that throughout human history people have claimed that encountering and living in relationship with the Ultimate or God does not limit self-development but is instead the only means to full self-development (DiGiacomo, 1980, 37). Hence, DiGiacomo argues, any genuine search for self must involve an exploration of the religious impulse; that is, an openness to a religious quest for the meaning of human existence. Of course, people have and continue to hold as their Ultimate in life such things as success, money, power, and possessions. Yet, given that human beings are relational beings, these things can never truly satisfy the deepest (religious) longings of the human heart.

          Becoming open to God and being willing to live in relationship with God is, DiGiacomo and Walsh contend, the longest step a person will ever take in a search for the meaning of human existence, and some never are able to make this step (see DiGiacomo and Walsh, 1977). Yet, this is only the first step. Because human beings are relational beings and can only discover the meaning of life in relationship with others, the religious quest necessarily leads the human person to faith and participation in a community of faith – that is, to exploring the meaning of life within a faith tradition. For Christians, this entails encountering Jesus and learning to live in relationship with the Triune God of Christian faith within the church. For people of other faiths, it entails exploring the resources of their faith traditions and communities as they make their own religious quest and nourish a relationship with the Ultimate or God in their own faith tradition.

          From an existentialist perspective, religious education must, DiGiacomo claims in “Educating for a Living Faith,” nurture relationships with God and others and foster “a living faith,” a faith that enables a person to approach all aspects of life with an authentic sense of the meaning and purpose of human existence. According to DiGiacomo and Walsh, “If we see religion as encounter, then life and religion are one and the same” (DiGiacomo and Walsh, 1993, 14, emphasis as in original). Hence, religious educators must encourage students to take responsibility for their life choices. If students heed this call and are open to living life to the fullest, they will inevitably be led to confront the realities of human goodness and sin, and encounter God. They will also, DiGiacomo contends, be led to explore the historical, social, cultural, and other aspects of life as they investigate the meaning of human existence.

 

The Importance of a Sense of History

            In his book review of Timothy McCarthy’s The Catholic Tradition: Before and After Vatican II: 1878-1993, DiGiacomo recommends the book “as a work of handy reference for anyone in ministry, for those engaged in religious education on any level and for the individual seeking information and enlightenment on many areas of church tradition and practice” (DiGiacomo, 1994, May 7, 21). DiGiacomo developed an understanding of the importance of history during his time of study at the International School of Religious Formation (ISRF) in Brussels. He and his fellow students at the ISRF at that time explored how Vatican II led the Roman Catholic Church to have a deeper sense of the ways Christian beliefs and practices evolved over time and must continue to evolve if the church is to respond adequately to the times.

          Consequently, throughout his writings, DiGiacomo discussed how human beings are historical beings, and he argued that in order to develop a sense of the meaning of life one must have a sense of history, a sense of historical consciousness. For instance, DiGiacomo points out that “good history…not only enlightens us about the past but also points the way to the future” (DiGiacomo, 2004, xi). Additionally, he notes, “although adults are aware of profound and sweeping changes in the Church since Vatican II, teenagers have no such historical perspective and see only what has not been done” (DiGiacomo, 1967, 78). DiGiacomo suggests that in order to help teens deal with what seem to them to be life crises, educators and pastoral ministers must strive to help them to see their lives in a broader, historical perspective.

            DiGiacomo contends that in the post-Vatican II era religious educators must have a sense of the historical development of educational approaches if they are to learn from the past and provide effective religious education in the present and future. (DiGiacomo, 1993, 1-4). DiGiacomo also points out that in addition to having a sense of historical consciousness, religious educators must consider how society and culture shape people’s lives and affect they ways they learn.

  

Attending to Social and Cultural Context: Knowing the Territory

            At the beginning of Teaching Right from Wrong, DiGiacomo discusses the opening scene from the popular film The Music Man. In this opening vignette, “several traveling salesmen are discussing the prospects of one of their number, new on the scene, who has gained a reputation as an effective seller. Some seem grudgingly ready to acknowledge his imagination and energy until older, presumably wiser heads prevail. With dogmatic certainty they dismiss the” salesman “with the ultimate putdown of their profession: ‘He doesn’t know the territory!’” DiGiacomo then comments: “If you aspire to teach young people the difference between right and wrong you have to know the territory” (DiGiacomo, 2000, v). At the beginning of So You Want to Do Ministry?” DiGiacomo and Walsh relate this same scene as it was presented in the Broadway hit The Music Man. They conclude the story by stating: “Anyone who wants to exercise Christian ministry in a pastorally effective way had better know the territory” (DiGiacomo & Walsh, 1993, 7). From DiGiacomo’s perspective, all religious educators and pastoral ministers must, if they are to be effective, know the territory. The territory DiGiacomo refers to is the social and cultural context of life and, in ministry with young people, the social and cultural influences that have the most significant impact on their lives.  

            In discussing how one comes to know the territory in working with youth, DiGiacomo refers to the importance of attending to the ways specific life contexts have shaped the outlooks of young people in each generation. He also comments on the need to develop an awareness of a broader cultural shift that separates the last few generations of young people from their elders. More fully, DiGiacomo observes that: “In some ways kids are always the same, but they are also different in significant, often dramatic ways. They are always trying to find themselves in the search for identity that is youth’s main task. But the search takes different forms in different eras, as they grow up in times of comparative stability or upheaval. Their attitudes toward authority may be predominantly submissive or rebellious; they may identify with adult values or reject them; they may reject religious institutions and concerns or be open to the mystery at the heart of human life” (DiGiacomo as quoted in Gale Reference Team, 2000). Essentially, DiGiacomo points out something that many experienced educators have observed. For instance, in my own work at universities since the 1980s, I have seen young people addressing questions about identity, relationships, and other issues that come to the fore in young adulthood. At the same time, the young people I teach today tend to have attitudes, perspectives, and life experiences that are somewhat different from the attitudes, perspectives and life experiences I encountered in young people when I first began teaching. Being aware of the ways young people’s outlooks have changed over the years and continue to change, is “knowing the territory.” 

            There is, however, a broader cultural shift that DiGiacomo also refers to in his writing. In commenting on this shift DiGiacomo and Walsh write: “This is the first generation of parents in centuries who cannot pass on their faith to their children in the same way that it was passed on to them. For as long as anyone can remember all a Christian parent had to do was ask, ‘How did my parents bring me up in faith?’ and then decide, “I will do the same for my children.’ And it worked. But not anymore” (DiGiacomo and Walsh, 1993, 24). At times DiGiacomo refers to those on the far side of this cultural shift as “the Old Breed” and those on the near side as “the New Breeds.” For instance, in “Teaching the Next New Breed” he refers to “the Old Breed of the 1950s” and “the first New Breed of the 1960s and the second New Breed which emerged in the 1970s.” (DiGiacomo, 1993, 13). To understand this broader shift one must combine a knowledge of social and cultural differences with a sense of history. This enables one to recognize that as the past few generations of young people have grown to maturity, humanity has entered a new historical era.

          Most significantly, DiGiacomo points out that the relatively insular Catholic enclave communities of the past have disappeared. He notes that Catholic young people are growing up today in a more complex world with fewer supports than young people of past eras (DiGiaomo, 1993, 48-52). (One can go beyond DiGiacomo’s reflections and characterize the contemporary era as a global, religiously diverse, cyber/internet, pluralistic, postmodern age.) DiGiacomo also emphasizes how the consumerism and individualism of contemporary culture often distort peoples’ outlooks on life, and can foster selfishness and diminish a person’s sense of personal and social responsibility (DiGiacomo, 1993, 92-93). Hence, DiGiacomo argues that it is even more important than in the past to guide youth in raising questions about the meaning of life and to encourage them to develop a sense of personal responsibility. He also argues that, at the same time, religious educators must show young people how the resources of faith traditions and communities can help them to grow and develop as persons and, especially, how Christian faith presents an alternative vision to consumerism and individualism – a vision that can guide the development of personal identity formation in healthy and life-giving ways.  (DiGiacomo, 2000, January 29, 13-14).    

 

An Inclusive and Holistic Educational Perspective

            Throughout his teaching career DiGiacomo identified himself as a religious educator. Unlike many of his colleagues, he did not refer to himself as a teacher of religion in Catholic schools. His first concern is with the religious dimension of human life, and then with the Christian religion/faith, specifically as it is embodied in Roman Catholicism. Additionally, DiGiacomo does not follow the common practice within the Roman Catholic Church of referring to the activity of educating in faith as catechesis. When DiGiacomo does use the term “catechesis” he tends to use it interchangeably with “religious education” – thus, keeping the focus on the religious dimension of life.

            DiGiacomo’s uses the term “religious education” and focuses on the “religious” or “religious questions” in order to create a broadly inclusive framework that he then builds upon in addressing in a holistic way the various aspects of human life. For example, in “Theology for Teens” DiGiacomo, after a few preliminary comments, approaches the main topic by stating: “Christianity, like all serious religions, offers answers to the deepest questions human beings put to life. Are we alone in the universe, or is Someone in charge? What is the strongest force in the universe – life, or death? Is there some transcendent purpose to human life? How does a good person behave? These are the questions Jesus came to answer.” (DiGiacomo, 2000, January 29, 12). Note well, DiGiacomo does not begin by stating that he will discuss trends in theology or explore current developments in Christology. That is, he does not begin with theological questions. Rather, he begins with what he has referred to throughout his career as religious and existential questions – in his initial questions asking, essentially, Does God exist? Is there a point and purpose to human existence? Then, DiGiacomo asks a question about behavior or action in order to get his readers to consider the practical significance of the discussion. Only after that does DiGiacomo offer a theological claim about Jesus, and this claim connects theological reflection about Jesus to the religious and existential dimensions of human life.

            In “Theology for Teens” DiGiacomo goes on to discuss how youth ministry programs often appeal to the affective dimensions of the human person, and he notes that this is understandable since religious questions touch the heart. At various points later in the article DiGiacomo refers to the intellectual (that is, cognitive) dimension of religious education, and he discusses the need for religious literacy and the importance of teaching young people to draw insight from scriptural scholarship in reading the Bible. Yet, he adds that the intellectual/cognitive aspects of religious education must be integrated with the affective and commitment/behavioral dimensions if they are to connect with students’ lives. DiGiacomo also discusses the importance of social analysis and attending to both personal and social development in religious education. In another article, “Sharing the Faith,” DiGiacomo explores the relationship between personal and social formation more fully. In “Sharing the Faith” he also offers a more detailed analysis of the importance of teaching young people to affirm the positive aspects of culture while critiquing its personally and socially destructive dimensions (DiGiacomo, 1994, 27-29).

            When the corpus of DiGiacomo’s work is reviewed as a whole, there is a clearly discernable holistic approach to religious education. DiGiacomo tends to begin by creating a broad religious framework, and within that framework exploring the cognitive/affective/ behavior and personal/social dimensions of education in faith. Integrated within DiGiacomo’s approach to religious education, there is also a focus on critical reflection and critical appropriation. DiGiacomo is interested in sparking critical reflection about the religious dimension of life. At the same time he encourages people of all faiths to take the religious aspect of life seriously so that they can develop more fully as persons.

 

Attending to the Dynamics of Development

            When interviewed DiGiacomo said he thought that fostering the human development of young people is the most important dimension of religious education. In his writings, he draws insight from contemporary developmental theorists, especially James Fowler and Lawrence Kohlberg. Additionally, DiGiacomo often integrates insights about the other aspects of religious education into his discussions of human development.

            Drawing insight from the work of Erik Erikson, DiGiacomo identifies “identity formation” as the challenge or life crisis facing adolescents. He notes that failure to meet this challenge results in “identity confusion.” Hence, DiGiacomo calls religious educators of youth to focus on helping young people develop a sense of self or identity that can provide a foundation for their adult lives (DiGiacomo, 2004, 122-123). Additionally, he notes that it can be difficult for a contemporary young person (a person who is from what DiGiacomo sometimes calls “the New Breeds”) to form a secure sense of personal identity and a sense of being an adherent of a specific religious tradition. Because of the multiple perspectives and life options they can adopt and the plurality of faiths and worldviews they encounter, young people can sometimes find it difficult to commit to specific life choices.

            In discussing the dynamics of identity formation and religious education with young people more fully, DiGiacomo draws insight from the work of Fowler and Kohlberg. He notes that “the transition to the third or ‘synthetic-conventional’ stage [of Fowler’s stages of faith], occurs toward the end of childhood.” He adds that: “This stage, which may last only until the late teens or may persist right through middle age, is a ‘conformist’ phase, characterized by keen awareness of the expectations and judgments of others” (DiGiacomo, 1993, 68, emphasis added). Unlike those in the previous “mythic-literal” stage, people in stage three can formulate or synthesize their own beliefs and values because they are able to think conceptually or abstractly, and they can develop a deeply felt sense of personal convictions.

          At the same time, at this stage a person’s beliefs and values remain conventional because they “are grounded on the authority of a person or of a group consensus, and that authority is perceived as self-evidently valid, not subject to appeal.” DiGiacomo adds that people at stage three faith display “many features of Kohlberg’s conventional [stage three and four] moral person, the uncritical patriot, the unquestioning loyalist, the “true believer.’” A young person at Fowler’s third stage of synthetic-conventional faith and Kohlberg’s third stage good boy/good girl morality is focused on internal self development. Aside from periodic bouts of adolescent rebellion (which are the necessary first stirrings of an ability for a reflective outlook on life), he or she is disinclined to devote energy to thinking about social issues. Rather, the person will most often accept the guidance of established or conventional religious and moral authorities in striving to make sense of the world. Only when a person moves to “Fowler’s fourth stage, the ‘independent-reflective’” stage will he or she develop “a newly autonomous perspective.” At that point in life, an individual “becomes less dependent on others to construct and maintain his world of meaning” (DiGiacomo, 1993, 68).   

            When exploring the religious education of youth, DiGiacomo discusses how adults must take into account the complex socio-cultural context of contemporary life in striving to nurture a sense of secure identity within young people who are at stage three faith. He contends that the goal of religious education should be to guide young people through stage three to a stage four reflective and autonomous understanding of faith. He argues that, “conformity to social pressures can no longer ensure a stable religious identity. In a pluralistic milieu, religious identification must result from personal conviction and free choice. Needless to say, we are speaking here of adults….” He adds that children “must be prepared for the religious world of their coming adulthood; and this means they must be prepared for a world in which their religious allegiances must be autonomous if they are to endure” (DiGiacomo, 1993, 62-63).

            To avoid being misunderstood, DiGiacomo distinguishes throughout his writing between “individualism” and “individuality” (see for example, DiGiacomo, 2004, 89; and DiGiacomo 1994, 29-30). He writes that “individualism… is a doctrine or attitude which assumes that only the individual, and not society is what counts.” From an individualist perspective, “individual initiative…should be independent of social control” and all “values, rights, and duties” should be seen as originating with individuals and not the “social whole” (DiGiacomo, 1993, 131). Contemporary consumer society, DiGiacomo points out, encourages an excessive individualism; that is, it encourages individuals to think only of themselves and to engage in an ongoing and endless process of consuming goods and services in a search for personal fulfillment. Moreover, in a consumer culture, even religion is reduced to a consumer good. That is, consumer culture fosters a “religious individualism” that reduces the “religious quest to the search for a congenial cult, a comfortable code, and a compatible community” that fulfills or at least may seem momentarily to fulfill an individual’s search for religious meaning (DiGiacomo, 2004, 4).

            In order to counter the excesses of individualism in contemporary culture, DiGiacomo calls on religious educators to nurture an authentic sense of individuality. Although he does not distinguish fully between these in his writings, DiGiacomo counsels religious educators to encourage the development of five senses of individuality or individual identity. The first of these is psychological identity. As noted above, DiGiacomo calls religious educators to focus on helping young people develop a sense of self or personal identity that can provide a foundation for a mature outlook on life. Second, DiGiacomo explores the importance of education for social and communal identity. He notes that religious educators should help young people to get to know the territory (that is, to develop an understanding of the social and cultural context of their life and of contemporary culture) so that they can develop a sense of individuality or identity as persons who are part of a social whole. Most significantly, DiGiacomo calls on religious educators to help young people to “perceive and think critically about the powerful forces vying for their allegiance.” He notes that, “among the most important functions of a religious educator is to help students become aware of the hidden messages of their culture and resist manipulation. Just as youngsters need to be street smart, they also need to be ‘culture smart’” (DiGiacomo, 2004, 81). Third, DiGiacomo points out that religious education must help youth develop a sense of identity as members of a community of faith. He stresses that we always need the resources and guidance of our faith traditions (as embodied, for instance, in communal worship and teaching) if we are to develop fully as persons (DiGiacomo, 1980, 38-47).

            Building on efforts to nurture senses of personal/psychological, social, and faith- community identity, DiGiacomo calls religious educators to nurture a fourth sense of identity: moral identity. He writes: “The goal is to assist the students not only to understand and appreciate, but also to move toward interiorizing a moral style based on principle and personal conviction rather than blind obedience, peer pressure, or selfishness” (DiGiacmo, 1993, 84). (A focus on helping youth develop a responsible sense of moral identity as individuals provides the unifying focus for the broad ranging discussion of religious education and youth ministry found in Morality and Youth: Fostering Christian Identity.)

          Fifth, underlying yet also linked to the other four senses of identity, is religious and existential individuality. According to DiGiacomo, “humanity is not a given, but an achievement. Personhood is a task, and morality an achievement” (DiGiacmo, 1993, 88). Ultimately, as already noted above, religious education must help young people develop an authentic sense of the meaning and purpose of their human existence as seen in the light of a relationship with God. From DiGiacomo’s perspective, the first four senses of individual identity – personal, social, faith-community, and moral identity – are achievements that support the development of religious and existential identity. They contribute to the human quest to answer the question, What is the meaning and purpose of human existence and, in particular, of my existence as a human being?

          Finally, in discussing human development, DiGiacomo often explores the role of authority in people’s lives. As already noted, DiGiacomo contends that contemporary religious educators must strive to foster a sense of personally appropriated, internal, moral and religious authority. He argues that only with a strong internal compass can people learn to navigate their way through the complexity and ambiguities of contemporary life and resist the ways contemporary consumer culture impoverishes personal and social life. However, DiGiacomo also discusses the important roles of parents, educators, and society as voices of authority in young people’s lives. As also already noted, DiGiacomo notes that, developmentally, young people need the support and guidance of established or conventional religious and moral authorities to help them make sense of the social world.

          DiGiacomo points out that if society and the church do not provide sound and credible voices of authority to guide young people, they will often look to popular media and consumer culture for guidance. For instance, DiGiacomo states that “when adult authorities follow a hands-off policy and decline to take a stand on moral issues, they may think that they are freeing them [young people] for autonomous decision making, but we are actually only yielding the field to others less experienced and often less wise than ourselves. For example, when adults tell Stage Three adolescents to ‘make up their own minds’ about premarital sex, they are imposing an impossible task. Acting under the illusion of freedom, they then follow the surrogate authorities – peers, television, movies, music and magazines” (DiGiacomo, 1993, 78). Ideally, DiGiacomo notes, religious educators should strive to encourage the development of a sense of individuality and internal authority that can enable a person to see him/herself as being in dialogical relationship with the established voices of authority in church and society. (One of DiGiacomo’s many discussions of authority is found in DiGiacomo, 1980, 65-77.) Additionally, according to DiGiacomo, any educational approach (such as the values clarification approach to moral education) that focuses only on the development of an internal sense of authority, and that envisions reliance on external authority as antithetical to the development of individual identity is more likely to mal-form and mis-educate than to contribute to growth toward greater maturity. Specifically, it will fail to teach people how they can draw insight from the established wisdom of church and society in developing their individual life perspectives. It will also fail to prepare them to live in a world in which they must know how to deal with multiple and often competing voices of authority, and be able to resist social pressures that impoverish self and society (DiGiacomo, 1993, 73-77).  

 

Sustained by Hope and the Promise of Fullness of Life

            In one of his earliest works, DiGiacomo offers the personal comment that “Christianity, for me, has always been an enrichment” He adds that in his personal encounters with Christ, Christ speaks “a word of hope – more than that a word of promise” (DiDiacomo, 1969, 50-51). In an advent reflection written thirty-nine years later, DiGiacomo writes: “The impact of Jesus on hearts and minds has never waned. He continues to influence every corner of the world. He inspires fidelity, conviction, courage, generosity and mercy” (DiGiacomo,  2008, December 15, 19). From the beginning to the end of his career, DiGiacomo had an acute sense of God’s active presence in the world. While he envisioned fostering human growth and development as the core of religious education, his perspective is based on the conviction that all human activity is secondary to the activity of God in the ongoing creation of the world. Hence, throughout his career he sought to help students become more attentive to God’s enriching presence in their lives, and to God’s activity in the world as a source of hope. He also sought to help students to be open to God’s promise (a promise expressed most fully for Christians in the Incarnation of Jesus the Christ) that God will lead those who seek God’s guidance to greater fullness of life.

 

A Perspective on DiGiacomo’s Primary Contribution to Christian Education

            A review of DiGiacomo’s educational perspective reveals the richness of his approach to religious education. This approach enabled him to be a successful high school teacher. For over fifty years he was a significant influence in the lives of many students. Moreover, in sharing his approach to religious education and youth ministry with parents, high school teachers, parish religious educators, youth ministers, other pastoral ministers, and religious educators working in academic settings, DiGiacomo contributed significantly to the ongoing development of religious education in post-Vatican II Catholicism.

            Given the richness of DiGiacomo’s approach to religious education it is a worthwhile investment for religious educators to continue to study DiGiacomo’s work, to evaluate the strengths and limitations of his understanding of religious education, and to compare DiGiacomo’s educational outlook with other educational approaches that have also contributed to the ongoing development of the field of religious education. Moreover, if DiGiacomo’s work is mined for use in contemporary religious education, it may be that his greatest contribution is yet to come. 

 

Works Cited:

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2011, August 8). Interview with Harold Daly Horell.

DiGiacomo, J. J, (2008, December 15). Joy is on the way: third in a series for Advent and Christmas. America, 199(20), 19.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2004). Mission possible: Where we've been, where we're going in high school religious education 1950-2003. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2000). Teaching right from wrong: The moral education of today's youth. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2000, January 29). Theology for teens. America, 182(3), 12-16.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1994). Sharing the faith: Helping young people to lead moral lives: The editors interview Father James DiGiacomo, S.J. U.S. Catholic, 59, 27-31.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1994, May 7). Review of the books The Catholic tradition: Before and after Vatican II, 1878-1993, by T. McCarthy; and Communication and cultural analysis, by M. Warren. America, 170(6), 20-21.

DiGiacomo, J.  J. (1993). Morality and youth: Fostering Christian identity. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1980). When your teenager stops going to church. St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). The spaghetti method of teaching. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1971). Meaning. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). Faith. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1967). Adolescent religious crises and adult responses: New ways to God. The National Catholic Guidance Conference Journal, 12(1), 77-79

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Wakin, E. (1983). Understanding teenagers: A guide for parents. Allen, TX: Argus Communications.

DiGiacomo, J. J, with Wakin, E. (1972). Bringing religion home: What parents can do. Chicago: Claretian publications.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Walsh, J. J. (1993). So you want to do ministry?. Second edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

DiGiacomo, J., & Walsh, J. (1977). The Longest step: Searching for God. (The encounter series) Minneapolis: Winston Press.

Gale Reference Team. (2002). Biography – DiGiacomo, James J(oseph) 1924-. Thomas Gale.

Noddings, N. (2003). Caring: a feminist approach to ethics and moral education. Second edition. Berkeley: U. of CA Press, 2003.

Noddings, N. (2002). Educating moral people. New York: Teachers College Press.

Sartre, J. P. (1994). Being and nothingness. New York: Gramercy.

USCC (United States Catholic Conference). (1997). Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry. Washington, DC: Department of Education, USCC.

Wakin, E. (1963). A lonely minority: The modern story of Egypt’s Copts. (New York: Marrow).


Bibliography

Books

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2008). Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the year of Mark. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2007). Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the year of Matthew. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2006). Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the year of Luke. New York: Paulist Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2004). Mission possible: Where we've been, where we're going in high school religious education 1950-2003. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2000). Teaching right from wrong: The moral education of today's youth. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.

DiGiacomo, J.  J. (1993). Morality and youth: Fostering Christian identity. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Walsh, J. J. (1993). So you want to do ministry?. Second edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Walsh, J. J. (1992). Christian discovery: The road to justice. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1991). Do the right thing: A guide to Christian morality. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1991). Ministering to the young. St. Louis, MO: Seminar on Jesuit Spirituality.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1989). Teaching religion in a Catholic secondary school. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Walsh, J. J. (1986). So you want to do ministry?. Kansas City, MO: Sheed and Ward.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Wakin, E. (1983). Understanding teenagers: A guide for parents. Allen, TX: Argus Communications.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1980). When your teenager stops going to church. St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press.

Shannon, T. A., & DiGiacomo J. J. (1979). Introduction to bioethics. New York: Paulist Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Walsh, J. J. (1978). Going together: The church of Christ. (The encounter Series) Minneapolis: Winston Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Walsh, J. J. (1977). Meet the Lord: Encounters with Jesus. (The encounter series) Minneapolis: Winston Press.

DiGiacomo, J., & Walsh, J. (1977). The Longest step: Searching for God. (The encounter series) Minneapolis: Winston Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1975). Abortion: A question of values. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt McDougal.

Mimoso. E. D., DiGiacomo, J.  J., & Winter, C. (1974). Sacraments: Signs of community. (Conscience and concern series) Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1973). Jesus who?. (Conscience and concern series) Minneapolis: Winston Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Wakin, E. (1973). Questions young people ask about Jesus and the church.  Chicago: Claretian publications.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (with Wakin, E.) (1973). Religion en el hogar: Qué pueden hacer los padres. (Traducido por Miguel A. Fernandez) Chicago: Claretian publications.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Wakin, E. (1972). We were never their age. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J, with Wakin, E. (1972). Bringing religion home: What parents can do. Chicago: Claretian publications.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1971). Meaning. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1971). See you in church. (Conscience and concern series) Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1971). Would you believe ...?. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). Church involvement. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). Conscience and authority. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). Faith. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). Race. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). Sexuality. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). Violence. (Conscience and concern series) New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

 

Book Forward and Chapters in Books

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1992). Catechesis and youth: Where’s the beef?. In. Corr, J. E. ed., Living the vision: 20th anniversary, East Coast Conference for religious education (pp. 71-76). Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Ginn.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1989). Schools that serve children. In Macchiarola, F.J. & Gartner, A. eds. Caring for America’s children (pp. 159-169). New York: Academy of Political Science.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1982). Forward. In Walsh, J. J. Evangelization and justice: new insights for Christian ministry (pp. ix-x). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1979). Ten Years as moral educator in a Catholic high school. In Hennessy, T. C. ed., Value/moral education: the schools and the teachers (pp. 51-71). New York: Paulist Press.

 

Articles

DiGiacomo, J. J, (2008, December 15). Joy is on the way: third in a series for Advent and Christmas. America, 199(20), 19.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2008, December 8). Make straight a highway: The second in a series for Advent and Christmas. America, 199(19), 22.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2008, December 1). We should have seen it coming: The first in a series for Advent and Christmas. America, 199(18), 30.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2007, September 10). Educating for a living faith: What does it mean to go for the gold? America, 197(6), 10-14.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2007, May 21). How (not) to preach: An experienced homilist gives pointers on what to avoid. America, 196(18), 17, 19-20.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2005). The thinking priest. Seminary Journal, 11(3), 38-42.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2005, May 30). Little gray cells. America, 192(19), 17-19.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2004, September 20). A glass half empty: Is Jesus not allowed to tell adolescents things they don't want to hear?. America, 191(7), 12-15.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2000, January 29). Theology for teens. America, 182(3), 12-16.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1998, September 26). Of many things. America, 179(8), 2.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1997). Right and wrong, teen style. Way Supplement, 90, 36-45.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1995, May 17). Keep religion in its place: A graduation address. America. 172(19), 8-10.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1994). Sharing the faith: Helping young people to lead moral lives: The editors interview Father James DiGiacomo, S.J. U.S. Catholic, 59, 27-31.

Russo, D., DiGiacomo, J. J., Chelmowski, M., & Powell, D. H. (1987, October 10). Three views from the trenches: Teaching high school religion in the city. America, 157, 212-216.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1987, February 14). All you need is love. America, 156(6), 126.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1986). The new illiteracy: Catechetics and youth. Church. 2(3), 3-7.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1981, June 27). Teaching the next new breed. America. 144, 518-522.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1981, November-December). Telling the Jesus story. Today’s Catholic Teacher, 21-24.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1981). The Religious needs of teens. Marriage and Family Living, 63(10), 8-9, 22.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1980, August). Will my child keep the faith?. Catholic Update.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1979, October 13). Evangelizing the young. America, 141(10), 187-189.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Moral education of youth: Task and accomplishment. New Catholic World, 221, 156-161.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Follow your conscience. Living Light, 15(3), 393-398.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1977, December 10). Why Johnny can’t pray. America, 113(19): 414-418.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1977). One religious educators’ response to Human sexuality [Human sexuality: New directions in American Catholic thought: A study commissioned by the Catholic Theology Society of America]. Living Light 14(4), 617-621.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1969). An image of man in today’s world. NCEA [National Catholic Education Association] Bulletin, 65(4), 18-25.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1967). Adolescent religious crises and adult responses: New ways to God. The National Catholic Guidance Conference Journal, 12(1), 77-79.

 

Book Reviews

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2008, May 26). Glory days. [Review of the book We would have played for nothing: Baseball stars of the 1950s and 1960s talk about the game they loved, by F. Vincent]. America, 198(18), 28-29.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2007). Review of the book Catholic higher education: A culture in crisis, by M. M. Morey & J. J. Piderit. Momentum, 38(2), 78-79.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2006, April 13). In their own words. [Review of the book The only game in town: Baseball stars of the 1930s and 1940s talk about the game they loved, by F. Vincent]. America, 194(12), 32-34.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1999, December 18). Coaching with character. [Review of the book When pride still mattered: A life of Vince Lombardi, by D. Maraniss]. America, 181(20), 25-26.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1998, April 18). Review of the book Jackie Robinson: A biography, by A. Rampersad. America, 178(13), 24-25.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1995, June 17). Review of the books Early innings: A documentary history of baseball, 1825-1908, edited by D. A. Sullivan; The bear and whiskey league, by D. Nemec; Sol White’s history of baseball, by S. White; and Fleet Walker’s divided heart, by D. W. Zang. America, 172(21), 34-35.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1994, May 7). Review of the books The Catholic tradition: Before and after Vatican II, 1878-1993, by T. McCarthy; and Communication and cultural analysis, by M. Warren. America, 170(6), 20-21.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1993, April 17). Let’s play ball. [Review of the books Coming apart at the seams, by J. Sands & P. Gammons; Birth of a fan, edited by R. Fimrite; Baseball in the afternoon: Tales from a bygone era, by R. Smith; The man in the dugout: Baseball’s top managers and how they got that way, by L. Koppett]. America, 168(13), 17-18.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1993, January 16). Review of the book Becoming a catechist: Ways to outfox teenage skepticism, by W. O’Malley. America, 168(2), 22-23.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1991, July 15). Review of the book Religious education as a second language, by G. Moran. America, 164(23), 661-662.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1990, August 11). “Batter up!” [Review of the books Men at work: The craft of baseball, by G. F. Will, and Baseball: The people’s game, by H. Seymour.] America 14(4): 617-621.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1984, March 24). Review of the books Acquiring our image of God: Emotional basis for religious education, by M. A. Lang; and To know as we are known: A spirituality of education, by P. A. Palmer. America, 150(11), 221-222.

 

Sound Recordings

DiGiacomo, J. J., & National Catholic Educational Association. (1992). Rediscovering right and wrong: Moral education in the 90's. Elkridge, MD: Chesapeake Audio/Video Communications.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1990). Civil religion: The American idolatry. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Pub. Co.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & East Coast Conference for Religious Education. (1990). Ministering to the mind. Elkridge, MD: Chesapeake Audio/Video Communications.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & National Catholic Educational Association. (1990). Redefining the good life (teaching religion in a Catholic high school). Elkridge, MD: Chesapeake Audio/Video Communications.

DiGiacomo, J. J. Understanding adolescents. (1986). Homebush, N.S.W: Daughters of St. Paul.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1983). It's only good news if they hear it: The art of catechizing the young. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & East Coast Conference for Religious Education. (1982). New bottles or new wine?: American youth and Christian tradition. Maryland: Eastern Audio.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1979). Just follow your conscience. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Back to the basics. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Catechesis, theology and evangelization. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Conscience and authority I. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Conscience and authority II. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). The content of faith. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Corollaries for religious education. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Growth in moral maturity. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). The historic context. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). How faith begins. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). How faith grows?. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). The institutional context. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). It's only good news if they hear it: The art of catechizing the young. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Personalism. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Religion: For adults only?. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Socialization in an evolving church. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Some ecclesiological premises. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). The spaghetti method of teaching. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Teaching honesty. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Teaching morality. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Teaching sexual morality. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). What is faith?. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1978). Who should teach religion?. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. , & Walsh, J. J. (1978). Coming to faith: The dynamics of evangelization. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Pub. Co.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1976). Problems of liberty and justice for youth. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1976). What comes before education. Kansas City, Mo: National Catholic Reporter.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1975). Christians and the new sexual climate. In Schaller, L. E., Munger, R. B., Armstrong, J., Patterson, B. E., Marty, M. E., Samarin, W. J., Trueblood, E., ... Dalglish, E. R., Catalyst: A resource for Christian leaders, special edition, 1975. [Waco, TX: Catalyst].

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1974). Person in process. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.  

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1974). The value revolution. Dayton, Ohio: Creative Sights & Sounds.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1973). The art of being. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

DiGiacomo, J. J., & National Congress of Religious Education. (1971). Saved from what? Whaddayameangoodnews (Speech given at the National Congress of Religious Education, Oct. 27-30, 1971, Miami Beach, FL.). Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1971). The value revolution. Cincinnati, Ohio: Ohio Catholic Education Association Convention.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1970). Dialogue on becoming a person. Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter Cassettes.

 

Multimedia Materials

DiGiacomo, J. J., Catoir, J., & Christophers (Organization). (1998). Morality and youth. New York: The Christophers.

McSweeney, T., DiGiacomo, J. J. , McCarron, E., Diehl, D., Catholic Telecommunications Network of America., United States Catholic Conference., CTNA Telecommunications, Inc., ... Sheed and Ward (Firm). (1992). What do we teach about Jesus. United States: Sheed & Ward.

Murnion, P. J., DiGiacomo, J. J., Dunlap, J. A., McPortland, J., & National Pastoral Life Center (U.S.). (1988). Where are we going with religious education?: A question of content and process. New York: National Pastoral Life Center.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1985). Understanding teenage faith. East Melbourne, Vic: Catholic Communications Video Production Unit.

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1984). Understanding teenagers. Allen, Texas: Argus Communications.

Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, inc. & Winston Press (and DiGiacomo, J. J.). (1970). Conscience and concern (filmstrip).

 

Book Reviews of Books by James DiGiacomo and James DiGiacomo and Co-authors

Collins, J. A. The adolescent faith journey [Review of the book: Mission possible: Where we've been, where we're going in high school religious education 1950-2003]. America, 191(7), 27-29.

Doyle, J. (1980). Review of the book An introduction to bioethics. Theological Studies, 41, 804.

Hagerty, M. (1994). Review of the book: Morality and youth: Fostering Christian identity. Living Light, 30. 75-76.

Heiser, W. C. (1994). Review of the book: Morality and youth: Fostering Christian identity. Theology Digest, 41, 164-165.

Hendricks, J. Jr., & Hendricks, B. (1980). Review of the book An introduction to bioethics. Living Light 17, 292.

Linton, B. (1987). Review of the book So you want to do ministry? Teachers Journal, 21, 27.

Moore, M. E. (1980). Review of the book An introduction to bioethics. Religious Education, 75(6), 711-712.

Muehl, W. (1973). Family Dialogue. [Review of the book We were never their age]. Christian Century, 90(1), 27-28.

Pasquariello, R. (1987). Review of the book So you want to do ministry? Living Light, 23, 279.

Redington, P. E. (1993). Review of the book Christian discovery. Living Light, 29, 96-97.

Senior, D. (2009). Review of the book Sundays with Jesus: Reflections for the year of Mark. Bible Today, 47(2), 140-141.

Way, L. (1981). Review of the book When your teenager stops going to church. Living Light, 18(3), 285-286.

 

Additional Resources

Staff (McCauley, G.). (2007). Profile: Fr. James DiGiacomo, S.J. Here and Abroad (Development Office of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus), 15-16.

Gale Reference Team. (2002). Biography – DiGiacomo, James J(oseph) 1924-. Thomas Gale.


Excerpts from Publications

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2007, September 10). Educating for a living faith: What does it mean to go for the gold? America, 197(6), 11. (emphasis as in original)

On success in religious education:

“Students come to us from different religious backgrounds and with varying levels of religious receptivity. Think of our success in reaching them as deserving of gold, silver, and bronze medals.

“Gold. In working with Catholic students, the highest achievement is turning our well-informed, convinced young believers who identify with the faith community and participate in the sacramental life of the church… They aspire to a life influenced by Christina values….

“For non-Catholic students, the goals are necessarily different. One is that they take seriously the religious dimension of life. The school’s religious instruction and activities support and encourage commitment to their own religious tradition….

“Silver. Although not convinced of or practicing their faith, students are religiously literate… All students should know what authentic religion is, though they do not feel ready to take an active part. They want to lead morally responsible lives.

“Bronze. Students are unresponsive to religious insights or concerns and have a basically secular outlook on life. Yet they take moral questions seriously…. They are building resistance to materialism and consumerism, and they aspire to something better.”

 

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2004). Mission possible: Where we've been, where we're going in high school religious education 1950-2003. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association. (p. 124)

On teaching religion in a Catholic school:

“It is a truism that faith is not taught but caught. The implications for religious education are obvious. The finest teaching with the best resources in the most favorable environments does not guarantee success. Religion departments must strive for a balance in their goals and objectives. Depending on the intellectual quality of the student body, schools should offer courses that are academically respectable. The days when religion was a ‘fresh air course’ should be long gone by now. On the other hand, schools should not settle for an arid intellectualism. One way or another, religious learning must appeal to the heart as well as the head. For example, students should master as much as they can of Scripture scholarship in order to learn how to read the Bible and avoid the pitfalls of fundamentalism. But they also must hear the Bible as the word of God.”

 

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Walsh, J. J. (1993). So you want to do ministry?. Second edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. (p. 24).

On adolescents, adults, and authenticity:

“Adolescents always demand a lot from the important adults in their lives…. What they seems to be looking for, more than anything else is, is authenticity. This does not mean knowledge of the latest teenage songs, dress trends or buzz words. It does mean honesty, admitting one’s limitations, respecting the young and not pulling rank on them. It means resisting the temptation to overprotect their children and their students, and being willing to take the risks that go with respecting their freedom.”

 

DiGiacomo, J. J., & Wakin, E. (1983). Understanding teenagers: A guide for parents. Allen, TX: Argus Communications. (pp. 146-147)

On parents of teenagers:

“Parents of teenagers experience growing up for a second time. First time, they managed it themselves. Second time, they experience it as ally, authority figure, friend, critic, guide, resource aid, loving mother or father. It is never the same from one generation to the next or even from one child to the next, but the shared experience is humanly fulfilling in the deepest sense.

“If shared deeply and conscientiously, the growing-up process renews parents by directing them not only outwardly towards teenagers and their world but also inwardly toward themselves as  individuals. Looking at the child as a reflection of themselves brings self-examination. It is an enriching experience for the basic reason that the ‘unexamined life if not worth living.’ It is an incomparable human experience of passing on life and commitment to life – of building the future, a thoroughly Christian act of optimism.”

 

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2004). Mission possible: Where we've been, where we're going in high school religious education 1950-2003. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association. (pp. 82-84)

On youth going to parish liturgies and developing a relationship with God:

“What about parish liturgies? … Everybody knows the answer to that one. Parish liturgies were ‘boring.’ Young people ‘didn’t get anything out of them.’ …

“To address this problem…I would ask my students:

“Are you bored in class? (Yes!) Do you feel smarter at three o’clock than you did at nine a.m.? (No.) Are you clearly wiser on Friday afternoon than you were on the previous Monday morning? (No.) And yet a remarkable thing happens every year between September and June. I see you guys grow in wonderful ways. You become better at so many things…. How did it happen? Not just because of those stimulating sessions that occasionally make school exciting, but during the prosaic, ordinary hours and days when you kept at your work in the face of humdrum routine. Because you want to be educated and think it is important, you stick it out, and it pays off.

“This is the way God works, too. Do not look for immediate perceptible result from your sacramental meetings with Christ. That is like checking a plant everyday to see if it has grown. Relationships need time to develop and deepen, and they are nourished by fidelity and perseverance. Your relationship with Christ is no different.

“Church is like that, too. Most of the hours spent in church are not memorable. They are occasionally comforting and even inspiring, but mostly they are routine and forgettable. But talk to some of those people who show up every weekend all their lives, and they will tell you that they are better people because of it.” 


Recommended Readings

DiGiacomo, J. (1969). “Why I believe.” In DiGiacomo, J. J. Faith. (Conscience and concern series) (pp. 49-52). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

This short essay presents the core religious convictions that grounded DiGiacomo’s efforts as a religious educator.

 

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2004). Mission possible: Where we've been, where we're going in high school religious education 1950-2003. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.

This book offers an insightful overview of pre- and post-Vatican II religious education in the Catholic Church in the United States. It also chronicles how DiGiacomo’s own approach to religious education developed, especially in the post-councilior era, as he sought to respond to trends in church and society. Additionally, the book discusses the challenges to which religious educators must respond if they are to help students learn from religious traditions and form students for religious faith.

 

DiGiacomo, J. J. (1980). When your teenager stops going to church. St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press.

DiGiacomo offers a fairly comprehensive overview of his approach to religious education at mid-career in this book. Additionally, the book thoughtfully explores an issue that is of ongoing concern to parents and other religious educators. DiGiacomo explores the dynamics of adolescent development, the social and historical context of young people’s lives, and the human drive to ask religious questions and seek the meaning of life. Only then does he turn to the issue of church involvement, showing how parents and others who are concerned about young people can ground discussions in respect for young peoples’ life perspectives and their quest to make sense of their lives. The last chapter explores how adults can bring an openness to God’s guiding presence into their discussions with youth.

 

DiGiacomo, J.  J. (1993). Morality and youth: Fostering Christian identity. Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward.

DiGiacomo’s mature perspective on the religious education of young people is presented in Morality and Youth. The book explores issues about moral education especially well. This is the most frequently referenced of DiGiacomo’s works.

 

DiGiacomo, J. J. (2007, September 10). Educating for a living faith: What does it mean to go for the gold? America, 197(6), 10-14 & DiGiacomo, J. J. (2000, January 29). Theology for teens. America, 182(3), 12-16.

When read in tandem these two articles present a fairly comprehensive overview of DiGiacomo’s approach to teaching religion in a Catholic high school. The essays also offer guidance for all religious educators about how they can interweave a focus on fostering growth and development with efforts to address underlying existential questions about the meaning of human life. Additionally, the essays discuss how religious educators can help young people understand the strengths and limitation of contemporary society and culture.

 


Author Information

Harold Daly Horell

Harold D. Horell is an assistant professor of religious education at the Fordham University Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. He teaches course in the religious and educational development of children and youth, foundations of religious education, education for peace and justice and moral education.

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