NCEA Rise: How Can We Address Disaffiliation?

Before recording their informative  podcast, Dr. Julie Vogel, NCEA Chief Content Officer, sat down with John Galvan, NCEA Vice President of Assessments, to learn about NCEA Rise fist-hand. Learn alongside Julie, about the importance of measuring Catholic teaching, in order to grow. 


Julie Vogel: Let’s start at the beginning, John. I know you have many years of experience as a high school religion teacher. From that point of view, how is it possible to measure Catholicity?

John Galvan: Great question, Julie, I would often get this question from my religion students or their parents! Faith, like hope and love, is difficult to quantify, but that doesn’t make it impossible. There are clear tenets of our Catholic faith that we can measure for levels of understanding. In addition to measuring our students’ knowledge of the faith, it’s also important that we get a sense of what they truly think and feel about it. You’ve heard the phrase, “make your faith your own”, and in order for students to do that we must have a starting point. Measuring Catholicity is much more than just memorizing facts and knowing the Sacraments, for example. It also acutely includes thoughts and feelings surrounding that knowledge. 


Julie Vogel: That is true, because as we know, something like love or true faith, can’t necessarily be taught from a textbook. With that noted, how can understanding and intellect surrounding Catholic teaching change over time?

John Galvan:  Context matters. The deposit of faith is one thing, but the transmission of faith is another. As much as we need to teach the faith, it is truly learned by our kids living the faith. This means meeting them where they are, and allowing their experiences to be part of their learning. Understanding deepens as we grow and mature, but it can’t happen on its own. The Hallow app is one great example of how the prayer traditions of our Catholic faith can be shared and taught where many of our young people live—on their mobile devices.


Julie Vogel: I love the Hallow app! With resources everywhere we look, what specifically does NCEA Rise offer to our Catholic communities?

John Galvan:  NCEA Rise supports communities of faith and learning through assessment, resources and networks to join people together. Both the ACRE for youth and IFG for adults can help schools and parishes assess their religious education programs. Both assessments are aligned to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Tasks of Catechesis. The Belonging Index for students grades 8-12, faculty/staff and families assesses the degree to which members of a school feel that they are noticed, named and known. Each assessment report comes with an online data dashboard and recommendations to improve our efforts to grow our Catholic faith.


Julie Vogel: What does it mean to be “noticed, named and known”? Where does this idea come from?

John Galvan:  We are very pleased to have partnered with Springtide Research Institute to bring the Belonging Index to our family of assessments. Belonging is the metric that matters. Springtide is committed to understanding the distinct ways new generations experience and express community, identity and meaning. Christianity at its core demonstrates that faith is born and nurtured in community. To be “noticed, named and known” establishes the right conditions for faith to grow.


Julie Vogel: What is the importance of faith formation in relation to the high levels of disaffiliation we are seeing today?

John Galvan:  Disaffiliation comes in different guises and for different reasons, but the data shows that the median age among those leaving their respective faith traditions is 13 years old. In the Catholic Church, we have seen unprecedented school closures and dwindling Church attendance in the past few years. The work of Springtide Research Institute states that only 16 percent of young people see their faith community as a place they can turn to in times of uncertainty.  Now is a critical time to assess the state of our faith in an effort to combat this and show young people that the Church is a place for them to find community. As you mentioned, Julie, there are an abundance of resources out there to support faith formation – but how useful are all these resources if you don’t know what the students in your community are needing and lacking? 


Julie Vogel: It sounds like NCEA Rise assessments are the first step to provide an avenue for our Catholic communities. If you don’t have a course in mind, you’ll never get where you are going.

What’s the next step for a superintendent or a principal who is interested in using NCEA Rise to assess their communities’ strengths?

John Galvan: I encourage dioceses and schools to visit to find more information about NCEA Rise and/or to schedule a consultation with me. All of us in Catholic education share a common mission—that those we minister to have a transformative encounter with the Living God through Jesus Christ. NCEA Rise can assist.

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