The Catholic University of America

 Final Examination of 

Peter Schafer

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy 


Catechetical Service-Learning: Strengthening the Community Service Component of Catechesis Through the Application of Service-Learning Principles and Practices.

Director: Margaret Schreiber, S.T.D.

Community service is a common component in secular and Catholic high school education as well as in catechetical situations, particularly in Confirmation preparation and youth ministry programs.  In the catechetical context, the value of community service is affirmed, but the integration of these experiences within sacramental preparation and on-going faith formation is often lacking.  Frequently, community service is treated as an appendage rather than an integral aspect of catechesis, which in and of itself, does not often lead to a life-long commitment to love and serve others.  Community service has the potential to enhance catechetical formation but methods of integrating service into the catechetical endeavor need to be more fully developed to actualize its potential.

This study is a literature review which incorporates the scholarship from diverse sources into a model of Catechetical Service-Learning.  The first chapter provides a theology of Christian service using the themes of discipleship, witness, and mission of charity found in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Rite of Baptism for Children, and the Rite of Confirmation.  The second chapter explains the use of service in catechesis through a review of the Christian service themes in the catechetical directories and other official catechetical documents.  The third chapter summarizes the key principles and practices of service-learning from the secular literature that can be applied to catechetical situations.  The fourth chapter presents current methods of catechesis and how they incorporate the service component.

The results indicate that Christian service is an integral aspect of formation for initiation preparation as well as on-going faith formation.  Leaders can faithfully incorporate many of the principles and practices of service-learning into catechetical situations.  Likewise, current methods of catechesis can benefit from adopting principles and practices of service-learning.

This study shows that incorporating the model of Catechetical Service-Learning into all catechetical situations, but especially Confirmation preparation, Catholic school religion classes, and youth ministry programs, has many potential positive implications.  Catechetical Service-Learning that is Christocentric, reflective, communal, and transformative is an opportunity to encounter God, deepen one’s faith, and positively impact the greater community.

Biographical Data


Peter earned his undergraduate degree in Theology from Ohio Dominican University in 2002.  While serving in a parish as a Coordinator of Religious Education, he earned a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton in 2006.  Since then he has served as a Parish Coordinator of Youth Ministry, a Catholic high school religion teacher, and an adjunct professor of Theology at Walsh University in North Canton, OH.  While at the Catholic University of America, Peter was a teaching fellow in the FYE program.  Currently, Peter is the Director of Evangelization, Pastoral Planning, and Lay Ministry Formation Programs for the Diocese of Youngstown, OH.  Peter and his wife, Elise, have four boys – Luke, Augustine, Clement, and Peter.