A changing model of Church in evangelisation
By Paul Worthington, CCD Director, Catholic Outlook, May 2011
|Caroline Chisholm students who, with other colleges, were represented at last year’s CCD Mass in St Patrick’s Church, Blacktown. In 2011 there are 52 girls from Caroline Chisholm who teach SRE. Photography: Alphonsus Fok and Grace Lu|
Over the past few years a changing landscape has emerged within the evangelising role of the Special Religious Education (SRE) teachers and helpers within the Diocese of Parramatta.
With the heavy demand for both parents to be working to support the mortgage payment or child care or cost of living it is becoming increasingly more difficult for parents to be involved in volunteer work within society and therefore within their local Church communities.
In our Diocese an interesting trend is emerging (after all this is one of the largest, youngest and fastest-growing dioceses in Australia): we are seeing many youth and young adults becoming involved in their parish.
The past three years, in particular, have seen a swelling of our SRE ranks within the age group 16-30 to the point where approximately 15-20% of our 980 SRE teachers (2011 figures) and helpers are young people. One could readily apportion another 50-70% to SRE teachers who see themselves as “young at heart”.
Why the sudden emergence of this upward number of youth involved in the SRE ranks?
In the 2011 school year, the number of senior Catholic college students (Year 11) SREs has risen to 112 students. In 2010 there were 94 students. In 2009 there were 81 students. The impact on the growth of faith for both the Catholic students in state schools and the senior students themselves is immeasurable.
In 2012 approaches have been made to another two Catholic colleges, under the community involvement component of their RE program, for their senior students to join the ranks of the local parish SRE team.
The links between the Australian Catholic University campuses in Strathfield and North Sydney, Campion College, and The University of Notre Dame have become stronger. The appeal of teaching experience, especially in RE, has supported local parishes with youthful helpers. A number of these students have gone on to join the ranks of our Catholic school staff within the Diocese.
The linkage of Catholic students in state schools to youth groups within some parishes has provided a strong tie and encouragement to these students. The use of some of our local youth coordinators in cooperation with local SRE teams has also had a positive effect not just on the students but also the SRE team in the local parish.
The days of having our volunteers for 30 to 40 years are rapidly passing because many of these folk are also supporting their children with child minding, etc. Parishes have been extremely lucky to have the magnificent support of these wonderful people for so long.
I am completely overwhelmed each year at the Parramatta CCD Mass with the years of service some of our SRE teachers have given to this ministry. It must be wonderful for them to see the number of young people joining their ranks. Thank you to the youth who are supporting their parishes in this vital ministry. Thanks also to the 49 SRE teams who teach 20,000 Catholic students in 195 primary and special schools and in 21 state secondary schools across the Diocese.
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