Students in Catholic schools share their faith
|Catechist Coordinator Clare Thompson with student catechists Nicole Chandra, Jennifer McDonald and Emily Smith. Photo: Virginia Knight|
Originally published in Catholic Outlook May
By Virginia Knight
In the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta, more than 1250 catechists (SREs) share their knowledge and faith with Catholic students in 230 primary, special and secondary public schools.
Their ministry is supported by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Office in Parramatta, which receives funding from the DWF Appeal.
The CCD is a service and support ministry to the 48 parishes of the Diocese, offering curricula resources and conducting accreditation courses, providing inservice opportunities, personal support, and ongoing formation to catechists and SRE coordinators.
At present, 19 Catholic high schools and about 340 senior student catechists are involved in, or are in the process of joining, this ministry.
The CCD Director, Paul Worthington, said their numbers were set increase this year.
“It is wonderful to see the youth working in conjunction with our young-at-heart catechists in parishes. It is enriching for the whole parish team plus a hope for the future and a great benefit for students in state schools,” he said.
“The program has also assisted in the personal development of the student catechists as many have progressed to take up careers in teaching, particularly in Catholic schools.”
The involvement of Catholic senior secondary students with Special Religious Education in state primary schools began at Caroline Chisholm College, Glenmore Park, in the late 1990s.
It is now an integral part of the religious education curriculum at the college, which emphasises prayer, liturgy and participation, in the footsteps of Caroline Chisholm.
Today, 50 students in Years 11 and 10 are Special Religious Educators at Glenmore Park Primary School.
Clare Thompson is the Catechist Coordinator at the college. Clare said the program was enthusiastically embraced by the students with applications consistently exceeding the places available. The students enter the program in Year 10 and progress through to Term 3 in Year 11, concluding at the beginning of their Year 12 studies.
At weekly meetings the students review the previous week’s class and discuss ideas for the coming week. Lesson plans and resources are examined, planning what they will use or need.
“The girls have become very good at answering the younger students’ questions, always remembering that they are the bishop’s representative in the classroom,” Clare said.
“It is about sharing their faith with students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of their Catholic faith. The girls fulfil that role, develop self-confidence and consolidate their own faith.”
Jennifer McDonald, currently in Year 11, is planning a career in teaching. “The experience and basic skills I have gained have given me some direction as to whether I want to follow this as my career,” she said. “I have learned how to work with young children and how to respond to their demands in the classroom.”
Fellow Year 11 student Emily Smith, who is considering a career in law, said the experience had strengthened her faith. “It has reaffirmed my faith and understanding of Christianity. Some of the children are really interested and some ask questions on different aspects of faith. You give the answers you think are appropriate for their age, linking it back to the Catholic faith and God.”
Nicole Chandra, also in Year 11, while unsure of her future career path reflects that the organisational and planning skills she has learnt will assist her in the future. “I thought this was a good opportunity to try something new and I feel that as Catholics we need to teach young people about their faith and Church teaching.”
The program has also strengthened the school’s place in the local community. “When parents see how confident our girls are and the supportive environment, it can affect their decision to choose Caroline Chisholm as a possible high school for their children,” Clare said.
“At Caroline Chisholm we inspire them to follow God and live out their Catholic identity; to follow Christ, and fulfil His teachings by leading our life in His example.”
Your donation to the DWF Appeal will help the CCD to train and coordinate volunteers and to develop SRE resources for this vital ministry.For information about becoming a catechist contact Maree Collis or Paul Worthington in the CCD Office in Parramatta tel (02) 9890 4731 or visit the CCD website
Faith at Work is the theme of the Diocesan Works Fund (DWF) Appeal being held in parishes and Catholic schools throughout the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta during May. This appeal is an opportunity to act together as a diocesan family to support ministries and services that no single individual or parish can offer.
You can donate through your parish or school or online at Faith at Work: www.faithatwork.org.au
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