Transmission of knowledge, formation of the heart

01/08/2012

University of Notre Dame News Story
Most Rev Bishop Michael Kennedy, Bishop of Armidale, opens the inaugural conference.

Director of Evangelisation and Religious Education for the Diocese of Parramatta, Ian Smith, has delivered a keynote speech at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s inaugural Conference for Religious Educators.

Held at the University’s Sydney Campus in June, the conference brought together more than 75 Catholic educators, including Bishops, priests, teachers, education students and professionals involved in all aspects of Catholic education. Some delegates came from as far afield as Melbourne and Perth.

The two-day conference was opened by Most Rev Bishop Michael Kennedy, Bishop of Armidale, who - fittingly in this Year of Grace - delivered a keynote address on cooperating with grace in religious education.

"Teachers and all those involved in religious education are cooperating with God’s grace," Bishop Kennedy said.

"Religious education is not merely the giving of knowledge, nor is it the giving of faith. It is God who gives us faith. It is the work of educators, be they parents, priests, or teachers, simply to nurture this organism. It is our work to keep the flame alive and if the flame ever goes out, to re-kindle it. God put the fire in us; we simply have to re-stoke it."

Conference attendees engaged with interactive addresses by experienced religious education professionals, including Professor Chris Hackett from Notre Dame’s Fremantle Campus and Janette Davidson, Director of Family Life Services, Diocese of Broken Bay, both of whom offered insights and strategies into providing a dynamic Catholic education in a contemporary context.

Understanding the great mystery

In his keynote speech, Ian Smith set the scene by highlighting that there is little point in teaching children about religion in religious education classes; they need to be taught in such a way that their faith is developed.

Keynote speaker Anthony Cleary, Director of Religious Education, Archdiocese of Sydney, went on to challenge participants to articulate their vision for contemporary Catholic education.

"One of the central aspects that we would consider to be foundational in Catholic schools and Catholic education is that it’s not just about the transmission of knowledge, it is about formation of the heart," Mr Cleary said.

"We wish to increase the level of knowledge and understanding of our young people. We need to give back to them a vocabulary through which they can understand the great mystery they are a part of as Christians; so they can be scripturally literate; so they can develop an understanding of the great moral and ethical issues we face. We must ensure that those who lead them are witnesses to faith, that they are able to teach  generations of young people not only to go out and cope with society, but to change it for the better."

Greater faith and hope

Feedback from those attending the conference was overwhelmingly positive. Ben Salvosa, Religious Education Teacher at Kincoppal Rose Bay, said he found the event an excellent opportunity for professional development.

"I became more aware of the pertinent issues in religious education and gained new insight about student behaviour and attitudes towards religion," Mr Salvosa said.

"It was reassuring to meet teachers with similar concerns about, and experiences with, teaching RE."

Conference attendee Mishel Stefanac said the conference impacted heavily on her approach to teaching and also nurtured her faith.

"Not only did I leave the conference with greater faith and hope, I returned to my classroom with a new awareness of the importance of my role as a teacher in Catholic Education," Ms Stefanac said.

The conference was organised by Dr Gerard O’Shea, Associate Professor of Religious Education at Notre Dame and Senior Lecturer in Religious Education and Family Ministry at the John Paul II Institute of Marriage and Family, Melbourne.

Professor Marguerite Maher, Dean of the School of Education, said she was delighted that the conference could take place at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

"We are so focused on preparing our students to be really excellent teachers for our children; and our reason d’être is to provide the very best teachers to Catholic schools. A major part of this is for them to be excellent teachers of Religious Education," Professor Maher said.


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