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Religious Education in a Catholic School

 

 

The following draft material is provided for your use as we renew the Religious Education Curriculum Framework.

 

 

What is Religious Education?

Religion is an essential characteristic of many societies and religious knowledge is fundamental to an understanding of self, others, the world and God. Religious Education promotes an understanding of story, ethics, ritual and symbol that have shaped humanity from the earliest times. It helps students appreciate the role of prayer, beliefs, sacraments and sacred texts in people’s lives.

 

In a Catholic school, Religious Education attends to the spiritual development of each person, acknowledging and celebrating the Spirit at work, inviting relationship with God and a Christ-like stance towards others. It is at the same time a disciplined process of ‘faith seeking understanding’, where the questions of God, beliefs and life are articulated and explored within the Catholic Tradition to develop students’ faith lives and stimulate a search for meaning and truth. Religious Education is grounded in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, providing opportunities to encounter the living Christ through the holiness and brokenness of the individuals and communities we relate to.

 

Religious Education invites students to appreciate the value of Catholic faith and to respect the other faiths and worldviews that permeate Australia’s diverse society. This knowledge and understanding are essential for a rich spiritual life and for informed and committed participation in a global Church, working for the common good.

 

Religious Education in a Catholic school aims to develop:

  • appreciation and deep understanding of the richness of the Catholic Tradition
  • religious self-understanding and spiritual awareness
  • openness to religious questions and to a religious interpretation of the world
  • awareness of the diversity of voices in society and within the school
  • discernment and participation informed by the Catholic Tradition. 

How is Religious Education enacted in a Catholic school?

As pastors, principals, Religious Education leaders and teachers you exercise a very significant ministry in the Church of Melbourne under the authority of the Archbishop. Religious Education takes place throughout all learning in the Catholic school. True to the mission of the Church, learning in a Catholic school seeks the good of every person. A sense of ‘who I am’ and ‘how I can be in the world’ is nurtured in an environment of trust and intellectual inquiry, inspired by points of contact with the Catholic faith as a way of clarifying the important questions and issues that arise for teachers and students. As teachers and leaders in a Catholic school, you acknowledge a sacred aspect to teaching and learning, finding God at work in the forming and transforming power of learning. Such learning affects both teacher and student and is experienced in moments of encounter where the human spirit is turned around or led out to confront a wider horizon.

 

Religious Education is also a specific learning area with its own integrity. It seeks to animate learners through powerful teaching which develops a capacity to go deeper into their learning. Religious Education as a discipline is interpretative by nature, using dialogue to develop students’ self-understanding in light of the teachings of the Church and the scriptural account of the human person as made in the image of God. It stimulates students’ inner resources of hope, meaning and love, equipping them to grapple with the questions of ultimacy and opening their hearts and minds to the beauty, mystery and wonder of God revealed in creation and others. It creates a context in which each student is invited to look at life in a way that encourages appreciation and gratitude, inquiry and critical thinking, where the Catholic Tradition holds an explicit, preferred and robust place. 

Discussion questions

In what ways might your learning community promote Religious Education across the curriculum?

In what ways might Religious Education support students in their self-understanding or identity?

 

The Learner, Diversity and Religious Education

Catholic schools in Melbourne reflect a microcosm of our society, where learners from diverse cultures and beliefs are able to express a kaleidoscope of views. This diversity creates the context for learning and growth through rich dialogue that opens up deep questions of meaning, faith and identity construction.

 

Young people today want to hold responsibility for constructing their own beliefs.  The challenge for Catholic educators is to create communities of learning which engage young people with a Catholic faith that is filled with life, hope and meaning within this diverse context.  (HOH Context p. 10) (CEM, 2016a)

 

As educators, you are aware of the diversity of learners, who are at different stages of faith, are of different faiths, or who have no religious affiliation. Befriending this diversity and finding in it an opportunity for deep learning and faith development, the learning community offers multiple entry points into dialogue about God, faith and life in Religious Education.

 

As educators, you can anticipate a variety of possible outcomes that this dialogue may generate: 

  • Learners become more deeply rooted in their own tradition. This is understood as catechesis, where one who identifies as Catholic deepens their commitment through the witness of the faith community, and understanding of one’s own faith tradition is developed through dialogue with difference.
  • Learners discover the Catholic Tradition or rediscover the Catholic Tradition. This is understood as a first proclamation, where encounter with powerful faith witnesses and deep dialogue promote engagement with a Catholic faith perspective as an attractive option.
  • Learners of other religions become more authentically rooted in their own religion and partners in dialogue. This is understood as interreligious learning, where engagement with difference allows a new perspective to deepen understandings and appreciation of the particular contribution of one’s own faith and that of other faiths.
  • Those of no religious affiliation may come to know of the richness of the Catholic faith and how it can impact on one’s way of seeing the world and being in the world.

              

The inspiration of the Holy Spirit, moving through diversity and transforming learning, underpins your work as teachers of Religious Education, sustaining your efforts and creating new possibilities in you and all learners. 

 

Discussion questions

How can I create a learning environment that acknowledges the diversity of learners in Religious Education? How might we enter into prayer together? How might I provide for multiple entry points into conversations about God and Life? How might I provide for multiple entry points into conversations about the place of the Catholic Church and its Tradition including its theology?