‘A thread that runs through everything’: The role of RECs in schools

By Samantha Rich, 19 June 2024
Sharon Shahoud has been a Religious Education Coordinator (REC) at Corpus Christi Primary School, Cranebrook, for the past 18 years. Image: Gene Ramirez/CSPD/Supplied


The role of a Religious Education Coordinator (REC) in Catholic schools is both busy and varied. Experienced REC Sharon Shahoud has been performing this key function for Corpus Christi Primary Cranebrook for the past 18 years, so she is immensely qualified to shed light on the work and its impact on the school community.

Completing her tertiary education at Polding College (now Australian Catholic University), Sharon said she felt called to work in Catholic schools and jumped at the opportunity to take up the role of REC at Corpus Christi in 2006.

“All these years later, I’m still loving every minute of it. I feel my work as a Religious Education Coordinator is what I have been called to do and what I always wanted to do,” she said.

Sharon sees her role as one of connection. Faith underpins every aspect of Catholic school life and is incorporated into all school events. Sharon has many opportunities to help the wider community, drive the school’s social justice and outreach initiatives, and work with a range of external agencies such as Caritas, Penrith Kitchen and St Vincent De Paul to support vulnerable members of the local and wider community.

“You are a thread that runs through everything at the school, through to the parish, out to the wider community. It’s a role I don’t take lightly,” Sharon said. “I need to make sure that community members feel confident to approach me and know that I will be able to work with teams here at school, or in collaboration with the parish or with outreach programs.”

Working with staff is also a key part of Sharon’s role, something she particularly enjoys. She spends time with teachers on a weekly basis, planning cycles of work across all subject areas and frequently serves as a mentor for staff who may be studying for their Religious Education accreditation.

“For teachers who are studying to get their RE accreditation or perhaps doing a Masters, I am here as a sort of guide on the side, so they aren’t feeling isolated or confused in the work they are doing,” said Sharon. “I also help them by providing resources they might need for their work. I’ve done all the study and I really enjoyed it. I want other people to enjoy it as well.”

Sharon Shahoud, Religious Education Coordinator (REC) at Corpus Christi Primary School; Cranebrook. Image: Gene Ramirez/CSPD/Supplied

Close collaboration between the school and parish is a significant part of Sharon’s work, and the success of the school’s sacramental program is a testament to the strong relationship at Corpus Christi.

“When I first started, the number of students taking part in the sacramental program was quite low. We worked together with our Parish Priest to make our sacramental program a vibrant part of the faith life of our school and have built it up to be quite a large program,” she said.

Partnering with families to support them to connect with their faith at home is something that Sharon also said is of great interest at her school. She encourages families to talk with their children about their faith and provides useful resources for discussion in school newsletters and by sending home ‘prayer bags’ – these contain things like rosary beads, a cross, holy cards and a cloth for setting up a sacred space at home.

“Families can take these bags out of an evening and use them with their children, it’s a really important part of allowing them to express their faith,” Sharon said.

She also recommends that parents and carers break down the scripture of the day before going to Mass on a Sunday, which “can help give children a little more insight about the homilies that the priests are presenting to us.”

Given the school’s name, the upcoming feast of Corpus Christi is a day of special significance for the community. This year, it will be a dual celebration as they welcome a new Administrator, Fr Jessie Balorio.

“We invite all of the community to join us for our Mass and the church is usually overflowing. The day is centred around community spirit and encouraging all members of the school community to ‘be the Body of Christ’,” Sharon said.

Samantha Rich is a Media and Communications Specialist at Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Ordinary Time | Winter edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


Read Daily
* indicates required