Good News for Religious Education in State Schools in 2017

By Cecilia Zammit, 9 February 2018
Director of CCD, Cecilia Zammit. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Diocese of Parramatta, is the agency of the Catholic Church that coordinates, trains and guides the volunteer catechists who go into state schools in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to share their faith and instruct children in the teachings of the Catholic Church.  What a year it has been!

NSW Government commends Special Religious Education

In April, the NSW Independent Review of Special Religious Education reported its findings, and contrary to some media reports, it found SRE, particularly in the Catholic context, to be of “a very high standard. It bolsters the sense of community in a school and has the support of public school principals and staff”. The Review findings noted 92% of state primary schools and 81% of state secondary schools in NSW hold SRE classes and acknowledged that “SRE contributes to students’ understanding of their cultural heritage and is an avenue for their spiritual care.”

This news has been well received and appreciated by SRE providers, including the Diocese of Parramatta, and has been a source of encouragement to keep ‘the fires going’. It must be acknowledged that there are extreme groups who are interested in a political agenda and not what is best for the students, and that continues to unsettle the wider community.

Moving beyond this challenge, CCD takes heart and is encouraged by Most Rev Peter Ingham, Bishop of Wollongong’s vote of thanks at Parliament House after the Review findings were delivered when he said, “across NSW, well over 200 000 students take part in SRE and there remains a strong acceptance and gratitude for the work of more than 11,000 accredited volunteer teachers from their local communities, from families and from schools themselves.” CCD Diocese of Parramatta is part of this important ministry of the Church! 

More catechists needed for growing program

Parishes are always looking for new volunteers to this ministry, so I encourage you speak to your parish office about becoming an assistant SRE in 2018 and ask to see the new brochures.

An initiative in 2017 has been two issues of the Diocesan Catechist Newsletter. The May and November editions of the new Catechist News can be found at your parish church, the CCD office and at parracatholic.org/category/ccd/. This newsletter links SREs across parishes, celebrates achievements, informs and updates them in their ministry and contains interesting and easy seasonal craft ideas for school and home.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the Regional Coordinators of the CCD who are generous with their time, knowledge and experience in supporting each parish and training SRE teachers. This ultimately improves the quality of SRE teaching.

The commitment of so many faithful volunteers is inspiring – women and men of all ages who consistently turn up to their classes to share their faith. Western Sydney and Blue Mountains is a better place because of their dedication!

Our student catechist program continues to grow and in 2017 senior students from 20 Catholic Colleges across the Diocese of Parramatta were trained and authorised to assist in local primary state school SRE classes. Student catechists report the joy they experience in meeting and working with the younger students and how it is forming their own faith. Thank you to their teachers in the Catholic Colleges who support the students in this ministry.

All the blessings of the Christ Child at Christmas to you and your families

As we grow nearer to the beautiful season of Christmas, we recall with wonder the birth of Jesus Christ. Let us be people of joy, sharing love, hope, peace and good will to all we meet, so that every heart can be warmed by the love of Jesus.

By Cecilia Zammit, Director CCD, Diocese of Parramatta

 

This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.

At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.

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