Meet Catholic Education’s new Director of Mission, Monica Officer who is leading a dedicated team in implementing an inspirational new Religious Education curriculum within the Diocese.
Recent endorsement by the NSW Education Standards Authority of a new Religious Education (RE) Curriculum for students across the Diocese has been an important milestone in a journey that began several years ago. For Catholic Education’s Director of Mission, Monica Officer, this is a significant journey that she feels humbled to be involved in.
“This curriculum is very powerful and I feel humbled to be a part of it and to build on the outstanding efforts of predecessors, families, parents and teachers who have worked on it,” Monica said.
In response to the “signs of the times”, the new approach emerged from a two-year development phase involving staff, students and parents from 37 schools, ongoing dialogue between Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, school and Diocesan leaders and input from parent and clergy advisory groups.
The new RE Curriculum calls young people to ask themselves the big questions about life, identity and belonging with the aim of nurturing students so that they can build a more compassionate and caring society through being attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible.
Prior to joining CEDP, Monica worked at the Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Broken Bay as Education Officer: Evangelisation and Catholic Formation. As a committed and faith-filled educator she brings a depth of experience in leading Catholic school communities in Religious Education and Formation and has played an important role in the writing of the draft new Religious Education curriculum since taking up her position at the beginning of Term 2.
“I remember a few years ago I was wondering about my next career move and asking myself where I should go. I realised that I had the question all wrong. The question and answer came to me through prayer: ‘God, get me to a place where I can do your work’,” she recalled. “Once I was able to articulate that, I was led here to this opportunity to be of service and to use the gifts God has given me and build the capacity of the team so that we can all flourish.”
Monica said that story not only sums her up as a person, but that it helps to understand the purpose behind the new RE Curriculum.
“In our life and in our work, we must first start with self – unless we attend to self and address our challenges and look to use our gifts for the service of others, then we cannot affect change,” she said. “If we want to see change in the world then we need to start with ourselves and it is with that humility that we speak to in our new RE Curriculum.”
“The thing I love about the work and research that has been put into thinking about how to teach and engage students in this complex area is that our staff went straight to the students and asked them what their faith meant to them,” Monica said. “It is brilliant and so obvious and has been a moment of grace from beginning to end.”
Monica said this insight helped to inform the different questions and understanding students have about their faith to create an RE Curriculum that engages them from pre-school right through to Year 12.
“It puts students at the front and centre of their learning,” she said. “We want them to look inward to discover a meaningful and flourishing life. To ask themselves: “What does my faith mean to me?”, “What am I called to do?”, “What are my gifts that can be of service?”’.
“This is calling on us for change, and change for the better,” Monica said. “We have an exciting time ahead of us and there are still some significant challenges we have to face.”
A recent challenge has been the COVID-19 pandemic. With restrictions changing the way we live, work and learn, Monica said it has also been an opportunity to reimagine what service to others looks like.
“During this pandemic, we have all found new ways to work and part of our work with teachers and schools in these COVID-19 times is that we have an amazing capacity for our staff to use their flexibility, creative thinking and collaborative skills to bring people together,” she said.
“Our role has been focused around how we translate these big ideas and big questions about our faith into real life learning and how we can best implement it in order for them to understand it, to learn it, to love it and to live it.”
Monica said she has been overwhelmed by the dedication and commitment of each member of the Mission team and looks forward to seeing the new RE Curriculum in action.
With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.