In 2019, Catholic Outlook will profile Special Religious Education (SRE) Teachers (SREs/Catechists) from around the Diocese of Parramatta and ask them about their ministry.
Connie Cassar, Blacktown Region Co-ordinator, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD)
Parish: St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong.
Catholic Outlook: How did you come to join this Special Religious Education (SRE) ministry?
Connie Cassar: I joined the ministry through my husband, Sam, who is also a catechist. I started out as a helper in Kindergarten and Year 5. After a few years, I started teaching a Year 2 class. I currently teach Kindergarten and Year 3.
CO: How long have you been a SRE teacher?
CC: Since 1990.
CO: How many schools have you taught at?
CC: Quakers Hill and Marayong Heights Public Schools and Rooty Hill Secondary School, where I taught Year 8 for one year.
CO: What motivates you to give up time each week to teach SRE?
CC: I am motivated to remind the students of God’s unconditional love and that Jesus is their friend. I am also motivated in getting to know the students, their names and building a rapport with them.
CO: What has been the highlight of your SRE ministry?
CC: Seeing my students writing their own prayers and listening to their heartfelt prayer intentions over the years.
CO: What is the most joyous part of the SRE ministry?
CC: Seeing the students’ smiles each week. It’s great to see students get involved in role plays and keen to participate in craft activities and bible games.
I also enjoy when the students recognise me outside of school i.e. at Church or at the shops, especially students who are now adults telling me they have kept the craft activities they completed as children e.g. Easter crosses, Christmas rocking baby Jesus and Pentecost doves.
CO: What is the most challenging part of the SRE ministry?
CC: The limited amount of SRE time of 30 minutes in the classroom, which realistically is only about 20 minutes. It’s a challenge to get through the planned lesson.
CO: How do you prepare for a lesson?
CC: Planning in advance is a must, preparing resources including music, flashcard, pictures, books and especially craft. I also make sure to prepare a run sheet for each lesson to keep me on track!
CO: How have you found the SRE training sessions?
CC: I completed all three levels of the CCD course when I first started many years ago. As regional coordinator and working as a presenter, it’s wonderful to see the SREs gain more confidence and skills and implementing their learnings when they start teaching.
It’s rewarding to see the SREs inspired to complete all three levels. The CCD courses offer many great topics with many practical components for the classroom in level 1 on classroom management techniques and the curriculum. Level 2 offers a deeper understanding of faith of the students and of the SRE teacher. Level 3 focuses on the study of scriptures and offers faith formation opportunities for the Catechist.
CO: What is your favourite topic to teach?
CC: Stories about Jesus – who He was and is today and how to treat others with care and love with Jesus as a good example.
CO: What is a funny SRE experience you can share with us?
CC: I asked my kindergarten class, “What can you remember about the Christmas story”? One student replied, “Mary and Joseph had to go far away to be counted for the fives senses,” meaning the census.
CO: What has been the toughest question a child has asked you?
CC: Why do people suffer and where is God in this?
CO: How do you believe SRE assists kids?
CC: SRE teaches the students the Catholic Church beliefs and traditions. SRE is a good place for the students to have the opportunity to ask questions about God and their faith. A safe place where the students can feel comfortable with their peers to speak freely.
SRE gives the students the opportunity to hear more about God, through the Old Testament and hear about Jesus, through the New Testament stories.
Each year it’s important to me, the students in my care had the opportunity to understand more about the love of God and Jesus is their friend.
CO: What would you say to anyone considering becoming a SRE teacher?
CC: It’s a very rewarding ministry, sharing the faith with the Catholic children who attend the state schools. It’s an opportunity to learn more about your faith.
This ministry has strengthened my faith through teaching and research.
Being supported by an on-going network at meetings with the SREs and Parish Coordinator at parish level.
The CCD provides the curriculum and resources, classroom support where needed, SRE training course, throughout the year, day and evening sessions and reflective and faith formation days throughout year.
For more information about becoming a Special Religious Educator, please contact either your parish office, parish priest or the Diocese of Parramatta’s Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) office (www.parracatholic.org/ccd-home) or on 02 8838 3486.