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.
Parish: The Parish of Richmond
Catholic Outlook: How did you come to join this Special Religious Education (SRE) ministry?
Irene Galea: My firstborn child, Thomas, was about 9-months-old when my sister-in-law, Carmen Galea, asked me to join the rest of the Galea mums who were teaching SRE at Grose View Public School. She invited me to become involved as an assistant and bring Thomas along (back then we could bring our children along as long as we were able to manage) and see how I go.
At that time Catholic SRE classes were held in the Library in grade groups and about a dozen of my nephews and nieces were a part of these classes. I thoroughly enjoyed my first encounter and you could say this was my hooking into my journey as an SRE.
CO: How long have you been a SRE teacher?
IG: I have been an SRE for 24 years, with an 18-month break while travelling around Australia.
CO: How many schools have you taught at?
IG: I have taught at four primary schools in the Parish of Richmond – Grose View, Richmond, Kurrajong and Londonderry, and have assisted at one secondary school for a short period of time.
CO: What motivates you to give up time each week to teach SRE?
IG: My motivator for teaching SRE each week is knowing that I am sharing God’s love while doing something I love.
CO: What has been the highlight of your SRE ministry?
IG: This is a very difficult question, because there have been many highlights as an SRE. However, one of my top highlights has been receiving my 20 Years Papal Blessing award – not so much for the acknowledgment from the Diocese and the Church but more self-realisation and acknowledgment of my commitment and dedication to this fulfilling role in my life.
CO: What is the most joyous part of the SRE ministry?
IG: My most joyous moment of my SRE ministry is that moment of “Epiphany” when I could feel the Holy Spirit reaching out and engaging each and every child in the classroom.
CO: What is the most challenging part of the SRE ministry?
IG: The most challenging part of my ministry was when I was confronted with a challenging class of Year 5 and 6 students. I felt as though everything I was trying was failing, that I lacked control and wanted to quit SRE teaching for good.
I remember speaking to the principal and discussing the situation with him. He advised me that this group of students were causing issues across the board and with his reassurance and support, I was able to develop the confidence needed to regain control of the class.
CO: How do you prepare for a lesson?
IG: I ensure that my lesson is always well-planned and before beginning class, I pray to God, the Holy Spirt and my Guardian Angel.
CO: How have you found the SRE training sessions?
IG: I have always enjoyed SRE training sessions and courses. They have always provided me with such useful tools and resources that I have needed to equip myself as an SRE. The trainers have always been so helpful and supportive and has reassured me that a great team are always there to help us on our journey including the wonderful support from Carol Vella.
I also enjoyed meeting other passionate SRE’s who are also able to share their tips of the trade.
CO: What is your favourite topic to teach?
IG: I love to teach about the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. I feel every person has been blessed with special gifts and talents and identifying and learning how to use these gifts for God’s purpose forms part of each faith journey.
CO: What is a funny SRE experience you can share with us?
IG: One of my Year 2 students would give me a small microphone to dangle around my neck when taking class to help her hear (as she had hearing difficulties). After the SRE lesson finished, I drove home with this microphone still dangling around my neck and it wasn’t until I looked in the mirror that I realised I still had it on me. The school had been trying to ring me on my mobile, but it was on silent. I raced back up to the school and returned the microphone, the two receptionists laughing as I walked in.
CO: What has been the toughest question a child has asked you?
IG: The toughest question a child asked me was if his mother, who had passed away the year before, was really in heaven.
CO: How do you believe SRE assists kids?
IG: SRE assists kids by providing them with the opportunity to develop their spiritual journey of faith with God.
CO: What would you say to anyone considering becoming a SRE teacher?
IG: If you are thinking about becoming an SRE, give it a go! Start off as an assistant and see if it is for you. If it is, then do the training provided and throw your heart and soul into it! I used to think my life was too busy for SRE but after becoming an SRE I realised I am just a busy person full stop! You always make time for the things you want to do!
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.