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: St Joseph’s Kingswood, St Monica’s Richmond and St Matthew’s Windsor.
Previous Parishes: Our Lady Queen of Peace Greystanes and St Nicholas of Myra Penrith.
Catholic Outlook: How did you come to join this Special Religious Education (SRE) ministry?
Antoinette Mifsud: In 1977, the parish priest of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes tapped me on the shoulder one morning after Mass and said that I would make a good scripture teacher. Not me, I thought, I was shy and didn’t read very well. Having just finished Year 10, how could I teach? But with the help of the Holy Spirit, I got up enough courage to join the ministry.
I was introduced to the parish SRE teachers and told what school I was to go to, when I was to start and what grade I was teaching. I was given a teacher’s manual and taken to the class. Then I began to teach.
Over the years I have completed training courses provided by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) and in-services to help with planning lessons. Resources are provided by both the CCD and the parish as is the support. There are workshops for various topics throughout the year and reflections for spiritual growth.
CO: How long have you been a SRE teacher?
AM: 40 years
CO: How many schools have you taught at?
AM: Six Primary schools – Greystanes Public, Kingswood Park Public, Cambridge Park Public, Cambridge Gardens Public, Werrington County Public and Kingswood Public and four Secondary schools – Richmond High, Colo High, Windsor High and Hawkesbury High.
CO: What motivates you to give up time each week to teach SRE?
AM: The love of my faith, knowing that children will learn more about God and Jesus, the love of preparing lessons, and the fact that I am getting closer to God because I too am continuously learning. So many things motivate me that it has become part of my life, it is who I am.
CO: What has been the highlight of your SRE ministry?
AM: There are so many. I think one highlight is having grown-up students come up to me and say “didn’t you used to teach scripture at such and such a school? You taught me!”, all said with a smile.
CO: What is the most joyous part of the SRE ministry?
AM: When you see the students’ faces light up while having a discussion or telling a story and you can feel that you are making a difference.
CO: What is the most challenging part of the SRE ministry?
AM: Finding a way to continuously light up those faces in each lesson.
CO: How do you prepare for a lesson?
AM: I pray – asking the Holy Spirit to inspire me and to give me the words to say. Then I go over the lesson a week in advance and think about it throughout the week. This gives me ideas as to how I would present the lesson and time to source research material, prepare any crafts or games that might go with the lesson, and find any music that might be appropriate.
CO: How have you found the SRE training sessions?
AM: I found the training sessions very helpful and encouraging. I have formed many friendships through them and have received lots of support and inspiration.
CO: What is your favourite topic to teach?
AM: I love teaching about the Catholic faith, but I think my most favourite topic would be about the Holy Spirit. He is very real to me, I’m always asking for His help and I can relate that to the children in a passionate way.
CO: What is a funny SRE experience you can share with us?
AM: I remember one time when I was walking around the room giving a lesson, I noticed a boy scribbling on the front page of his book in great, big, bold letters the word “hell”. When I reached his desk he looked up at me, seeming a bit worried. I grabbed his pencil, wrote the letter “o” looked at him and smiled as I continued teaching. He looked down at his book to see the word “hello” and smiled back.
CO: How do you believe SRE assists kids?
AM: I believe SRE assist people in becoming a complete person. God created us, mind, body and soul/spirit. SRE nourishes this spirit, education and activity nourish the mind and body. When I first enter a classroom, I point out that I am not teaching a subject, I am showing them the Catholic way of life and whatever they choose to believe in will affect their behaviour and attitude.
CO: What would you say to anyone considering becoming a SRE teacher?
AM: I would say that if you do become a SRE teacher, you will never regret it. You receive so much more than what you give.
In 40 years I have never looked back. It might not be for everyone, but you can never know how much you can give unless you try.
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.