By Elizabeth McFarlane
Standing in front of a class of 20-40 students in a state school, sharing your faith and love for God with the children, can be a daunting task. But for many catechists in the Diocese of Parramatta, it’s less of a task and more of a passion.
Cecilia Zammit is the new Director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), succeeding Paul Worthington who retired in December last year.
Part of Cecilia’s role will be supporting these catechists or Special Religious Education (SRE) teachers by providing opportunities for their own faith formation and for curriculum training.
“Most people are so modest. They think, ‘What do I know?’ But it’s not about having a theology degree. We are relaying to children the unconditional love of God through Scripture and personal faith, and a lot of people can do that,” she said.
For Cecilia, her work in the Diocese has come full circle.
From being a teacher in state schools for 18 years and at St Agnes Catholic High School for six, she has also had experience as a catechist and was part of the Spiritual Formation Team and Religious Education Team at the Catholic Education Office (CEO).
While working for CEO, Cecilia liaised closely with the Institute for Mission (IFM) for the accreditation of teachers. In 2012, she became the Acting Director for IFM before joining the Chancery in the area of Parish Support and Development.
As Director of CCD, Cecilia is entering the classroom again through her support of the catechists and believes her experience will help in this new role.
“Working with teachers has given me a greater appreciation of the commitment of the volunteers and also an understanding of their frustrations,” she said.
“I have always believed that you start with the person, the teachers themselves, feeding them and nourishing them so they can give. It’s a shared experience; I learn from them and we journey together.”
Cecilia intends to visit parishes across the Diocese to hear from catechists about their experiences.
Another part of the role of Director of CCD is to liaise with the CCD Coordinators in other dioceses and to keep abreast of NSW Government guidelines and comments regarding Scripture in state schools.
“We need to defend the right of children in state schools to religious education and make sure that classroom teaching standards are maintained,” Cecilia said.
In the Diocese of Parramatta, we are grateful to the 900 mature SREs and the 450 secondary student SREs who pay witness to their faith daily in state schools from Granville to Katoomba.
“They are all very different but what they share is a belief in the importance of passing on their faith. They feel strongly that every child should have the opportunity to learn about God,” Cecilia said.
“Each year, CCD has a focus on training and the faith formation of SREs. Great facilitators have again been lined up in 2016, starting with the Parish Coordinators meeting on 5 February where Sr Leone Pallisier OSU will lead us in prayer with a Year of Mercy focus.”
Cecilia is encouraged by the experience, commitment and skills of the Regional Coordinators who, together with Office Manager Maree Collis, form the Parramatta CCD Team.
“I really am looking forward to the new role,” Cecilia said. “I’m grateful to God for the way it’s panned out. It’s an amazing journey so far.
“I feel blessed and privileged to be leading the CCD and I look forward to working with Parish Priests and SREs in my new role.”
To find out more about being a catechist in the Diocese of Parramatta tel (02) 9890 4731 or click here