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Posted on 2 May 2019
News from ACU

Living Spirit News

Dean's reflection

The area of the school curriculum we currently call religious education has been variously named over the years: religious instruction, catechetics, religion and Christian doctrine, to name some. These different names were usually associated with changes in pedagogical practices or emphases: catechesis, kerygmatic renewal, experiential approach, and shared Christian praxis. At the present time what we are doing in the space we call religious education is in a state of flux. Some would say confusion. Cognisant of this context, two years ago, the National Education Commission, through its RE and Faith Formation Committee produced the document, Religious Education Framing Paper.

In evaluating and designing new religious education curriculum many have found this document useful; an effective compass in a somewhat confused landscape. But what we all continue to grapple with is that religious education as we currently define it is anchored on two fragile premises. One, that school RE builds on the catechetical experience of the home and parish, and secondly, that RE teachers are themselves well formed, committed people of faith. We are on shaky ground. More students than ever do not have the experience of explicit faith practice in the home and just as many, if not more, have no connection with parish life. Similarly, while Catholic schools are staffed by teachers who are intuitively inclined to the raison d'être of the Catholic school, and indeed explicitly contribute to its religious identity and character, they do not engage in the life of faith beyond the school in which they are employed.

This reality sits within a cultural context where 'faith and life', as Pope Paul VI framed it, have little to say to one another. What does one do? Despair? Retreat to an enclave where the informed and the committed lament the fall around them? I think not. We inhabit a space of exploration and opportunity, a space that calls us to imagination, risk and deep trust in the Spirit who will guide us and enthuse us, if we but only listen and trust.

It was in this spirit that the ACU La Salle Academy convened its National Religious Education Colloquium to explore, what has become the title of the report of the proceedings: Ways Forward in Religious Education. A link to the report appears elsewhere in this newsletter and it is a document which will shape the work of the La Salle Academy as it seeks to more effectively inform the way ACU prepares and develops teachers and leaders for Catholic schools.

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