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    Personal Story

     Faith-and-ID 

    Kerry Willcox-McGinnes
    Principal
    Mary Immaculate School, Ivanhoe

    Last year, I was fortunate to participate in the Principals Professional Learning Program looking at Catholic identity. The program was based in Leuven, Belgium, at the Katholieke Universiteit (Catholic University). A well-planned itinerary – including Rome, Brussels, Paris and the Netherlands – allowed us to immerse ourselves in European culture and to make vital comparisons with Australian culture. 

    The real learning for me came from the exposure to new thought around critical issues such as the identity of Catholic schools through the Enhancing Catholic Identity Process areas of Theoretical Backgrounds and Empirical Operationalisation, Children’s Spirituality, and Leadership and Spirituality. A broad span of lectures promoted deep thought and broad discussion among the group and challenged our thinking around Catholic identity.

    The Chapel of Disclosure in Brussels was a particularly moving experience. The chapel was bare except for a few wooden stools and we took in nothing other than ourselves and sat with God. It was not comfortable at first because the visuals that we rely on to connect us to God were not there. 

    The experience provided a new freedom to engage with God without the restrictions of tradition or accepted rituals. It was as though that chapel was nothing until we walked in there! It was a powerful experience and one that I believe we should explore in our schools: when we, faith-filled individuals, sit with the bare bones of our faith and allow ourselves to contemplate and embrace change, we allow new possibilities to come forward. Critical to this is dialogue with our community, particularly our younger people, where we really listen to what they think about Catholic identity today.

    The Leuven program has enabled me to look at the re-contextualisation of our faith with new eyes and to lead my community to a new faith-filled space.

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    Religious Education & Catholic Identity

    Main Activities

    Religious Education Conference 2014

    A highlight of the 2014 calendar, the Religious Education Conference was held at the Catholic Leadership Centre on 24–25 July.

     Over 300 delegates from schools and parishes throughout the Archdiocese attended the conference, where keynote presentations were given by:

    • Professor Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee
    • Professor Annemie Dillen, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Chair of the Academic Centre for Practical Theology at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium
    • John L Allen, Jr, Associate Editor of the Boston Globe, specialising in news about the Catholic Church. Before moving to the Globe in 2014, John worked for 16 years in Rome as a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and an analyst of Vatican affairs for CNN and NPR (National Public Radio).

    The theme of the conference was: You too can become all flame. All present were encouraged to be ‘flame’ and witness to Christ, in their work in schools and parishes as they attempt to witness the Catholic faith to others.

    The next RE Conference will be held in 2016.

     

    Enhancing Catholic School Identity

    The Enhancing Catholic School Identity Project is an initiative designed to assist schools to better understand how their Catholic identity is expressed in work and practice, and to support them in their future development.

    The 2014 Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI) survey in the Archdiocese of Melbourne registered 93 schools, all of which undertook the ECSI survey for the first time.

    These schools were strongly supported in their understanding of ECSI and the preferred stances and provided with modelling and practise regarding data literacy in order to interpret the survey results. Schools were supported through:

    • the three-day professional learning program, ‘Leading Catholic Identity and School Improvement’
    • school visits from CEOM staff to primary and secondary schools
    • the use of the guide, Understanding and Interpreting the Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI) Report of Your School.

    This three-fold approach contributed to the capacity of schools to engage with the data and the theological underpinnings of ECSI, enabling school leaders and staff to begin to realise ways in which they might enhance the Catholic identity of their schools.

    ECSI and Catholic identity continue to influence the work of a growing number of staff groups within the CEOM, who recognise and act on diverse and rich opportunities for explicit references to Catholic identity across their work. In the past twelve months, important initiatives have been undertaken by various teams with each successfully including and making specific connections with Catholic identity in their work, how it relates to the work of the organisation and how it meets the needs of the communities that are served.

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    Support for Leaders of Religious Education

    Primary 

    In 2014 the CEOM continued to offer professional learning to Religious Education Leaders (RELs) in primary schools. Specific support was offered to those beginning in the role through a spaced learning induction program. Collegial support for all RELs was maintained through regional network meetings. These meetings and programs were designed to build the capacity of RELs as key supports for the faith leadership of primary school principals.

     

    Secondary 

    Leaders of Religious Education and Faith Development in secondary schools were supported to empower their teachers to provide rich and relevant Religious Education curriculum within a faith-filled environment. Programs in 2014 included:

    • twilight forums, which offered participants the opportunity to explore current issues
    • Regional Network meetings which offered RELs the chance to share issues related to their RE programs and discuss current initiatives and opportunities provided by the CEOM and other archdiocesan offices
    • the biennial RE Conference
    • formation days, which offered secondary teachers seeking accreditation to teach in a Catholic school the chance to explore various aspects of the Catholic faith tradition.

    As a result of ongoing discussions with RELs an initiative was undertaken to review the teaching resource Coming to Know Worship and Love by the CEOM with REL participation. The review has led to the commencement of activities for a renewal of the Religious Education Curriculum Framework document to better support Religious Education teachers in their use of To Know, Worship and Love. This initiative will continue throughout 2015.

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    Catechist Support

    The Catechist team offers support and formation to the parishes of the Archdiocese of Melbourne for the provision of Religious Education to Catholic students who do not attend Catholic schools. In 2014, 296 catechists and parish personnel from 57 different parishes participated in 32 days of professional learning. This number included 19 catechists from the Chaldean Catholic community, participating in four days of the Catechist Diploma course conducted on Saturdays in the second half of the year.

    Twenty-four catechists graduated with awards presented by Archbishop Denis Hart at a Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

    Further support for catechists in 2014 included:

    • direct support via visits, email and telephone contact
    • the Good News for Catechists journal
    • the writing of ‘Seeking to Live the Good News’, a program for parish Religious Education classes.
    • education officers (catechists) attended the National Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Conference and participated in the network via eConferences.

    In addition, catechists visiting government schools to conduct Catholic Special Religious Instruction (CSRI) were supported through training and lesson outlines. A key focus of the Catechist team has been the reworking of lessons for catechists visiting government schools as Catholic Special Religious Instructors.

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    Leadership in Faith

    All principals who are appointed to the position for the first time in the Archdiocese of Melbourne participate in a two-year induction program. The Religious Education and Catholic Identity team play a significant role in providing input for this program in relation to faith formation.

    Opportunities are offered for principals to reflect on what it means to be the principal of a Catholic school. Time is spent reflecting on the key leadership role the principal has in maintaining and enhancing the Catholic identity of the school. Some specific focus areas covered included: Leading a Faith Community, Prayer, Being in relationship with God, Living the Catholic Tradition, Image of God, and Catholic Social Teaching.

    Principals Professional Learning Program

    From late September through to the end of October 2014, a group of twelve principals and members of Catholic Education Offices across Victoria participated in the Principals Professional Learning Program at the Katholieke Universiteit (Catholic University) in Leuven, Belgium. This intensive study course combined a mixture of theological studies and visits to Catholic schools and education offices in different parts of Western Europe. The program offered all participants an opportunity to reflect on the Catholic identity of schools, both internationally and here in Australia.

    This program challenged all participants to reflect on what they believe Catholic schools should be today. The program certainly reminded all involved that we must continue to work as hard as we can to ensure that the Catholic story continues to be told in our schools.

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    Professional Learning Programs

    A total of 833 school staff from 263 schools participated in one or more of 24 Religious Education professional learning program in 2014. These programs addressed a range of areas including Catholic identity, teacher formation, faith leadership, scripture, theology, meditation, liturgy and prayer.

     

    PROFESSIONAL LEARNING CATEGORY NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS
    2014 RE Conference 294
    Theology Forums 34
    Meditation 104
    Induction Programs 47
    Formation 90
    Prayer, Liturgy and Sacraments 100
    Catholic identity 311
    Teaching and Learning 64

    In addition, parish catechists were offered support through 14 formation and professional learning programs designed to address their specific needs and situation. These programs attracted 289 enrolments from 55 parishes.

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    Other Initiatives 

    Accreditation

    The Accreditation to Teach in a Catholic School policy aims to assist all teachers in Catholic schools to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of the school as part of the Church’s mission and the role they play in that mission. The Accreditation to Teach Religious Education policy is designed to support teachers of Religious Education.

    In 2014 there was a:

    • 20% increase in approved applications for Accreditation to Teach RE
    • 93% increase in approved applications for Accreditation to Teach in a Catholic School.
       
    Accreditation Number of Applicants
    Accreditation to Teach in a Catholic School 484
    Accreditation to Teach Religious Education in a Catholic School 362

    Over 450 applications were received from schools and other institutions for approval of in-house accreditation as part of the completion of requirements of Policy 1.6 for Accreditation to Teach in a Catholic School.

    In 2014, a three-minute information video was produced and uploaded to the CEOM website, giving information to prospective new teachers as well as to schools who may wish to utilise it for their staff professional development. A new Frequently Asked Questions for Accreditation document was also made available on the CEOM website to address the many enquiries about Accreditation.

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    Religious Education Sponsorship 

    The CEOM offers sponsorship to teachers interested in pursuing further studies in Theology or Religious Education. In 2014, 220 teachers were sponsored to undertake studies in Religious Education and Theology.

    Religious Education Sponsorship Number of Accepted Applications
    Primary Secondary Total
    Sponsorship for studies towards Accreditation to Teach Religious Education in a Catholic School 176 25 201
    Sponsorship for Further Studies in Theology and Religious Education 9 10 19*

    *The majority of teachers sponsored for further study applied for the Masters of Religious Education course at Australian Catholic University and the Graduate Certificate in Guiding Meditation at Catholic Theological College.

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