Using my religion


26 Oct 2014

Coming to know God takes time; forming your faith is a journey upon which you encounter many influential people. Who are these characters? What can we learn from them?

I was reminded of this one Sunday when I met my former school chaplain, Fr Ebert. He was filling in for the local parish priest, and, as he did some 20 years ago, he made God so real, so close, and so pertinent.

And it got me thinking. Who else has shaped who I am as a young Christian? My parents first and foremost; steadfast in faith and action; and persistent when I was not. Father Pat Murray, a larrikin parish priest from Ireland who brought his love for and invigoration of the Gospels to the bush. The Marist Brothers and Sisters of Mercy who shared their charisms with the community they so willingly served.

Obvious choices, yes. But not so apparent, yet integral all the same, were the men and women who braved the classroom environ day in and day out to teach Religious Education. A challenging role which I have adopted in the last two years.

Why challenging you may ask? RE is an academic subject, deserving of the same rigour and dedication other subjects receive. But at times the content is of a highly personal nature. Classrooms today are religious melting pots; many faiths, questioning faith, aghast at faith. It makes for interesting, at times intense, discussion. I’ve come to discover that it’s about being respectful but not apologetic. Strong in conviction, I want to share my knowledge, understanding, and passion for the subject. I’ve come to realise it’s about meeting students where they’re at – akin to Jesus and Peter – and accompanying them, perhaps challenging their pre-conceived ideas, but not indoctrinating them. It’s encouraging them to see there is a place for religion and faith in our increasingly secular society.

Teaching RE is a steep learning curve. And although there are trips and falls along the way, there is something fulfilling in knowing a seed is being planted and has the potential to niggle at someone; the niggle which spurs questioning of something greater. That’s why it’s refreshing the ACU is investing time, energy and resources into developing and enhancing RE teacher training. It’s essential we find ways as educators to broaden the minds of young people. As Pope Francis writes: ” educating is an important mission, which draws young people to what is good, beautiful and true”. That’s what faith really is.

Helen Jacobs is a Catholic highschool teacher specialising in Religious Education and English.
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