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Catholic teacher blog: Out into the deep

Bruce Carr  |  10 October 2019

Last year the Parramatta Diocese, inspired by Bishop Vincent, his Coat of Arms and motto Duc in Altum, went out into the deep.

The team, teachers and staff from the Catholic Education Office began a journey to rewrite the Religious Education curriculum from a Jesus Kingdom perspective, from the bottom up.

Taking the 3000 responses from students, the team used student survey responses to create learning cycles that answered students’ wonderings.

St Pauls College, Greystanes, NSW, students were challenged by new learning cycle ‘Let It Reign’ to think differently about the Reign of God.

Inquiry pedagogy

Using an inquiry pedagogy, students were just given the title of the learning cycle ‘Let It Reign’ and asked for their thoughts on where that cycle would take them.

After the initial shock of such a question, responses came flying, including that we had spelt rain incorrectly, (this student some 10 weeks later would produce a response far beyond anything he had submitted prior). After a robust discussion the students identified that the learning cycle would be directed by their wonderings and questions around Kingdoms, manifestations, the attractions of the modern world and Jesus’ teaching around the Reign of God.

Such an inquiry would open the door for our real-world inspiration – Fr Joseph Lam 

Fr Joseph was new to the parish and had an amazing story to share. An investment banker in his previous life, Fr Joe, as he is affectionately known, was interviewed for another important element of the inquiry pedagogy used by St Paul’s, the Entry Event.

Know and Need to Know

Using Fr Joe’s story, students created their ‘Know and Need to Know’ list, which again gave students control over the direction the learning cycle would take.

Having greater control and with the extension of the delivery time to the entire term students embraced the teaching and learning around the Kingdom of God and their personal challenge to ‘Let It Reign’.

Developer of the new learning cycle and Religious Education Coordinator of St Paul’s College Margurite O’Connor has been personally inspired by the quality of questions from students and the depth of learning displayed in their written work.

Reflection on written work

Fr Joe challenged the students –  ‘What are you waiting for? Go out and make a difference wherever you are: Don’t waste the gifts that you have received from God! If you want to be great, follow Christ and build up His Kingdom.” Let It Reign

Students responded with a written reflection of their learning. They were asked to reflect on, and record, how this knowledge of the understanding of the Reign of God had challenged them to live authentically.

‘The Reign Of God, as I would say, is the kingdom of God. I believe that the world we live in is our kingdom. In Father Joseph’s letter he said, “in the kingdom of Christ, money and power have no place. Instead attitudes like kindness, friendship, justice and peace are the true values of God's people”. I believe that as a team we can build the kingdom of God on Earth. We can do this with the talents we have been given by God.’ – Brandon Ghazarian

‘We as Christians strive to be the best we can be and live the flourishing life God wants for us. So, in our contemporary age, it is important to remember that The Reign of God is about becoming our best self. Sometimes we refer to the “reign” as the Kingdom of God. However, the reign of God is more appropriate because it speaks not to a destination but to a way of life. When he first started preaching, Jesus said, “The Reign of God is at hand. Change your lives.” By this he meant that to be a part of the Reign of God you have to change to be the best Christian you can possibly be.

‘Throughout Jesus’ life he preached to his followers about how to build the Kingdom of God. We see and read this through sacred Scripture. Jesus taught us to live in the image of God and do what he would do. We have opportunities to reach the Kingdom of God by maintaining a strong connection to him, and living according to the teachings of the Bible.’ –Tj Furness

‘One aspect of the Reign of God is that money and power have no major role in our lives. We might think we are not rich because we don't have the money and luxuries that other people have. But we are rich because we have Jesus. Jesus taught in many scriptures that you cannot serve God and wealth. God said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” The Catholic Catechism teaches that holiness comes from the poverty of the heart. The poverty of the heart is us realising our need for God and putting God above everything else in our lives, especially material wealth. So holiness is when we realise God is more important than wealth. I can make this aspect a reality by resisting the temptation of wealth and power in my life.’ – Peter Badr

Bruce Carr is Teaching Educator Mission, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

 

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