1.1 For us and our time - Changing contexts
The Tradition of the Catholic Church is a dynamic reality shaped by every generation, as living witnesses respond to the presence of Jesus Christ among them. The challenge for educators is to nurture our own faith response whilst being mindful of the lives of our students and the historical context in which we live. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the Holy Spirit speaks to us in a variety of ways but especially through Sacred Scripture, through the Tradition of the Church and through the “signs of the times,” that is, “authentic signs of God’s presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires” shared by contemporary people (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes 1965, n.11).
Responding to the “signs of the times” in the Church and in the world, increased pluralisation, detraditionalisation, and individualisation commits this Religious Education curriculum to an intentional focus on dialogue, recontextualisation and reconciliation. Reconciliation, central to the mission of Jesus and a meaningful model for evangelisation, is the transformation of the heart that leads to the unity of all creation with God through restoring right relationships.
With particular attention to relationships with First Nations people of Australia, reconciliation is a vital process towards a deep understanding and sharing of a sense of interconnectedness with all of creation. True Reconciliation requires three things: recognition of different stories, an appreciation of different legacies and an invitation to action.
“In calling to mind the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change. The Australian bishops spoke of the importance of such conversion for achieving reconciliation with creation: To achieve such reconciliation, we must examine our lives and acknowledge the ways in which we have harmed God’s creation through our actions and our failure to act. We need to experience a conversion, or change of heart.”
Pope Francis, Laudato Si (2015), n.218.
Understanding and defining the role of Religious Education in the Catholic School encompasses understanding the world of the student, focusing especially on the family, the classroom curriculum and methodology within the context of Church. Articulating and expressing Catholic identity in a postmodern context of plurality and ambiguity presents the challenge of finding meaningful and authentic ways of connecting with God, self and others. An holistic curriculum needs to be presented to inform about the spiritual wisdom of the Christian faith found in the Scriptures, in Tradition and in the Liturgy. This engages young people’s reason, memory and imagination, leading to a whole way of life reflected in the total life of the school community where family, school and parish work together. Catholic Identity is personal, but it is lived in community with all of creation.
Learning and teaching in Religious Education must respond to changing contexts and circumstances. This forms part of the process of recontextualisation. Source of Life offers an invitation, a structured approach and an evaluative framework to teachers and leaders, so that they are empowered to respond creatively to the challenges they face. These challenges include those articulated here.
1.1.1 Directions in Australian Society
opening up opportunities to honour, celebrate and embrace the First Nations histories
moving towards healing through Faith and dialogue with First Nations people
significant challenge to religious freedom in a secular society which is more hostile and indifferent towards religion and in which antipathy and apathy have increased
more open and vulnerable to global issues and patterns
more concern for national identity and character leading to intolerance and conflict in society
noticeable changes in the fabric of family life, social life and in our work pattern
more diverse ethnically, including religious traditions
increasing wealth in an increasingly impoverished region
more concern for the environment and climate change
Catholics being no longer the largest group on the census in the category Religious Affiliation (this is now “No Religion”), Catholics are still the largest group identifying as religious decreased respect for authority and social institutions.
“In regard to the Aboriginal people of your land, there is still much to be achieved ... Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking forgiveness and granting forgiveness – two indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our future is filled with a well-founded hope in the peace which springs from truth.”
Pope Benedict XVI, address to Australia’s new Ambassador to the Holy See, May 2006.
1.1.2 Directions in the Australian educational context
- development of a National Curriculum and national testing with an emphasis on employability and work readiness
- alignment of National Curriculum frameworks around a standards-based approach aimed at promoting deep understanding
- extended learning pathways and alternative learning environments for students, especially in the Post-Compulsory Years
- increasing impact of information and communications technologies in all curriculum areas
- articulation of professional standards of practice for staff in Catholic schools
- greater accountability of staff in Catholic schools to the government and parents
- focus on the shared responsibility of education with learning conversations among parents, students and teachers
- greater engagement in the community.
1.1.3 Changes in the Catholic community
- decreasing participation by Catholics in regular worship and church-based activities broader range of beliefs and values held by Catholic people
- greater solidarity and dialogue with Christians of other traditions and people of other faiths which include the First Nations people of Australia
- the sexual abuse crisis is impacting the morale, identity and participation of the Catholic community in formal religious practices
- support available for people who have been abused in the Church and for those affected by that abuse
- decreasing Catholic population in Australia increasing levels of education.
Source of Life Core Document (2020)
1.1.4 Changes in Catholic schools
- schools, staff and leaders becoming more familiar with the language and theology of the Enhancing Catholic School Identity approach
- more students and families with little or no explicit religious participation
- an increase in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- staff support recontextualisation in schools; however, students still supporting values education
- staff and students supporting a pedagogy of dialogue (ECSI)
- agreement with post critical belief amongst students decreasing over time, relativism increasing (ECSI)
- greater awareness of accountability and standards
- challenges of securing staff with the necessary workplace expertise and Accreditation to teach in a Catholic school
- challenges of attracting committed Catholic leaders
- higher expectations to meet a range of student needs
- many teachers pursuing courses in Accreditation for Religious Education
- percentage of Catholics attending Catholic schools remaining stable
- a greater awareness of ecological spirituality and care for creation.
1.1.5 Directions in Church teaching on Catholic schools
- centrality of the development of the human person
- inclusion, respect, collaboration and interreligious dialogue
- role of the school in the mission of new evangelisation
- enhancing the religious dimension of all curriculum areas
- the contribution of Catholic schools to the common good of society and care of creation
- the school as a fundamental part of Church community
- formation of spirituality in a global context
- the rich vocational nature of teaching.
Within the context of the Church, the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992, English edition, 1994), the General Directory for Catechesis (1997), The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1997), Educating Together in Catholic Schools (2007), Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools (2013), Educating to Fraternal Humanism (2017), NCEC, Religious Education in Australian Schools: Framing Paper (2018) have all influenced the development and implementation of Religious Education curriculum documents across Australia. (La Salle Academy Publication No.2). Since the publication of the LaSalle academy Publication No. 2 a new Directory for Catechesis (2020) has been released by The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20.