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Catholic Identity

"I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly."

The mission of Catholic schools is to work for the development and education of young people, with careful attention to the progress of each student intellectually, socially, physically and spiritually. Catholic schools are fundamentally committed to the work of evangelisation entrusted to the Church by Jesus, who came “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
The key learning area in Catholic schools is therefore Religious Education, which aims to promote and foster a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, through assisting students to experience and become familiar with the lived faith tradition of the Catholic community, in the context of contemporary Australian and global society.
The framework for this key learning area is provided by the accompanying Religious Education Policy for the Diocese of Sandhurst, which I hereby promulgate, to take effect from 1 January 2021. The policy provides the basis for Source of Life, the Diocesan Religious Education Curriculum, which is mandated for all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sandhurst. I delegate responsibility for implementing this policy and the associated curriculum to the Director of Catholic Education.
I thank all those involved in the development of this policy: Fr Brian Boyle (Episcopal Vicar for Education), Sr Geraldine Larkins RSJ (Deputy Director: Catholic Mission & Identity), Ms Cathy Jenkins (Assistant to the Director: Leadership Development), the R.E. Writing Team, the R.E. Executive Group, Mr Dominic Ryan (Diocese of Sale), and those who contributed to consultations about it.
I am confident that this new policy will support and enhance the partnership of families, local faith communities and schools, in their commitment to the work of Religious Education.


Religious Education
Diocese of Sandhurst & Catholic Education Sandhurst
May 2020

1.0 Introduction

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
The person of Jesus Christ is the foundation and centre of the educational work of each Catholic school.1 In the life of the Catholic education community the presence of Jesus is recognised and acknowledged and his voice is heard in prayer and in service. In every aspect of the life of the Catholic school there are then moments to evangelise and to bear witness to the Gospel.2 The Catholic school exercises its mission under the leadership of the Diocesan Bishop and with the guidance and support of the Parish Priest/Administrator.
The Bishop is the chief teacher of the Diocese and is responsible for the integrity of teaching in the areas of faith and morals in his Diocese. He therefore has the authority and the duty to oversee the Religious Education program in schools and those appointed to teach it.3 It is the expectation of the Bishop that Source of Life, the mandated Diocesan Religious Education Curriculum, will be taught in all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sandhurst. The Bishop delegates the responsibility for the implementation of the Religious Education policy and the RE curriculum to the Director of Catholic Education.
In ratifying the appointment of a Principal to a Catholic school in the Diocese, the Bishop authorises the Principal to undertake the religious leadership of the school, working in close collaboration with the Parish Priest. The Principal in turn appoints Religious Education leaders and teachers who are entrusted with educating students in accordance with this Religious Education Policy. The Principal also ensures that each staff member understands the role and responsibility that each has in the Religious Education of the school community, including Accreditation requirements. The Diocese, the Catholic Education Office and the school Principal together ensure that appropriate resources are allocated to fulfil this role and responsibility.

In the Catholic school, the key learning area is Religious Education.4 Partnerships between the informed and active contributors to the mission of the school are fundamental to its Catholic identity. These partnerships include those between parents/carers, the Parish Priest, the local faith community, the Catholic Education Office, and the school community itself, each making its own distinctive contribution.
The Catholic school through its charism, history, curriculum and classroom-based Religious Education program plays an important formative role in the support of families in the Religious Education of those to whom it ministers. The Catholic school is a place of testimony and acceptance where invitations to nurture faith and spirituality are provided to young people, making possible the development of Post Critical Belief. It is also the place where the sacramental and dialogical approach to the teaching of Religious Education promotes a recontextualising school environment. This environment aims both to challenge and affirm young people, giving shape to their personal identity in dialogue with others, within the context of Catholicism as the host tradition. And so, when Religious Education brings faith into dialogue with life, it can become a means of personal transformation, a call to missionary discipleship, a source of personal growth and understanding and a stimulus to lifelong commitment to service to others.5

2.0 Aim

The aim of the Religious Education curriculum in the Diocese of Sandhurst is primarily to bring students and young people into personal relationship with Jesus Christ through knowledge of the Gospels and of Catholicism as a lived faith tradition in contemporary Australian and global society. The curriculum also aims to expand a student’s spiritual awareness and religious identity through the development of such key skills as discernment, critical thinking, meaning- making, and search for the truth. The Religious Education program then seeks to challenge and inspire to a life of service in the Christian community and in society.6 The efficacy of Religious Education can be identified by such key indicators as knowledge of Christ and the Christian tradition and commitment to him, as well as service to others through engagement with the Church and the world.

3.0 Context of Religious Education Curriculum

Religious Education in Australia today is shaped and determined by three key contexts:
Australian society, the Australian Church, and the complex nature of Australian Education. The National Catholic Education Commission in its Religious Education Framing Paper (2018) clearly articulates these three contexts .7
Catholicism in Australia has a multicultural diversity, reflecting various expressions of spirituality and religious practice, in large part due to migration. The tradition of the spirituality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as deeply connected to the land with a profound sense of the sacred, has existed for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. This spirituality is a key societal context for Catholic faith. This faith then must respect, engage with, and learn from this sacred story.

Like many other Western societies, Australia is experiencing an erosion of tradition and authority formerly associated with religion in society and as such, a diminished ability of one generation to pass on the faith to a subsequent generation. Increasingly, processes of secularisation and pluralisation in Australian society are growing with the result of an indifference to, and at times open hostility towards, organised religion. Many Australians simply make their own meaning of life. Catholic faith becomes one choice among many other choices.
A second key context for Religious Education in Australia is the general perception of the changed role and status of the Catholic Church in society, particularly in light of various government inquiries and the recent Royal Commission into practices of the Church. Many students and their families attending Catholic schools have minimal contact with their local church outside the school. They tend to lack knowledge of Catholic faith and ritual and therefore lack confidence with its practice. The prevailing forces of secularisation and pluralisation identified above are part of the context in which families attending Catholic schools live their ordinary lives. Society at large demands that the Catholic Church have a greater accountability and transparency in its life and governance. This calls for a humbler Church, more willing to listen.
The third key context for Religious Education is the state of education itself in Australia as it faces an increasing set of complex expectations from both government and society itself, particularly with regard to employment and productivity. The goal of education is that all young Australians become successful life-long learners, active and informed citizens, and creative individuals. Religious Education itself in a Catholic school can make a significant contribution to the attainment of these goals.
These three contexts of society, Church and education identified in the NCEC Framing Paper, offer both challenges and opportunities for Catholic schools in this country. In our Religious Education curriculum the importance and value of ECSI (Enhancing Catholic School Identity) with its key emphases on recontextualisation, dialogue between the Catholic tradition (as the host tradition) and other faith traditions becomes apparent. As well, the contemporary cultural context in the creation and sustaining of Post Critical Belief as the preferred faith stance in a young person’s life, also becomes clear.

4.0 Purpose

This policy will provide Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sandhurst with clarity, structure and direction in:
4.1 the role of the school in the work of the parish and the mission of the Church
4.2 enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI)
4.3 faith development and spirituality
4.4 professional development of staff to be effective in their role and practice
4.5 curriculum delivery
4.6 prayer and liturgy
4.7 Catholic social teaching
4.8 time allocation.

5.0 Principles

The Religious Education curriculum to be taught in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sandhurst is Source of Life as promulgated by the Bishop of Sandhurst as the mandated curriculum. Religious Education leadership is crucial in animating the Catholic identity of the school. The Principal and others have the responsibility for religious leadership in the school.
The development of this curriculum is centred on the person and mission of Jesus Christ and has been guided by the clear principles enunciated below.
Religious Education:
5.1 invites a person into a relationship with the Risen Christ in the context of community;
5.2 encourages and provides skills for self-reflection, articulation of personal beliefs and meaning framework;
5.3 is attentive to the interior, spiritual, reflective capacities and dimensions of students and staff;
5.4 develops an awareness of God, self, others and the world through an intellectual and spiritual journey in the context of the Catholic Tradition;
5.5 recognises that learners live in a number of different “worlds” including online, peer group, school and home;
5.6 has Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) as the principal sources for the Religious Education program;
5.7 has its own intellectual rigour which seeks to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours that flow from the Catholic Tradition;
5.8 acknowledges that learners have diverse faith profiles and faith stances such that Religious Education needs to incorporate pre-evangelisation stance as well as catechesis;8
5.9 calls us to respect God’s creation and responsibly exercise our creative spirit;
5.10 opens possibilities of personal meaning-making;
5.11 offers reflective learning opportunities within and beyond the classroom: a sequential F-12 course of study;
5.12 promotes Post Critical Belief through a recontextualisation of the Catholic Tradition (as the host tradition) in dialogue with other faith traditions and life philosophies;
5.13 requires a pedagogy through which teachers can be seen as witnesses, specialists and moderators so as to invite students to discipleship and mission;
5.14 is taught, developed and resourced with the same commitment as all other learning areas;
5.15 involves the expectation that teachers of Religious Education have the required qualification Accreditation to Teach RE in a Catholic School;
5.16 supports and contributes to a systematic, holistic and comprehensive school learning environment which includes the prayer, liturgical and sacramental life of the school, opportunities for retreats and reflection experiences, community outreach, social action and justice programs and the embedding of a Catholic perspective or Catholic world view across the whole school curriculum;
5.17 links our Catholic story to our own personal story, connecting life and faith, faith and life; and,
5.18 nurtures familiarity with, respect for, and acceptance of different religious positions so that we can live peacefully and justly together.
5.19 engages students with the implications of faith for personal morality and the ethics of shared life in society, which may be expressed and developed through social justice programs.

6.0 Definitions

6.1 Catholic Identity: The way in which the school community expresses its integration of faith and life inspired by the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus Christ and the teachings of his Church. This identity serves to inform a school’s vision, policies, priorities and practices. It is expressed through its prayers, symbols, relationships, liturgies and curriculum.
6.2 Mission: The mission of the Catholic School is God’s mission. The Catholic school aims to bring all its partners to a lived faith relationship with Christ though excellence in teaching and learning. Thus the school community becomes transforming agents of God’s kingdom in the world.
6.3 Religious Education Curriculum: The curriculum for Religious Education mandated for use in the Diocese of Sandhurst.
6.4 Appropriate Religious Education Pedagogy: A pedagogy that serves the mission of the Catholic Church and animated by Catholic understandings of culture, the human person and creation. It is dialogical, representing our understanding of the trinitarian nature of God. It is also reflective of contemporary approaches to learning that recognise the need to know each learner and develop approaches that meet their needs, utilising a variety of strategies that seek to engage, challenge and educate. Some of these learning strategies will include inquiry-based learning, Shared Christian Praxis, rich question learning and collaborative learning.
6.5 Recontextualisation: Recontextualisation is a conscious critique of context in order to develop a contextually anchored understanding and articulation of Christian faith. Recontextualisation has been used throughout the history of the Catholic Church to enliven its teaching tradition in each age. Recontextualisation is the preferred typology for our schools in regard to Catholic Identity. The Catholic tradition is the host tradition for this critical and creative inquiry.
6.6 Post Critical Belief: Post Critical Belief is a way of describing the incarnational and sacramental character of God’s self-revelation to humanity as understood in the Catholic Tradition. God, transcendent beyond our knowledge and senses, gives the Divine Self to us and invites us to share divine friendship in and through the gifts of creation, the history of the covenant with Israel, and most particularly, in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ, carried on in the tradition of the Church.
A Post Critical Belief style takes account of the human and social features of the historical mediation in and through which we encounter the living God and God’s revelatory Word. It engages the critical questions that historical and human sciences raise about the scriptures and traditions that express and define Christian faith, in order to integrate and deepen the harmony of faith and reason in the Christian life.
The PCB style indicates the transition from an unreflective acceptance of Christian text and traditions (first naiveté-Ricoeur) towards a critically-aware, historically- attuned relationship with those texts and traditions (second naiveté). It shows the capacity to distinguish between the surpassing mystery of God’s self-communication with us and the historically- and culturally- formed texts and traditions that mediate to us that divine mystery. It is the openness to hear the Word of God in the human words of the scriptures, creed, liturgy, pastoral service and forms of communal life that make up the Catholic tradition.
6.7 Dialogue School: A school that intentionally emphasises its Catholic identity, while at the same time respecting the multicultural world in which it lives. A multiplicity of voices, views and perspectives are recognised and engaged with as contributions to this dialogue which is always respectful and responsible. In the midst of plurality, a school searches for what it means to be Catholic today with Catholicism as the host tradition.9
6.8 Witness: Teachers who embody an intentional and committed Christian life. In doing this they share insights and experiences that are appropriate for the learning process and the level of readiness of students. To do this effectively, teachers must have reflected on their own personal experience of faith and formed a positive appropriation of Christian faith in their lives.
6.9 Specialist: Teachers who have a deep understanding of Catholic beliefs and practices and express these beliefs and practices in their own lives. They should have a deep knowledge of the content of the Religious Education curriculum in order to offer and facilitate student learning opportunities and ensure a progression of learning for all students. Competent knowledge in the fields of theology and Scripture will help teachers in their role as specialists, as well as an ongoing process of professional development in these disciplines.
6.10 Moderator: Teachers who serve as guides and mentors, challenging and enabling students to freely articulate their own intellectual, moral and religious positions. As moderators, teachers will work to create learning environments that allow deep, dialogical encounters with faith traditions, cultural contexts and different life philosophies. They will enable students to explore their own presumptions, views and commitments in their search for meaning. Teachers as moderators will know how to engage students with Catholic beliefs and values. They will also know how to create teaching and learning opportunities where students feel free to share their own understanding and viewpoints as they engage with the Catholic story.

7.0 Procedures

It is an expectation that schools will adhere to the Diocesan Religious Education Policy in a manner consistent with the above principles. Some further procedures and guidelines for our schools are as follows:
7.1 All schools will appoint appropriately experienced and qualified Religious Education Leaders (Primary and Secondary) to support Principals and Parish Priests in the religious leadership of the school. Ideally the REL should be a committed and practising Catholic.
7.2 Principals will seek to appoint appropriately qualified and accredited teachers of Religious Education and support those who are not already accredited to become accredited.
7.3 Principals will ensure that staff members understand the role and responsibility each one has in the Religious Education Program of the school community.
7.4 Schools will seek active partnerships with Parents/carers, Parish Priests, and the broader community in building the faith dimension of the school community.
7.5 Each school will implement a robust and structured Religious Education curriculum which provides guidance in content, pedagogy, assessment and reporting utilising Source of Life. The curriculum will be supported with appropriate resourcing.
7.6 Staff will be provided with opportunities for ongoing professional learning and formation in Religious Education.
7.7 The Sacraments of Initiation will be celebrated on a regular basis in partnership with the local parish, and students, staff and the broader community will be invited to participate, as appropriate.
7.8 Ideally students will study the Sacraments of Initiation in the Religious Education curriculum at the time these are celebrated in the parish.
7.9 In teaching the Religious Education curriculum, schools will adhere to minimum time allocations as outlined in this policy.
7.10 Any guest speaker invited to make a presentation to Catholic schools, parishes, organisations or networks in the Diocese of Sandhurst on matters relating to faith, morals or Religious Education must have the Bishop’s prior approval.

8.0 Guidelines

The following requirements are regarded as essential in order to meet the expected outcomes of this policy:

  • Accreditation of Teachers:
    All teachers will be appropriately accredited to teach in accordance with relevant CECV policies and maintain their accreditation.
  • Student Engagement:
    Opportunities will be provided for students to be active learners and participants in the lived experiences of the Catholic faith, both within and beyond the classroom.
  • Staffing and Resources:
    Appropriate allocations from school budgets will be made to the staffing and resourcing of Religious Education so as to build up the capacity of Religious Education Teachers.
  • Assessment and Reporting:
    Progress of student learning in Religious Education will be appropriately assessed and reported to parents/carers.
  • Community Engagement:
    Schools will actively engage with parents/carers, parish and the broader community in the Religious Education of the school community.
  • Collaboration with Parents/Carers:
    As parents/carers are regarded as the primary educators of their children in the Faith, schools will work collaboratively with parents/carers in the delivery of the curriculum.
  • Responsive and Inclusive:
    Religious Education curriculum will be developed and delivered in ways that are culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and that will reflect our cultural and religious diversity.
  • Professional Learning:
    Ongoing professional learning of Catholic faith and effective pedagogical practices will be made available to the teacher as a learner.10
  • Features of high quality Religious Education:11
    Scripture will be central to teaching and learning;
    Priority will be given to Religious Education in school timetables, staffing, and time allocation;
    As a discipline area, Religious Education will be informed by the same learning and teaching strategies that guide other disciplines;
    Explicit engagement will be made with the elements of the Catholic tradition, including liturgy, youth ministry and social justice involvement;
    The Religious Education teacher will aspire to be a powerful and credible witness, specialist and moderator;
    Pedagogy will promote recontextualisation, dialogue and Post Critical Belief.

Minimum time allocation for the explicit teaching of Religious Education per week:
Please note: This time allocation does not include time given to liturgy, prayer, retreats and reflections. These elements, however, are at the heart of the life of the Catholic school and it is essential that time is given to them.

9.0 Expected Outcomes

All Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sandhurst will:
9.1 Have a deepened understanding of, and give greater expression to, Catholic identity within their communities;
9.2 Implement the Diocesan Religious Education Policy;
9.3 Implement the Diocesan Religious Education Curriculum;
9.4 Employ committed and qualified Religious Education Leaders;
9.5 Have accredited and committed teachers in Religious Education;
9.6 Ensure that the Religious Education Curriculum is taught and resourced with the same commitment as other learning areas;
9.7 Adhere to the time allocation for Religious Education as stated in this policy;
9.8 Work to ensure students and staff are active participants in the religious dimension of the school and are encouraged to move towards Post Critical Belief.

10.0 References

Boeve, Lieven. Interrupting Tradition: an Essay on Christian Faith in a Post-Modern Context. Peeters Press, Louvain, 2003.
Catechism of the Catholic Church. English translation. 2nd edition 1997.
Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Sale. Religious Education Policy, Warragul, Vic: Diocese
of Sale, 2018.
Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Sandhurst. Source of Life: Religious Education Curriculum Bendigo, Vic: Diocese of Sandhurst, 2008.
Diocese of Sandhurst. Review of Religious Education Report. Bendigo, Vic: 2018. Francis. Evangelii Gaudium Apostolic Exhortation. 2013. Retrieved from: francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html
Lenehan, Kevin and Rina Madden. Recontextualising Pedagogy for a Distinctively Catholic Education. Unpublished paper.
National Catholic Education Commission. Religious Education in Australian Schools: Framing Paper. NCEC, Sydney: NSW, 2018.
Vatican Council II Dei Verbum. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. 18 November 1965. Retrieved from: ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
DIOCESE OF SANDHURST & CES POLICY: Religious Education (MAY 2020) Page 9

11.0 Review

Draft Review: Implementation Date: Review Date:
March, April, June, December 2019, May 2020 1 January 2021
1 January 2022 (Thereafter every two years)
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Sale for permission to use their document Religious Education Policy (2018) as the base document in the compilation and writing of this Religious Education Policy for the Diocese of Sandhurst.
Grateful acknowledgement is also made to the National Catholic Education Commission for permission to use by way of quotation and paraphrase its key document, Framing Paper: Religious Education in Australian Catholic Schools (Sydney, 2018) in the writing of this Policy.

End Notes

1 See National Catholic Education Commission, Framing Paper: Religious Education in Australian Catholic Schools. (Sydney, NSW: NCEC, 2018), 6.
2 See Kevin Lenehan and Rina Madden, Recontextualising Pedagogy for a Distinctively Catholic Education: A Position Paper for Catholic Education in Victoria. Unpublished paper. Page 4.
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, English Translation. 2nd Edition (1997), nn 888-890. 4 NCEC, Religious Education, 5.
5 NCEC, Religious Education, 5.
6 NCEC, Religious Education, 7.
7 See NCEC, Religious Education, 8-11. This section of the Sandhurst Diocese Religious Education Policy is closely modelled on, and paraphrases key sections of, the Framing Paper.
8 NCEC, Religious Education, 12.
9 See Discussion by Lenehan and Madden, Recontextualising, 1-2.
10 See NCEC, Religious Education, 15 and Lenehan and Madden, Recontextualising, 2.
11 See NCEC, Religious Education, 18-19.

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