Education in Catholic schools focuses on the development of the whole person: intellectually, physically, socially, emotionally and of course, spiritually. The distinctive religious dimension of the Catholic school is manifest in many ways, one of which is the school’s Religious Education programme. This is a vital part of the school’s curriculum and takes a number of forms.
Religious Education in the classroom setting is approached with the same educational methodology as any other Key Learning Area within the school’s curriculum. Teachers use a Religious Education programme mandated by the Bishop; they collaboratively plan and teach Religion lessons using a variety of engaging and practical strategies, many of which are also used in other learning areas; they assess the content and skills which have been taught, and report regularly to parents.
Teaching Religious Education requires more than just the delivery of knowledge, however and Religious Education teachers are also witnesses to the faith for their students. This sharing of faith is an ongoing and mutual process in which teachers and students learn from each other and grow together in faith.
A distinct but complementary aspect of the school’s religious dimension is the liturgical and prayer life of the school community. Together students, staff, parents and other members of the community pray regularly in a variety of settings, celebrate sacraments and feasts in both small and whole school groups and reach out to the wider community in action for justice, including care for the poor, which stems from this active spiritual life.
Religious Education within the Catholic school is of course not confined to ‘official’ Religious Education classes or liturgical occasions. Christ is at the centre of all endeavours in Catholic Education. As believers faithful to the Gospel and attempting to live out Christ’s mission in the world, the members of the Catholic school community express this Christ-centred vision in all aspects of school life. Actions in the playground, conduct at sports, behaviour management, enrolment policies, pastoral care, relationships between staff, students and parents and classroom teaching, all reflect this core belief. The religious dimension of the Catholic School is therefore present in all the activities of the school community.
In Catholic Primary Schools
1998 saw the initial implementation of new Religious Education (RE) guidelines for Catholic primary schools and secondary colleges in Cairns Diocese. For this purpose, Bishop of Cairns, James Foley mandated the Brisbane Archdiocese Guidelines for Religious Education for use in Catholic primary schools in the Diocese.
The Brisbane Archdiocese Guidelines have been a valuable support and guide in curriculum development in the Key Learning Area (KLA) of Religion. Connections between Religion and other KLAs are an important focus in the Guidelines’ implementation. This KLA has been organised in to four strands: Scripture; Beliefs; Celebration and Prayer; Morality. Through these strands students engage with outcomes and essential learnings that describe understandings of the knowledge, skills, technologies and processes specific to RE.
The subject of Religion aims to develop students’ religious literacy in the light of the Catholic tradition, so that they may participate critically and effectively in the life of their faith communities and wider society. This aim promotes the development of knowledge, skills and values which students need to participate as active lifelong learners within church and community contexts. Students are actively involved in constructing understandings of the Catholic tradition as well as acknowledging other religious traditions, the nature of religion and its place in life and Australian society.
In Catholic Secondary Colleges
Bishop of Cairns, James Foley mandated the adoption of the Brisbane Archdiocesan Religious Education Guidelines for use in Cairns Diocese secondary schools from 2005, with compulsory use across the Diocese in 2006.
The Brisbane Archdiocesan Religious Education Syllabus was introduced to the Brisbane Archdiocese in 1998. This syllabus is still mandated for use in Brisbane schools, however, in light of current educational practice, it has been revised a number of times to include Outcomes and Essential Learnings modules which have been written for use from Years One to Ten.
The programme is based on sound theology expressed in contemporary language, articulated in accessible teacher background material which provides support even for teachers without a strong foundation in Religion. The Religious Literacy approach, on which the programme is founded, is inclusive of students who have not benefited from prior religious education as well as those who come from a Catholic primary school background. It is also possible for students from other Christian traditions and other faiths to participate effectively in Religion classes. In this way the programme adequately caters for the diversity of both staff and students in the Diocese’s secondary colleges.
The modules make use of a wide variety of best practice teaching strategies and contemporary resources including internet and multimedia which ensures a high level of engagement with the material presented, provides variety and maintains interest for both teachers and students.
In 2019 a compulsory Senior (Years 11 and 12) programme, Catholic Faith in Action (CFiA) commenced. Consisting of four profound questions, it is complementary to ATAR subjects of Study of Religion, and Religion and Ethics.
Effective faith education occurs within co-operative partnerships between the home, parish and school. Parents wishing to receive more specific background on their child’s religious education can do so by contacting the school or college. Copies of the Brisbane Archdiocesan Religious Education Programme are available for perusal or limited borrowing during business hours from the Diocesan Resource Centre.
In State Schools
Religious Education for Catholic children attending State schools is provided by a dedicated group of volunteer catechists at many schools throughout the Diocese. Children attend classes at the discretion of their parents. In most cases classes are conducted once a week. Sacramental preparation takes place within these classes in conjunction with the Parish and families.
Catechists are organised by volunteer coordinators within each Parish. There are three coordinators, one for each deanery: Northern, Southern and Western. Each reports directly to their respective Dean and is supported by Catholic Education Services.
For information relating to State School Religious Education please contact your school Principal.
In the Cairns Diocese Sacramental preparation is a Parish-based, family-centred process which is supported by the Catholic school in Religion classes and by catechists in the State school system.
In most cases, children attending a Catholic primary school are prepared for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist in Year 4 in collaboration with local Parishes. For students in other circumstances, arrangements can be made with the Parish Priest regarding appropriate formation and timing for the reception of these Sacraments.
Please contact the school or Parish Priest for further information. Contact details can be found in the ‘Our Schools’ section of this website.