BBI-TAITE graduates urged to take theology out to the world
Almost 100 graduating students from BBI-TAITE have been challenged to put their theological education into action by asking questions of, and engaging with, the rapidly changing world around them.
This year’s graduation ceremony, held at Pennant Hills in Sydney’s north on April 26, was the second graduating class from BBI-TAITE since it became an accredited higher education provider in its own right.
Seven graduands attended the ceremony, while the majority of the 93 graduands of the specialised online and distance theological education institute received their certificates by mail, right across Australia.
BBI-TAITE Principal and Board Member, the Rev Dr John Frauenfelder welcomed those present, both the graduands and their families who had supported them during their studies, as well as the BBI-TAITE academics and Bishop Robert McGuckin of Toowoomba Diocese, who is a member of the Board.
Dr Frauenfelder recounted the history of BBI-TAITE, which, he said, began as the dream of three young Sydney priests, David Walker (later the bishop of Broken Bay Diocese), Peter Neville and Neil Brown.
Inspired by the Second Vatican Council, they began “a unique ministry in the life of the Church in Australia”, putting together correspondence courses which allowed all people to engage in adult faith and theological formation and education.
That enterprise has grown and changed over the years, moving from the Centre for Christian Spirituality in Randwick, to be known as the Broken Bay Institute when Bishop David became chief shepherd of that diocese (from 1996 to 2013), and most recently becoming BBI-TAITE.
Dr Frauenfelder said BBI-TAITE would continue to grow, develop and reimagine itself into the future, following Pope Francis’ example of placing evangelisation at the heart of its mission.
“So the dream begun long ago is a dream that is unfulfilled as yet,” he said. “A dream that has much more to be put in place if we truly want to be known as a boutique institute that is in tune with the Church and with the way in which the Church today, under the guidance of Pope Francis, is envisaging its place within the world in which we live.”
Following the graduation, the Occasional Address was given by Professor Gerard Moore a theologian who has taught widely and published extensively in the areas of worship and liturgical spirituality. He is a member of the Charles Sturt University Public and Contextual Theology Research Centre.
Professor Moore congratulated the graduates and welcomed them into the Australian theological community.
“Many of us here today have been in the many and varied bodies of the Australian theological community for a long time,” he said. “We love graduates. We love to welcome people into this community and we want you to take your place. We want you to feel very welcome.”
He urged the graduates to now go out into the world and ask questions of their life, their community and society through a theological lense.
“You walk out into a slightly changed, very interesting Australian world, and we would like you to take to that world the theological thinking and the theological questions,” he said.
“You’re now invited to take up those conversations in Australia, but from a newer, different perspective.”
He said at a time when royal commissions had shed light on the lack of trust in institutions, from churches, to banks and government agencies, it is important for theology graduates to engage with the questions arising from this new landscape.
“Our question theologically is how do we embrace this change and bring the Word of God to it?
Dale Clacherty, a PDHPE teacher at All Saints College, Maitland, who was conferred with a Graduate Certificate in Religious Education, said he took up Theological study because he wanted to be able to teach Religious Education.
“It’s always been an interest of mine,” he said. “Growing up Catholic, this was an excellent chance to be able to teach the younger generation and to pass on the message of Jesus Christ.”
Dale said he loved the BBI-TAITE learning experience.
“The staff were always helpful, the courses were engaging, and most importantly they were relevant to what we’re doing today.”
Wendy Baker from the regional city of Armidale in New South Wales graduated with a Master of Theological Studies, with her research focused on capturing the stories of the people in the Armidale Diocese who were relating with the first peoples of the area.
“I was concerned that many of the people at the coal face were becoming older and there was a need to capture their stories,” she said.
“It’s part of a living legacy and now I need to consult with the people who I talked to, who gave me the information, to see what their wishes are, as to how and where the material will be kept.”
Wendy said the experience of studying for her Master’s degree was enriching.
“Along the journey I met some truly amazing people. As our Church changes, as I know it must, I know that more amazing people will come forward to continue this work.”