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BBI hosts Inaugural National Religious Education Symposium

2 August 2017 | General Interest

BBI’s first ever National Religious Education Symposium has attracted overwhelming interest from leaders in Catholic education, not only from across Australia, but internationally as well, ensuring it will become an annual event on the professional development calendar.

Over 400 delegates attended the two day symposium on 27 and 28 July in Sydney which focused on the theme, Religious Education, Secularisation and Australian Catholic Schools and featured keynote presentations and dynamic workshops from internationally respected experts in the field of religious education. All Australian states and territories were represented at the event, as well as teachers and Catholic educational leaders from New Zealand and South Africa.

In a memorable keynote address, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Most Reverend Mark Coleridge reflected on the central mission of the Religious Education teacher in the Catholic school.


“You are very much authentic witnesses of the faith in your school communities, called to help shape a community of missionary disciples”, Archbishop Coleridge explained.

“And that mission needs to be responsive to the culture of the contemporary Catholic school, so that we find a unique way of passing on the faith that is relevant and attuned to their needs.”

 Delegates at the symposium benefited from some unique international insights into contemporary religious education from two respected academics from the Catholic University of Paris-Professor François Moog and Professor Henri-Jérôme Gagey who spoke about the challenges of secularisation in their home country.

The Executive Director of Schools in the Diocese of Parramatta, Mr Greg Whitby told the gathering, religious education and faith formation needs to be seen as a whole school responsibility, rather than simply being confined to that of the religious education teacher, while BBI Senior Lecturer, Dr Kath Engebretson called for a review of pre-service training for Religious Education teachers in Australia to ensure that Catholic schools are well prepared for the challenges of a secular age.

The symposium also featured some practical presentations from Catholic educational leaders, including the Director of Religious Education for Catholic Education in Western Australia, Dr Debra Sayce, who spoke about the importance of integrating a Catholic perspective across the school curriculum, not simply in the area of Religious Education.

BBI lecturer Professor Therese D'Orsa delivered an excellent presentation, reflecting upon the missionary role played by the Religious Education teacher in the Australian Catholic school and the inspiration teachers can draw upon from Pope Francis in his role as a teacher on the contemporary challenges of our time, such as climate change.

The internationally respected Lasallian academic, Br Gerard Rummery FSC launched a pivotal new book at the symposium, Religious Education in Australian Catholic Schools, edited jointly by BBI’s Head of Religious Education, Professor Richard Rymarz and the Leader: Faith, Learning and Teaching for Catholic Education in the Diocese of Bathurst, Dr Angelo Belmonte.

Br Gerard praised the book, describing it as the most significant collection of chapters ever written by Australian educators in the field of religious education in Catholic schools.

“The field of religious education is never static and it needs to evolve with a changing society and this book explores this field extraordinarily well”, Br Gerard added.

The symposium concluded with a memorable plenary exploring future directions in religious education, which brought together Religious Education coordinators, academics and leaders in the Catholic education system.

The symposium was a landmark event for Catholic education in Australia and it is set to become an annual event with the next National Religious Education Symposium to be held in Brisbane on 13 and 14 September 2018. The theme next year will be- Religious Education in a Change of Era.

BBI is most grateful to our sponsors for their support for the symposium- the Catholic Schools Office Lismore; Catholic Church Insurance; Garratt Publishing, Australian Catholic Superannuation Retirement Fund, Emmaus Productions and Living Well Media.

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