In this week’s interview, Catholic curriculum specialist and Religious Education Coordinator Carmen Bennet shares a wealth of insights into her work within Catholic education and young people. Reaching young people with the message of faith is about being clear about the “WHY” of being a Catholic educator, deepening our relationship with Christ and developing great learning experiences for young people that can be truly memorable.
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What is your current role?
Head of Religious Education Mercy College Mackay, Rockhampton diocese
What do you spend most of your time doing in this role? Tell us about your work/vocation?
Curriculum writing for our whole school Religious Education Program. Facilitating the department and the learning of students and the teaching of the Religious Education staff members. Facilitating the professional development of staff in the area of religious education. Teaching and planning. Sourcing and creating engaging lessons for middle secondary students that reflects use of ICT and contemporary learning environments. Establishing and maintaining reflective practice and prayer in the classroom and in the department.
What is something you are most passionate about as a Catholic person? What are the big issues, topics or questions that most interest, excite, compel or motivate you?
I am passionate about the real experience of our Catholic faith and being centred in Christ. The active experience of God, the Holy Spirit and Christ in our daily life. Second our awareness of this and awakening others to this I believe is the real work of a Christian in understanding what is evangelisation. So finding ways in my own life to nurture my faith through prayer and deep awareness and education is important and then sharing that belief, hope that faith in ways that help others to realise their place or just sharing it for the desire to see the world as whole and connected and spiritually flourishing, as possible. I am deeply motivated by how young people experience the world as it is today and yet still have that deep yearning for love, relationship, friendship, humanity. That excites me,I believe little has changed although young people are more exposed. In saying this the vital role that education plays can never be underestimated. Education informs how others view religion, faith and spirituality. It is our moral and ethical role as educators to teach bout religion and its role in society and how we relate to religion and spirituality in our daily experience. It is our role as Catholic educators to teach our students about the traditions, beliefs and history of the Church and immerse them in Catholic mass and the Eucharist and experiences of love, prayer, meditation, tolerance, respect, social justice. My own realisation of Catholic contemplation and understanding of the crucified Christ is what has inspired and motivated me in my personal faith. I have come to understand the fruits of trust, acceptance, stillness and prayer in my own Catholic faith. I have come to understand the real meanings behind some vital elements of our Catholic faith and can articulate why I am Catholic, and that is very import to me.
How does your Catholic faith inform, shape, guide, or motivate your work/vocation?
My faith informs the majority of my day and is a significant part of my being, my words, thoughts and actions. If I was not a Catholic educator my faith would still shape my daily practice. My adult faith journey has shaped who I am today. My personal experiences led me to a deeper and deeper relationship with God. Every day my faith deepens and because now I have adopted similar practices in my life for some time my faith is just a part of who I am, it would be very difficult to separate me from my faith. My faith is needed in my role as a Catholic educator but I am motivated far beyond this role. My role is a vocation and I see what I do both in my work and in my ordinary life as ministry o f the Church.
How do you think the Church can make an impact in culture? What are the main things you think we should be focused upon in the process of the New Evangelisation?
The role of the Church is significant in culture because it is such a big part of our cultural experience. Ritual, symbolism and faith and spirituality impact on our daily and family experience. The Catholic faith in particular provides a foundation for families. In Australia, the Church are doing great things in the area of Evangelisation in providing more opportunities for Christians, particularly youth to come together to proclaim their faith. Social networking and dialogue have played a significant part in providing Catholics with opportunities to speak about and celebrate their faith. In Australia we are often reluctant to speak about faith and religion but more and more social circles are expressing their desire to speak of matters relating to faith. The Church in Australia are doing many great things in the area of dialogue with other faiths, healing and reconciliation and finding ways to embrace the rich sacredness of Australian religion and spirituality, nurtured so deeply by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s and their ancestors. I think the Church has a real role in highlighting for the ordinary person in their ordinary experience how God is active in their life, in the difficult time and in the moments of joy and awe. This can only take place through continuing the commitment that the Church has always shown toward the oppressed, marginalised the sick and the poor.