Learning about ministering to ethnic and religious diversity in Australia
Two Singaporean educators (right) observing students at the ecumenical Emmaus College
Eight principals and teachers from Singapore Catholic schools learnt how their Australian counterparts integrate the Catholic ethos in their schools’ curriculum and community during a study trip.
Two schools stood out in particular for the visitors during the June 4-10 trip to Brisbane and its outskirts, which was jointly organised by the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS) and the Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) office.
One of them was St Mark’s Primary School in Inala. It serves students of diverse ethnicities, and has a strong tradition of ministry to children and families from lower socio-economic groups.
More than half of its 490 students have a Vietnamese background. The rest come from Pacific Islander, Anglo-Saxon, African, Filipino, Spanish, indigenous and other backgrounds.
In view of this diversity, the school is devoted to fostering a Catholic environment where emphasis is placed on respect for one another, which helps bond the school community.
The Singaporean visitors noted that the Catholic spirit is strong in the school where religious posters and other visuals can be seen. Curriculum time begins with prayer.
The school also actively promotes Catholic teachings on social justice.
The parish priest is a regular visitor to the school, and the parish as a whole provides support in helping the school feel part of the local community.
Singapore visitors engage in a discussion at St Mark’s Primary School.
The other school which impressed the visitors was the ecumenical Emmaus College at Jimboomba with its students from the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church traditions.
The school serves students from preschool to year 12 (junior college level).
BCE office supports a leadership team of pastors from each of the denominations in preparing the religious education curriculum. The curriculum upholds the commonalities of all these traditions while respecting the particularities of each one.
Resources are available for the respective clergy to provide sacramental ministry and spiritual guidance to the students of their denomination. Catholic teachers in Emmaus College also work closely with the parish to prepare the Catholic students for their sacraments.
The college seeks to create opportunities for students to encounter God in the church, in communities and in nature. For example, students and staff work together in caring for an environmental park on the college grounds which is home to one of the protected tree species in Australia.
The Singapore educators also learnt of the social justice initiatives where students are involved in outreach programmes to the wider community.
They noted that while the schools they visited had their own focus areas, consistent in every school was the upholding of the Catholic ethos to create a learning environment that accommodates the needs of all students.
The vistors also shared that the trip has inspired them to boost the Catholic character and the spirit of togetherness in their own school communities.
The collaboration between ACCS and the BCE office over the past five years has seen more than 40 leaders from Singapore Catholic schools visiting Catholics schools in Brisbane.
According to ACCS, this has helped Singapore Catholic schools engage in dialogue and collaboration on ways to strengthen their Catholic identity.
The next ACCS-BCE joint programme is a faith formation session in Singapore for educators conducted by Brisbane Catholic Education officers.
Submitted by: ARCHDIOCESAN COMMISSION FOR CATHOLIC SCHOOLS