Catholic schools can now look forward to an archdiocesan programme that will help to foster spiritual growth for all their students. A new Religious Education (RE) programme from the Archdiocesan Committee for Catholic Schools (ACCS) will be implemented by the year 2007 with the participation of teachers from Catholic schools.

Teachers from 15 Catholic schools got together with ACCS at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre (CAEC) on Sep 23 to discuss the proposed programme.

"Religious education is not just teaching a subject but is more encompassing in building the school into a Catholic community," IJ Sister Julia Ong, (Deputy Director of Religious Education), said. In spite of its name, RE programmes should not be confused with catechism programmes. They should complement them and yet remain distinct, she added. "What goes on in parish Sunday schools is meant to be catechesis," Sister Julia explained. "It takes place among a group of believers and is an ‘echo' of their faith."

Religious Education is conducted in a mixed group whose members do not necessarily believe in any particular faith tradition.

Religious Education does not presume faith in the student but presumes that as a human person, he has a spiritual aspect and this needs nurturing and development appropriate to age and context.

"Religious Education in a Catholic school will be respectful of all religious traditions while presenting the Catholic point of view as part of the documentation provided for study and discussion," Wendy Louis, Director of the Singapore Pastoral Institute said.

As the archdiocesan Religious Education programme is set to roll out in 2007, existing religious education programmes used by St. Joseph's Institution (SJI) and St. Patrick's School will be used in the interim.

Dominic Ang and Alphonsus Gregory, both Religious and Moral Education teachers from SJI, introduced their programme to the other educators at the meeting. "It's a good move that [Catholic schools] now have a programme that all schools can share," Mr. Alphonsus commented. The strength of the Religious Education program lies in the fact that it is flexible and can be modified to meet each school's culture and values. ACCS is also looking into launching a two-year diploma course in Religious Education programme in 2006 for Catholic schools. Father Michael McGuire from Columbia and Brother John de Cruz, a Lasallian brother from Malaysia, will conduct the course together with Sister Julia and Father David Garcia, OP.

"It is in response to the need for teachers to be trained and informed to take on this important and essential role of a Catholic educator in a Catholic school," Sister Julia explained about the role this diploma course would play.

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