Strong prayer, Sacramental life essential for RECs

By Matthew Biddle

RELIGIOUS education coordinators (RECs) in Catholic schools should have a strong prayer life and frequent the Sacraments, Archbishop Christopher Prowse told a gathering of the Archdiocese’s RECs on March 1.

With an REC present from every Catholic school in the Archdiocese except for one, the Archbishop thanked the teachers for their work and acknowledged the significant responsibilities placed upon them.

“I want you to feel first of all a spirit of gratitude and thanks from me and from all the Archdiocese,” he said.

The Archbishop then stressed the importance of an “authentic” faith within the lives of the RECs.

“The first thing I would like you to do is to develop a prayer life,” he said.

“You are Catholic religious education coordinators, so you’re close to the Catholic Church, you do go to church, Mass is important, and the Sacraments are important.

“Otherwise, please, do not continue as a religious education coordinator, because it’s not going to work out, neither for you nor for the children in your classes.”

Of the 55 RECs gathered for the occasion, 17 were new to the role, as of the beginning of the 2016 school year.

Using a phrase coined by Pope Francis, Archbishop Christopher said being an REC was a great opportunity for the teachers to be “missionary disciples” in their schools, but added that the role would not be an easy one.

“If you’re going to be an RE coordinator, welcome to Calvary,” he said.

An REC also needs to combine Scripture and Tradition effectively, in order to transmit the faith to the next generation, the Archbishop said.

“I’m not particularly interested in an REC who talks about all things spiritual but never really talks about the Catholic faith,” he said.

“We are unashamedly Catholic, we come from 2,000 years of tradition, so… if you’re going to be an REC, you’ve got to have, in a sense, the Bible in one hand, and a summary of our 2,000-year history, which is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the other hand.

“I don’t want you to dumb down the Catholic faith because you think it’s unpalatable to the children. I want you to translate it in a way that is fragrant.”

With the organisation of school Confirmation ceremonies being one of the key duties of an REC each year, Archbishop Christopher provided the teachers with an insight into ways of enhancing the occasion.

“What has been the difference between a great Confirmation and one that was just OK? Sometimes the organisers of the liturgy have concentrated more on the choreography of the ceremony, rather than the spirit of the ceremony,” he explained.

“Some, I think without reflecting on it, have linked up a school concert with preparing the liturgy. But it’s not a concert, it’s an encounter with Jesus Christ.

“At the end of the night I don’t want people to say ‘Well done, the kids performed very well’. It’s not about performance, it’s about presence.”

Archbishop Christopher also suggested some ideas for schools to take part in the Year of Mercy, such as by focusing on a spiritual or corporal work of mercy each week, or setting up a Holy Door in the school.