When Year 10 students from St Scholastica’s College, Glebe were asked earlier this year to assist a group of catechists at a nearby State primary school, college staff thought a few students might volunteer. Much to their surprise, about 40 girls expressed interest.
Speaking to The Good Oil recently, Alice Priest, a teacher and chaplain at the college, said the students expressed such a strong interest that six teams were formed to work with the group of catechists, mostly retired women and university students, from St James’ Parish in Glebe.
While Alice recognises the girls at St Scholastica’s are “certainly not Holy Joes”, she believes there is a strong culture of openness to religious education within the college community, “and so generally the whole cohort is supportive of each other making a choice like this”.
“It is a way for the girls to express the values of the college,” said Alice.
“They’re in Year 10, so I think they do like the idea of having that extra responsibility and going off site, all that kind of thing. But what was presented to them was the opportunity to grow in their own faith.”
So how does the initiative work?
Each Thursday morning over a five-week period, a team of girls visits Ultimo Primary School where they are paired with a catechist. During the half-hour lesson the girls work with a catechist in a Kinder, Year 1-2, Year 3-4 or Year 5-6 class. In the first week the girls spend time observing and by the last week they have the opportunity to lead the lesson.
“It’s been a really interesting experience,” said Alice.
“All the girls who’ve taken part in it so far have really got a lot out of it.”
Alice has also noticed that the Ultimo students have made a strong connection with the St Scholastica’s girls, mostly because they are closer in age and wear a school uniform.
“The students themselves do provide those kids at Ultimo with a witness [to their faith] that they don’t get anywhere else in their life,” she said.
The first team of St Scholastica’s students – Anuna Flaherty, Claudia Gilchrist, Danielle Chu, Constance Kikitis and Anna Linfield-Kent – completed their five-week experience at the end of first term, and from all reports, it was very positive.
“[The girls] would say they’ve got a new appreciation for the opportunities that they have in their own school experience and religious education classes,” said Alice.
For Danielle Chu, who worked with Year 1-2, the experience was just as important for her as it was for the students.
“It was a warm experience which made me think about our influence on children who are only beginning their Christian journey,” said Danielle.
“My most memorable moment was leading the Year 1-2 class in a hymn, ‘Jesus will always be our friend’. Everyone enthusiastically sang it. I think they’ll remember that too.”
Anuna Flaherty found the experience “extremely enjoyable” but not without its challenges.
“Working with the kids and helping them learn more about Caritas and how they can incorporate prayer into their daily routine was challenging at first, but once I got to know the students it was exciting and I became more motivated to create a relationship with the students and teach them about God and prayer,” said Anuna.
“I would definitely love to do more programs like this in future.”
The second team of girls from St Scholastica’s recently began their five-week experience at Ultimo Primary School. Based on the experiences so far, it seems this faith mentoring initiative promises to be a formative experience for all concerned.