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| Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle | www.mn.catholic.org.au
FOUR YEAR 11 students at St Francis
Xavier's College, Hamilton are swapping
their textbooks and tests for songs and
stickers as part of the school's volunteer
program, 'Teaching Religious Education in
Casey Neil, Lachlan McQualter, Kate-Lane
Dart and Louise Slowey, members of a
group of 28, have volunteered for the
11 week program which sees students
visit Hamilton South Public School, St
Joseph's Merewether and St Pius X
Windale once a week to assist teachers in
"They're there as helpers," the program's
founder teacher Bob Sheridan said.
"I came across the idea in 2005 when I
was talking to Sister Christine O'Connor
who co-ordinated the catechesis at
Hamilton South Public."
Since a twelve month trial in 2006, 100
students have participated in the program;
all have acquired strong interpersonal
skills and a keen sense of social justice.
Several have gone on to study teaching
at university, and last year's volunteers
organised a surprise Christmas party for
the children of St Pius X.
"The program wouldn't run without the
support of the principal, Brother Hubert
Williams and the Director of Children's
Ministries, John Donnelly," Bob said.
"Everything about it has been positive."
Year 11 is offered the program after Year
12 finish it in semester one. "Year 12
has their HSC trials so I offer it to Year
11 students who have had six months to
settle into senior studies," Bob explained.
This semester's 28 volunteers have been
divided and each group allocated a school
and a one hour timeslot that best fits
timetables. Part-time work is not a concern
as the program runs during school hours;
Kate-Lane, Casey, Louise and Lachlan
have not had much difficulty juggling RE
"They're so dedicated they keep their work
up to scratch," says Bob.
Before the program all the volunteers
attended two training sessions held by
John Donnelly and the Principal of St Pius
X, John Wakely.
Louise said, "Mr Donnelly told us the dos
and don'ts of interacting with kids and
Mr Wakely explained the socio-economic
issues at St Pius'."
All four admitted to slight nerves after the
training, worried the children might be
"They were actually really affectionate,"
"On my first day the kids swarmed over me
wanting piggybacks," Lachlan laughed.
He said the opportunity to help children
motivated him to sign up as it did Casey.
"I want to work with kids when I'm
older so getting a chance to see how a
primary school operates was really good,"
Louise was inspired to volunteer after
seeing a slideshow of past students.
"They looked so happy; I thought it would
be nice to give back to the community."
All the students are responsible for
transport to and from 'their' schools.
Casey and Louise hike to Merewether
while Kate-Lane enjoys a ten minute stroll
to HSPS. However Lachlan, assigned to St
Pius X, is driven to Windale by Mr Sheridan.
"There's a relationship between the college
and the Catholic and Public primary
schools within the community which is
wonderful," Bob said.
Director of Schools Ray Collins has
praised the students' commitment and
their mature approach to the program.
"I am sure that the students being taught
would relate very well to the SFX students,
making the experience uplifting for
Br Hubert said of the students, "They have
been able to experience being in front
of a group of young children and have
discovered the challenges arising from
different socio-economic milieus."
Reflecting on his Wednesday afternoons
at Windale, Lachlan said, "You realise
how lucky we are to have what we have
and that we do take it for granted a lot of
And though talking about one's own faith
adds a personal touch to scripture class,
the students usually follow the program
set by the teacher.
"They don't always teach religion but in the
back of their heads that's what they're
there to do," Bob said.
He added that Sister Christine, now in
Western Australia, is utterly delighted with
the program's success.
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A conversation between a Josephite Sister and a senior school
teacher has produced an innovative approach to Religious
Education in three local primary schools.
in RE program
with teacher Bob
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