Archbishop Fisher praises unique role that family educators are playing in the New Evangelisation.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has called on Family Educators to do all they can to strengthen the Catholic identity and mission of Sydney Catholic Schools, given the unique role they can play as missionary intentional disciples, strengthening the ties between parishes and school families in an increasingly secular society.
The Archbishop delivered an online presentation to over 100 Family Educators on 6 August, entitled “Be a Light in Lockdown: Family Educators and the New Evangelisation”.
Established in 2010 with just six people, the Family Educator program now covers nearly every Catholic primary school across the Sydney Catholic Schools network.
Family Educators work closely with School Principals and Parish Priests. They lead a range of projects in Catholic schools, which include opportunities for parents to become more engaged in the faith life of their childrens’ schools, from outreach projects with St Vincent De Paul Night Patrols through to art programs where parents make special mementos for their children as they prepare for their First Holy Communion or Confirmation.
“It is an example of applying greater intentionality to the challenge of evangelisation of those in some sense ‘within the fold’ than we ever did in the past.”
As Chair of the Australian Bishops’ Commission for Catholic Education, Archbishop Fisher said in an environment of growing secularisation, the role of Family Educators was more critical than ever to help bring students and their families closer to Christ.
“They are using new strategies, new thinking, new rhetoric to connect people to God and the Church – people who in theory should already be well-connected but who may in fact be far from the Church in their everyday lives. It is an example of applying greater intentionality to the challenge of evangelisation of those in some sense ‘within the fold’ than we ever did in the past”, Archbishop Fisher told the meeting.
“The corrosive effects of secularisation upon the Catholic DNA are evident in our institutions: many Religious Education teachers no longer practice the religion themselves and are unacquainted with or out of sorts with substantial parts of the doctrine and morals they are charged with teaching.
“And if ever there was an example of someone placed at the cusp of those three sources of encounter with Christ – family, parish and school – it is the family educator!”, he said.
“As I have visited schools during parish visitations, I have been delighted to hear from some of you personally, or from the leaders of school and parish, of your very helpful work, encouraging families to engage with their faith through Masses and in various other ways.
Archbishop Fisher told the Family Educators that their calling as missionary intentional disciples has become particularly important during the COVID-19 lockdown, when many families are looking to nurture their faith through challenging times.
“Your focus on the domestic church is more important than ever under COVID, as the Church and school that begins in the home has now returned to the home for the time being”, he added.
The Archbishop singled out the Family Educator’s current program, Be a Light in Lockdown as a good example of this missionary outreach.
Family Educators have been making weekly phone-calls to check in with families, digital prayer resources have been shared for children, reflecting on the Sunday Gospel and online Lectio Divina sessions have been organised for parents.
“Since we often tend to have school-aged children ourselves, this can help us more easily relate to the day to day challenges families are facing [and be] role models …”
A family educator for the past three years at St Charles Borromeo primary school in Ryde, Mrs Phillipa Manley, said Archbishop Fisher’s presentation helped to strengthen her mission and resolve to go out and make disciples within her school community.
“We have started an online Alpha program during the lockdown and through that program, I have definitely come to appreciate more that family educators can be powerful role models of faith in the family setting in a way which is very distinct from that of the religious education teacher in the classroom”, she said.
Fellow Family Educator, Mrs Melina Cansino from St Catherine of Siena primary, Prestons said she came away from the Archbishop’s presentation with a much deeper appreciation of how important family educators are in the Sydney Catholic community.
“Since we often tend to have school-aged children ourselves, this can help us more easily relate to the day to day challenges families are facing and in so doing, help us become tangible role models in the faith to our parents”.