Joanne Navarra: Our beautiful God led me to teach

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Joanne Navarra. PHOTO: supplied

Joanne tells about sharing the Good News in schools

As a catechist running religion classes in a Sydney public primary school, Joanne Navarra says her own faith and spiritual life have grown “immensely”.

Why did you become a catechist?

It was a Sunday morning at St Augustine’s Church in Balmain when the children were singing in front of the congregation and I was really adoring their performance. I had heard about the need for catechist teachers at public primary schools on this same day and started to become interested.

But since I did not have any teaching experience, I was admittedly a little nervous about doing so, however, something was telling me and I honestly believe it was our beautiful God, to take up this path to teach. It was such a strong feeling and at that very moment, I turned to my husband John and said “John, I’m going to do this.

“knowing that you have made a difference in the children’s faith development is very rewarding”

“I love kids and I want to share at least what I’ve learnt from the weekly Masses, in particular about Jesus. These children need to know about him and it is up to volunteers to spread his good news.” So I had applied for the safe guarding of children permit and the beginning of the catechist/teachers course. This is where I met other teachers and coordinators and learnt about their experiences.

Where do you teach?

I’ve taught for just over three years at Leichhardt Public School. As a catechist I learn about each child, their names, their characters and most of all their eagerness to learn about God. In the second half of 2018, I also started teaching as an assistant catechist teacher at Balmain Public School Year 5/6 combined. In 2019 I also taught Years 5/6 combined at Birchgrove Public School. I really tried hard to teach as many classes as possible due to the need for teachers.

What has been your favourite moment in the classroom?

I have been fortunate to have had many great moments; this is very rewarding as it tells me that I have made an impact in the children’s religious lives. In particular these have been my favourite:

1. Receiving this message, “Miss Joanne, you have been the best scripture teacher. Thank you for teaching us, we have learnt so much.”
2. For advent in my first year, I had the students create a Christmas card for any person of their choice with any greeting they wanted to express. I received three cards, which filled me with joy. I’ve kept these cards as they were written with such honesty and sentiment.

3. When the children really admire my personal stories as it relates to the lesson; their attention is incredible as they can relate to it.
4. Watching the children start the class every week, by praying the “Our Father”, with such dedication.

What’s the most important thing you have learned?

I found that by sharing my personal experiences the children become very engaged with my classes. It’s important to make the classes fun – you can easily pick up if they become bored so therefore change up your class. Ensure that the students understand the lesson, encourage them to ask questions and mix their activities – from the workbooks, to crosswords, plays, videos etc.

How has teaching the faith to children helped you to grow in your own faith and life?

Since I’ve started teaching, my spirituality has grown immensely. For me, this has been important as it helps me to relate to the children. Every week, when I am preparing the class material, it is amazing as I too am learning about the lesson; be it from a story, Gospel passage, illustration etc. I enjoy telling the children aspects of my own faith story in the context of the age they are.

What would you like to tell others about this ministry?

Catechists are needed in schools as there is a shortage. These children are our future and the more teachers we have, the more God’s words can be spread. I’d encourage anyone interested to join the catechists program, it is very enjoyable and knowing that you have made a difference in the children’s faith development is very rewarding.

Related articles:

Renee Hourani: Why I love sharing my faith
Richard Korkor: Trusting the Holy Spirit