Religious education teachers best link with culture: BBI researcher

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Religious education teachers are the best interface we have with culture, says Catholic researcher Richard Rymarz, new head of religious education and research at the Broken Bay Institute (BBI).

Mr Rymarz said the teacher who put up his or her hand to teach religious education (RE) in an expanding Catholic education sector was “doing the Church an enormous service”.

“The best interface we have is the teacher … who is going to go into a Catholic school and teach RE,” Mr Rymarz said in a recent online video interview.

Rymarz
Richard Rymarz

“It’s perfect; that’s where it happens. The other stuff is important but there is nothing more important than what the teacher does in her classroom.”

Teachers needed support, in theology, pedagogy, and their own education if they were to be successful in meeting the RE needs of students – “and that’s what a group like BBI is very good at, in meeting those needs”.

He said he had chosen to take up the role with BBI because of a sense of “being on the same page” with its staff, “dealing with people who are leaders in their field, people who teach well (and) who take research seriously”.

“To be involved at a senior level in developing (RE courses at BBI) is something that’s enormously attractive.”

Mr Rymarz recently returned to Australia after an eight-year stint in Canada where he was the inaugural chair of RE at the University of Alberta and director of graduate programs at the Newman Theological Seminary, Edmonton.

In the late 2000s he was the author of seminal Australian research into the growing disaffection of young people from active Catholic faith.

In a 2011 article published in the Australian eJournal of Theology he recommended some principles for evangelising young Catholics in secular cultures, including being ready with coherent and compelling justifications for faith; celebrating Catholic culture and heritage; bringing God back into the centre of Catholic life; and responding to the needs of the community, among others.