Richard models missionary discipleship in public schools
As a catechist in Sydney, Richard Korkor relies upon his knowledge, creativity, and inspiration from the Holy Spirit to make his lessons memorable.
Why did you become a catechist?
I think it was someone from the parish or my wife or both suggesting I should have a go as I might enjoy it. Around the same time there was a little inside voice nudging me along. So I figured I’d do the Marian thing and say “yes” when I was asked to take a class.
I have been a catechist for around 10 years mainly in the Hunters Hill area, starting with Year 5 at Hunters Hill Primary school and over the past four years covering all years at Hunters Hill High. I also spent 2019 teaching Year 9 students at Epping Boys and I’ve covered for a few senior year classes at Burwood High.
“it is a ministry of presence. Over time I think such a ministry will bear fruit in ways that I am sure I do not understand.”
What has been your favourite moment in the classroom?
Two special ones come to mind. I was teaching the Year 5 students during the time when fidget spinners were the ‘in thing’. One day during the class, instead of asking the kids to put them away I asked them to sit around on the floor in a circle and bring their fidget spinners with them. They became the 21st-century version of St Patrick’s three-leaved clover to help them understand the Trinity. It worked very well and I think from that point on their fidget spinners were like rosary beads.
The other session was with the Year 9 boys at Epping Boys where we found a way to relate one of this famous rappers song whom I’d never heard of called Da Baby to the Gospel. I think we were all amazed at how the Holy Spirit guided that discussion.
What’s the most important thing you have learned?
The best learning happens when I meet the kids where they are at. For example if it is exam time then they need some quiet meditation time to be still and know God is near because this space we share for a few minutes each week is not another subject but a time for an encounter which they can then take that with them once they leave that room.
While my role is important, I’m just a little piece in their faith journey which helps puts things in perspective and allows for a much more flowing less didactic environment. What that means for me is that my presence in the school is a ministry of being a witness to the Gospel. Over and above what I do in the classroom, mine is a ministry of presence. Over time I think such a ministry will bear fruit in ways that I am sure I do not understand.
How has learning and teaching the faith to children helped you to grow in your own faith, and generally in life?
There are a number of areas. The first is trust. I’ve grown in my trust of the Holy Spirit to guide each lesson. There are some classes where I honestly ask myself “where did that stuff come from?” And there have also been numerous times whereby further thoughts come to mind after the lesson has finished, many of which centre on making the gospel relevant today.
I’ve learned that it is possible for 15-year old boys to sit still for 5-10 minutes during a meditation which in turn has taught me how important providing that sacred space is to help re-centre as we go back down the mountain.
What would you like to tell others about this ministry?
The ministry has many dimensions to it that go beyond just the classroom and is a way of living out our baptismal calling. Not only do you get the opportunity to see glimpses of a child’s faith journey but you also embody what it means to be a missionary disciple to your family, friends and work colleagues.
It is also a humbling ministry because you may never know the fruits of your work or whether there are any at all. All you can do is turn up and do your best with what you have. It’s the mix of the human and the divine.
If you are reading this article and a little voice is saying, “that would be nice to do but you know I don’t have the time, or I don’t know if I have enough knowledge to be able to get in front of children and teach or some other permutation or combination” then you are probably ready to have a go.
There are always voices to hold you back from allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you and the resurrection comes when we say ‘yes’ and trust. Jesus tells us I will be with you always and so it is when he prompts us to be his hands and feet.