TEACHERS' ENTERPRISE IN RELIGIOUS EDUCATION
Feedback from Primary Teachers
STUDY VISIT TO ROME 26-31 MAY ‘07
Twenty-seven teachers took part in the Study Visit in Rome (Accommodation - 7 minutes walk from the Vatican)
Study Sessions 28, 29 & 30 May, given by Fr. Herbert Alphonso SJ. Gregorian University.
The evaluations have all been extremely positive but have amounted to over fifty pages so the following are just extracts from them.
“What a delight to meet Fr. Herbie Alphonso … I knew from our opening prayer we were in for a treat! Three memorable sessions on the Eucharist, Reconciliation and Prayer! As I am writing now rather belatedly after the third session I want to start on that one … and I do feel that perhaps I would have like it to come first!!! I know the vital importance of the Eucharist and Reconciliation but I loved EVERYTHING Fr. had to say about prayer especially the discipline of prayer. I now want to get home and read up on St. Ignatius, St. John Vianney, St. Teresa of Avila and of course our own Fr. Herbie ‘The Personal Vocation’ – other readings on returning home will be the poems of Francis Thompson and of course the memorable Bible references.
Reconciliation was an incredible session with its focus on the Prodigal Father and of course the Eucharist ‘the Force and Power of real life of God. I made copious notes which I know I will refer to frequently.
Other things I have gained and experienced in the four days include the new friendships, the strengthening of old friendships, the professional dialogue, the banter and the fun!”
“I have learnt so much these last few days about myself and my own personal journey in faith and I am extremely grateful to Sr. Marcellina for organising this very important trip for all of us. This will stay with me forever and I will carry so many things in my heart and into my everyday living and in my relationships with others. What a wonderful privilege to be at St. Peter’s Basilica on Pentecost Sunday – sharing the peace with so many pilgrims of all different nationalities and all the difference languages and all filled with the love of the Lord.”
“I have gained a much deeper knowledge of the Eucharist and meaning of the Mass. This is something I can take away with me to share with my family and children in school. It is not just celebrating the Eucharist but living it and continuing it in our daily lives…. I feel I have been on a real retreat. It has deepened and restored my faith… We have taken so much for granted with our faith, it has been a real thought provoking experience…. Rome is an ideal location, it is filled with faith. Religion is everywhere, you can feel it within yourself. It is open not hidden, something to be proud of and acknowledged. I have really enjoyed this visit and feel that it is of great benefit to me as myself, wife, mother and teacher assisting other children.”
“Sunday: Sightseeing mainly – we walked to Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Basilica di San Pietro and the Vatican Museum. We were present for the Pope’s Angelus which was much shorter than I expected. It amazes me how the Church is so strong globally…
Monday: Fr. Herbie has no pomp or ego despite his massive knowledge and intellect without making us feel patronised. He explained his thoughts to us and this really brought out the ‘sacrificial nature’ of the Eucharist for me… I certainly intend to cascade my experience, notes and thoughts to friends, family, colleagues and the children in my care.”
“Monday 28 May, Fantastic study session with Fr. Herbie. What a mesmerist, compelling, inspirational speaker he is. He has made my thirst for spiritual guidance greater. The Eucharist: I gained a deeper understanding of my faith, a question to how I live my life, allowing me to think on how we as a school can go into the community to develop and foster family life. A thought-provoking interesting lecture, follow by a moving Mass…. “
“Tuesday 29 May – Fr. Herbie lectured on Reconciliation and put it into such a wonderful context – The Parable of the Prodigal Son! I very much enjoyed the way in which he viewed it from the ‘Father’ point of view and his unconditional love for his son. In many ways this parable can be related to our own lives. I certainly, as a parent, can empathise with the Father and his predicament about his son and hopefully would react in a similar manner. I feel more confident on my approach to children in my care and will strive to live and practice reconciliation by accepting the person for who they are. We visited some wonderful sites for the remainder of the day…”
“Wednesday 30 May – I found this time with Fr. Alphonso very inspiring. I have never thought about prayer as the notion of opening up our hearts to God. Yes, we talk to God and think but actually opening up is what we do. I feel that this will help me reflect upon I do and think when I pray on my own and with the children in my class and school.
Overall, this trip has inspired me! It has inspired me as a person, an individual that I am and as a teacher of religious education. After feeling pretty glum about teaching RE … and then being transformed by ‘The Way, the Truth & the Life’, I am now overcome with joy and excitement about the teachings of Jesus and Christian life in RE lessons. This trip to Rome has been very inspirational and will be a trip that I will remember for a long time! I feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity and I thank you all for teaching me things that will stay in my head and my heart forever!”
“Monday 28 May – Our first lecture with Fr. Herbie – we were all intrigued to meet him at long last. What first struck me was his calming presence and gentle nature. As soon as he began to speak the whole room seemed to be mesmerized by his words. The lecture on the Eucharist was one that I found particularly beneficial since this is a topic I dealt with earlier in the year with my class. At the time, I didn’t feel confident about the strong ideas and beliefs I was communicating with my children but now Fr. Herbie has cleared up all of those issues and if I were to teach the lessons again I think the children would benefit greatly from what I had to say (I teach Year 3) as I now have clearer ideas about my faith. I was to find out later that I was not the only one who found the lecture so thought provoking – it provided the basis for a lively discussion over lunch as well as some deep reflection between my friend and I before lights out.”
“…The visit to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum left me to visually explore the awe and wonder of our faith. Later when reflecting on the day and thinking about the Mass we had shared after the lecture I was aware that I was beginning to be refilled, nourished and spiritually refreshed. Dinner that night, the howling laughter and the debate completed a very fulfilling day!
I was deeply moved by this mornings talk on Reconciliation and wholly humbled. Fr. Herbie spoke with a passion that held my attention and understanding. It was such a simple message, easily accessed and profoundly felt – Wow! … This morning after our wonderful group meeting - a spiritual fulfilling – I felt completely renewed, open, vulnerable but protected at the same time and wanting for more!”
“The focus today is on prayer: … Until now, I can say that I and my class, and I presume many other teachers in school approach daily prayer as words to be memorised and then recited with very little thought. There is an emphasis on getting the children to learn the prayers and then recite them loudly and clearly. Fr. Herbie has made me realise that this teaching is the wrong approach to prayer and that the most powerful prayers are those that are unique and personal to the individual. It is not about just repeating words that have been drummed into us from an early age – it is about opening our hearts to God in our own unique way. The session has inspired me to take a new approach to prayer once I get back to school. I will allow the children to pray in a way that feels special to them. We will have candles and soft music and will listen to each others’ prayers.”
“Monday: I have recently completed a module on the Eucharist for the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies and I must say I learnt more today than I did over the whole 10 weeks programme. Father was enthusiastic and passionate about the topic which I feel rubbed off on us all. The information we were given was clear and given in a way which I could relate to. It generated thoughts and ideas in my mind which I hope to explore through my teaching.”
“Along side our study sessions we have also had time to explore this wonderful city, ancient and modern, Christian and secular, curiously intertwined. I have wandered streets and unexpectedly come across amazing sites: churches, piazzas, fountains, etc. The art work, sculpture, paintings have been awe-inspiring. But most of all I have had time and space, away from the everyday pressures of school and family, to discover a more personal ‘me’. I have spoken to like minded people, met people of great strength and faith, formed new friendships and, most of all, I go home with a new vigour to face my personal challenges and, I hope, inspire those who I teach and work alongside.”
“Rome – the Eternal City – I will always be eternally grateful for this opportunity to make the study visit with colleagues.” This has been echoed by all members of the group.
3 June ‘07