Post Primary Diocesan Adviser for Archdiocese of Armagh.
An outline of the support and work provided by Fr Declan O’Loughlin.
It is the responsibility of the school to provide adequate religious education for its students. The diocese assists the school in this work by appointing a Catechetical Adviser/Co-ordinator. The Catechetical Adviser/Co-ordinator Fr Declan O’Loughlin facilitates the teaching of religion in the school in a number of ways:
- by visiting the school to meet with and encourage the religion teachers and help them evaluate their work. Fr Declan has consistently visited the RE HOD /Co-ordinator averaging about 5 visits annually. He disseminates resources for teaching RE to teachers, as well as materials to further develop the teachers own faith and spiritual development.
- by advising the Principal / SMT/ Board of Management/Governors and religion teachers on the catechetical syllabus, suitable textbooks and helping devise, supply and share suitable resource materials and giving assistance in formulating policies.
- by reminding Principals / Board of Management/Governors of the central position of Religious Education in the school syllabus and timetable, helping them through in-service staff days / meetings to develop the Christian/Catholic community within their school.
- by providing pastoral support to teachers and chaplains listening to their difficulties and helping develop co-operation between teachers and chaplains in any geographical area. For downloadable Class resources and policies please check out this religious Education blog. http://resource-ni.com This blog is an important resource for teachers as it has updated downloadable resources for teaching and prayer/worship resources for school assemblies and liturgies. Relevant documents from Archbishop Eamon and quotations from Pope Francis are placed her as an easy one stop place for teachers seeking updates and new resources.
- by organising some in-service theological and catechetical training for teachers and chaplains. We have an annual Religious Education Community Day held in St John the Baptist College Portadown which over the years has become the most important meeting for RE teachers and HODs in the school calendar. Expert theological and spiritual speakers are engaged to address and resource attending teachers. Teachers share their own best resources and through discussion a vibrant sense of a living community has developed over the past 30 years or so.
- by providing opportunities for teachers of religion to participate in retreats and days of prayer and personal/faith development. We have an excellent support group for school chaplains which meets 5 times annually with a full spiritual reflection day offered usually in March at Dromantine Conference Centre. Fr Declan resources these sessions facilitated by Mr Denis Bradly who also provides pastoral supervision individually or in small groups for those seeking this assistance.
- by sharing news of developments pertinent to teachers by means of written reports, newsletters, The Armagh Catechist and some gatherings. The Catechist is a small journal Fr Declan has assembled and edited for 30 years or so and is sent 4 times annually to each RE department. Feedback on this resource has been excellent and issues are widely read and appreciated. Two exhibitions prepared by Fr Declan and the Armagh Prayer and Spirituality Commission have been offered and hosted by a number of our post primary schools. These have proved very successful in raising interest and the profile of religious education and practice within hosting schools. The two exhibitions currently available are “ Praying your beads, an introduction to using prayer beads within spiritual practice” and also “ Christian Pilgrimage – an overview of the practice of going on pilgrimage as part of Christian living” This year the latter has been hosted by 4 schools for a week each.
- by keeping the Archbishop informed of the work and difficulties encountered by religion teachers, briefing him on national catechetical policies and developments and representing him in areas of educational development at school, diocesan and national levels.
- by encouraging and facilitating where possible the establishment of links between school, home and parish. eg Schools hosting exhibitions have invited parents and parish mass congregations to attend exhibitions. Sharing school liturgical resources with parish groups. Fr Declan makes available a weekly Taize -Lectio page for prayer based on the Sunday gospel which is sent to all teachers of Religious Education and about 300 others in parishs, families and some other countries.
- by providing opportunities for priests and seminarians to be more at home and more effective in schools, whether as teacher, chaplain or priest visitor. The chaplaincy support group helps ease some priest chaplains into their role. Sound advise and a trusting caring group provides chaplains with a space they can depend upon and refer to when necessary.
- by organising with our organising team the Annual Diocesan Celebration for Catholic Schools Week. Now an annual gathering of teachers, students, Governors, Principals to celebrate together our common vision of our Catholic school faith communities. These have gone from strength to strength each year with more attending and actively participating in the prayer and para-liturgy annually. This event always happens a week before CSW itself giving schools ideas and resources to try in their own home school community.