Sunday, 6 August 2017

Interruption & Hope : Purposefully wading into deeper waters

                                                                                                        "Do not be afraid" Mt. 14:27

A personal reflective response to THCT605 Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI): Introducing the Leuven Project
This is my early understanding in relation to the Leuven Project. It is a personal interpretation, a way for me to recontextualise my learning so that it will be meaningful for the local school community. In sharing this reflection, I welcome interruption to my thoughts through dialogue as we purposefully wade into deeper waters together.
 Jesus Walking On Water by Gloria Ssali Fine Art America

1. Interruption
How can a school leader abandon their school for five days after an emergency closure due to water damage ? This was the question I grappled with when an unexpected event, interrupted and displaced some of our school community from their regular teaching and learning spaces in the days leading up to this course.

2. Hope
Three valid reasons enabled the interruption to provide a space for new learning and formation:
a) I implicitly trust the capabilities of our very able staff. Emails and phone calls are reassuring. b) Prior enrolment in the Australian Catholic University (ACU) paper generously sponsored by Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM) meant that I was committed. c) A duty as a school leader to fully understand the ECSI Project in light of our school report and a personal challenge to further support and enhance Catholic school identity in the hope that it will flourish.

3. Interruption
Professor Didier Polleyfet and Jan Bouwens presenting the ECSI Project to Catholic school leaders, August 2017
After our first full day of learning, my head was spinning with theological terms, words and phrases associated with the ECSI Project. Like all learning, we have to be brave enough to fall into the pit (Butler & Edwards, 1994 cited in Nottingham, 2003) before we can truly rise to the challenge of new learning.
On my second morning, after alighting from a tram full of commuters staring at their mobile phone screens, my eyes were immediately drawn to the sun glistening on a large bronze crucifix outside the headquarters of CEM, James Goold House. This symbol was an interruption to the norm, an immovable presence amidst the hurrying passersby.
Image from Taiwan Today

4. Hope
Passersby appeared oblivious to the bronze crucifix, a striking symbol of Christianity. Yet, it was on the morning of our fifth and final day, when I finally believed my new learning was making sense, that my perception of the insignificance of the symbol to passersby changed. I noticed a single, white lily had been placed at the foot of the crucifix. Immediately, this simple gesture, had transformed a traditional symbol of Catholic identity into the present space where dialogue, personal encounter and hope could connect and flourish.

5. Interruption
The latest publication from Pollefeyt and Bouwens
As leaders and teachers in Catholic schools, we are called to enable space and place for personal encounters within the rich tapestry of Catholic symbols, prayer, scripture and tradition. Research from the Leuven Project (Pollefeyt & Bouwens, 2014), grounded in data from our Australian schools, suggests that Religious Education primarily based on Christian Values is not enough within the context of our secularising society. We have to challenge ourselves to dig more deeply, in order to purposefully connect the mystery and tradition of our Catholic faith, with the contemporary lives of our learners today.
To help explain this, I have likened this challenging interruption to an iceberg analogy.

Personal iceberg analogy to explain a way to enhance Catholic Identity in our schools today.

6. Hope
We can help our learners to engage in a sacred space, to enable a personal encounter with our loving God. Research from Pollefeyt and Bouwens (2014), indicates that the two main areas where we can make an impact are:
a) The creative use of scripture and
b) Engaging learners in prayer.

Let's support our learners to connect with and make sense of their personal life experiences in the contemporary world of today, by purposefully wading into deeper waters together.  "Do not be afraid" Mt. 14:27.

Through intentional interruption and by drawing deeply from Catholic sacraments, traditions, symbols and stories (Sharkey, 2015), we can enable a vibrant, living, contemporary Catholicity to flourish.

This reflection is an attempt to recognise the following theological interpretations:
Interruption - Boeve (2016) argues that a productive tension between theology and religious studies interrupting each other is mutually beneficial.
Hope -  Sharkey (2017) challenges us to reflect on and celebrate the seeds of hope we can identify in our current practise.


Boeve, L. (2016). Theology at the crossroads of university, church and society: Dialogue, difference and Catholic identity. London, United Kingdom: Bloombsbury.

Nottingham, J. (2003). The Learning Challenge. Retrieved from

Pollefeyt, D. & Bouwens, J. (2014). Identity in Dialogue. Assessing and enhancing Catholic school identity. Munster, Germany: Lit Verlag.

Sharkey, P. (2015). Educator's guide to Catholic identity. Victoria, Australia: Vaughan Publishing.

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