Luke recognised for lead role in evangelising to primary school students
When Luke Maher attended the Catholic Schools Cultural Festival and Recognition Awards, he knew he had been nominated for an award, he just didn’t know which one.
When his name was announced for the prestigious Archbishop’s Award, one of two awards kept under wraps until the night, he was gobsmacked and found it hard to take in.
“I must say was a bit taken aback and I didn’t really take it in on the night, but our Assistant Principal recorded a video of it and I’ve heard it back since.”
While the award itself singles out Luke, he sees it more as a recognition of the work of all of those working in the New Evangelisation and primary youth ministry programs.
“And it is really exciting. It’s something that I’ve become extremely passionate about because I’ve seen the fruit in this amazing work,” Luke explained.
“It’s part of the work that we’ve been doing in partnership here at the South Belconnen Parish, at St Matthew’s in Page and at St Vincent’s in Aranda,” Luke said.
“We’ve had the opportunity to pilot the new junior program last year. We’re now 18 months in and when we talk about Youth Ministry, we talk about an intentional pathway, and for many years that intentional pathway has focused on secondary schools into some of the work post-school with Youth Ministers, but now we’re also expanding to primary schools.”
“What we’re seeing as it develops and grows is that we have our primary schools now having an opportunity for faith formation to engage themselves with that question of where they are with their faith.”
Luke said that the programs weren’t just beneficial to Catholic students in the pilot schools but for the whole community.
“They are all having an experience of an encounter, and have all been lifted, and we’ve seen that,” Luke enthused.
“It’s quite remarkable – the engagement we’ve seen from the senior students across the seven schools that we have involved in it across the Archdiocese. And then being able to move into a program or to within ministry in the secondary schools, and after that, post-school in the work that’s happening in partnership with ACU and you’re starting to see that intentional pathway develop.”
Luke said that there are now 45 students at St Vincent’s who are engaged in senior youth ministry. Those students recently led retreats for the school’s Kindergarten and Year 1/2 students, as well as a sacramental retreat for the Year 3 students.
“It just continues to grow as they become more engaged and start to know the person of Jesus a little bit more in their own context. It’s really exciting,” Luke said.
Luke’s own pathway to becoming a Religious Education Coordinator (REC) at a Catholic School wasn’t perhaps an obvious one. One of seven siblings, he was educated from Kindergarten to Year 12 at Braidwood Central School.
His teaching path began with a six month stint straight out of school, but even though he’d always felt a calling towards teaching, the particular time or situation didn’t sit right with him. Luke took up a few other opportunities, including working overseas for a while, but upon his return he was drawn to the Australian Catholic University and knew straight away that he’d found the path for him.
His final year practicum took him to Good Shepherd Primary at Amaroo where he was lucky enough to secure employment upon completion of his degree. Luke spent four years as a teacher at Good Shepherd before becoming their REC, a role he held for the next four years before taking up the same role at St Vincent’s where he has been for the last four years.
With fewer members of religious orders involved in teaching roles at many Catholic Schools, the role of the REC has become particularly important.
“The REC is a position within the school’s executive but has an opportunity within that role to lead the formation of the school, to lead the prayer life of the school, and also to provide support and leadership within the RE Curriculum as well,” Luke explained.
“The REC is involved with the formation of students, teachers and parents, the importance of recognising we’re part of a parish community. And then there’s administrative tasks, and opportunities to be involved in sacramental programs, prayer celebrations, the liturgical calendar… all those sorts of things that would be are part of the religious education side of things as well as the day to day life of the school.”
As an REC, Luke still has a four day a week teaching load with one day set aside for REC work. That balance can change, he said, depending on the size of the school.
In the last year he has taken part in World Youth Day in Panama and in the Leading the New Evangelisation program in London and Rome. He said that these opportunities to experience the Universal Catholic Church as part of an Archdiocesan team that included Archbishop Christopher, Archdiocesan priests, fellow RECs and representatives of Catholic Education gave him a greater appreciation of the strength, support and communion of the Catholic Community.
And while those experiences he said that had a profound effect on nourishing his Faith, he felt a bit like Dorothy: there’s no place like home, and no role that he’d rather be doing.
“Being able to work with young people who are discovering and celebrating their faith, and seeing the impact that that has on them, their classmates and their families, it’s powerful,” he said.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of, and inspires me every day.”