Nurturing faith in the Regions
Alice Reardon was drawn to the role of Religious Education Coordinator by early memories of being a student at St Matthew’s, Page.
There she first experienced what a Catholic school is and the feelings that come from being part of a Catholic community. There is something special about being united in a faith-sharing community, supporting each other in hard times and in good.
“It’s amazing when the whole school comes together, be it for a fundraiser, school mass or graduation,” Alice said.
“I also love getting into the classrooms to support teachers in planning and delivering engaging RE lessons.”
In 2014, Alice took on the REC position, which comes with challenges, especially in a rural community.
Recently Bombala-Delegate Parish has found itself with limited priest availability. Fr Mick MacAndrew travels considerable distances, limiting the parish to two Sunday masses a month and fortnightly Wednesday school masses.
On non-mass weeks, Alice helps as a liturgy leader, highlighting the importance of the leadership role of an REC in a regional school and wider parish community.
Bombala was impacted by the 2019-2020 fires. “We have a family who lost their home, my own family’s farm was partially burnt, and many children felt uneasy about the experiences they endured,” Alice said.
Special bush fire support programs were offered to students and staff during that time.
“It was amazing to see the whole community come together to support those who needed it most,” she said.
With COVID-19 introducing many challenges to the learning environment, Alice made sure they used online platforms. “They were quite fortunate in Bombala to have a lot less remote learning during COVID than other schools,” she said.
Still, she believed it was imperative to “meet people where they were at” during this time, and so she planned learning experiences that were accessible to all in the community.
The staff at St Joseph’s found the “daily check-ins” crucial for supporting student wellbeing, so students could “see” their peers and teachers.
The parish and associate priest did a fabulous job uploading masses and reflections online and even held a carpark mass when they were able to, she said.
Alice sees the greatest challenges and opportunities for youth in their faith today is that they are pulled in so many directions.
“So much information is being presented to them and they often struggle to connect to something greater than the present,” she said.
St Joseph’s students love learning about social justice and developing their own actions for the community and world.
In the past few years, the school has established strong links with local St Vincent de Paul Society conferences, run many community fundraisers, celebrated fortnightly whole-school masses, and found ways to establish strong links with pre-schools and aged care facilities in the area.
St Joseph’s Primary has grown from a school of 19 students in 2012 to 65 students in 2022.
Alice says it is “certainly all hands on-deck when you work at a rural school” but she wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It is such an amazing workplace and I feel so privileged to work with such a great group of people.”