Signum Fidei numbers triple
An Australian Catholic University program designed to improve faith formation in future Catholic school teachers has gone from 180 to more than 700 participants in just 18 months.
The growth indicates a real hunger for faith formation that builds the confidence of future religion teachers, according to the Director of ACU’s La Salle Academy for Faith Formation & Religious Education, Professor Brother David Hall.
Signum Fidei, meaning Light of Faith, is a voluntary program open to student teachers at ACU. Participants join a spiritual retreat and then volunteer for 25 hours of engagement activities which could range from reading in a parish church to participating in a Catholic Youth Festival to teaching at Sunday School.
The key is to enable future teachers to participate in an international activity that engages them and enables faith formation, beyond their academic studies in education or religion. The program recognises that almost all primary teachers and many secondary teachers in the Catholic system will teach religion and need to be able to do so with confidence and genuine commitment.
Brother David said the program was intentionally not for academic credit but rather provided an opportunity for students to develop faith out of deeper and more personal motivation.
“When you engage pre-service teachers in meaningful opportunities it develops their confidence and their desire and it is a stimulation for faith formation. The bulk of participants tells us that the program has awoken or nourished their faith,” he said.
Brother David said good religion teachers needed to combine knowledge of religion, strong pedagogy and person faith to provide effective education to children.
Student teacher Ella Barry said her participation in Signum Fidei had been a pathway both for deepening her faith but also for wider personal development.
“It was very empowering, and felt to me like a call to action. This experience spoke to me on a very personal level. I am confident each presenter really understood me, and understood where I was on my faith journey. I was so inspired.
“I initially chose to participate in the SF program to enhance my future job prospects. However, since completing this program I feel I have grown as a person and a teacher. I am more confident, I have a greater understanding of the relationship between school and parish, I have a greater sense of community, and overall I feel more prepared for my future as a teacher.”
She urged other students to embrace the opportunity. “Many of my friends have since come up to me and told me how much they regret not participating in Signum Fidei and taking part in the opportunities it has offered me.”
Signum Fidei is open to all education students at ACU. The University also offers in-service opportunities in faith formation for teachers.