EP#5- Catholic Education (feat. Kylie Morrisey)

In this episode Fr. Rob Galea and Danii Sullivan talk about Catholic education. Fr Rob and Danii both attended catholic education for their schooling and currently work closely with Catholic education staff. They share their own personal experience as well as the benefits of a Catholic education and the impact it can have on students. 
Fr. Rob interviews Kylie Morrisey, a secondary school teacher in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. Kylie shares why she became a religious education teacher in a Catholic school, as well as what she finds is the most important things about teaching the Catholic faith to teenagers. 


to recognise the privilege that it is to work with, to walk with young people, I guess as they're moving through some of the tricky times of their lives.

But it's also a really great opportunity to help them recognise where God might be playing a role in their lives that perhaps they're not as conscious of.



Hey everybody, welcome to the Catholic influencers podcast, a conversation to help Catholic influences, like you and me, go deeper and further in influencing our world for Jesus. I'm your host, Father Rob Galea and I'm your cohost Danii Sullivan. And we look forward today to talking to you about Catholic education and the influence of it.

Hi Dan.

Hey, Fr Rob.

I called you Dan.

I know. I hate when people call me Dan.

Hey Danii.

Hey Far Robby.

So, that's just awkward. So today we're going to talk about Catholic education. None of us are teachers, you or I, but we both were brought up in Catholic education. So we both have had a Catholic education and we both as well in FRG Ministry, work very closely with Catholic education and has left a great impact and does leave great impacts on, on so many people, but it doesn't have all the answers, does it? And very often when we find answers for something, it's, we're left with even more questions then when we started off with. Yeah, absolutely. And so later on in this podcast we're going to actually have a teacher who we've interviewed who works in the Catholic education system and we talk a little bit about the struggles and the joys of Catholic education, but there's no doubt about it that Catholic education is a big stronghold, and important thing in our church. For example, I can only take country Australia. A lot of our churches don't have young people and young people are not stepping into the churches, but we have opportunities to outreach, to evangelise, to influence within the Catholic churches. And we have to take up every opportunity, invest and direct our hearts and to direct our efforts very often to the Catholic education

And here in country Victoria as well, in Australia, Catholic education is kind of, it's almost like a private school, but an affordable private school, there's lots of non religious people that attend these schools for the good education. And they're brought into the faith just through the witness of their teachers through the R.E (religious education) classroom, through other students as well. So it is an incredible opportunity to evangelise- from teachers to students to all manner of staff. And then each school has a chaplain as well. So they might come into it for one reason, but there's so many opportunities within that Catholic education to evangelise.

Yes. So it's quite different if you take the American context. American context. It's the parish that funds the school and it's the parish that evangelises the school. And some in some schools in America, you'll have only Catholics in schools. While for us it's very different. Where sometimes it's the Catholic population is a minority. It is government funded. Even our teachers, even teachers and staff who teach religious education, R.E. are often not Catholic themselves. And so it's really hard to influence, especially influence in a sense of encounter, having had the experience of faith themselves. As we'll go through and we talk about in the interview, it's about, faith being caught. It's contagious. It's not taught, you can't teach the faith. But when people see the faith that you have and then they want it. And this is somehow what our Catholic education sometimes lacks and I suppose even in the United States.

Yeah, absolutely. High school especially I had R.E. Teachers and they might not have wanted to share their faith as much or they might just be doing it to fill up their timetable, they needed to. But in year 10 I had an R.E. Teacher who was amazing. He was actually excited about his faith and he shared that openly. He wasn't ashamed of it. And that kind of gave me the courage to be like, 'okay, maybe I can share mine as well.' And then in year 11 and 12, I was blessed again with teachers that were proudly practicing Catholics. And that just influenced me so much because I saw that it was okay to continue this faith thing even after I finished year 12.

Yeah. And it was the same for me as well. I remember his name was Mr Joe. And Mr Joe who gave me my first Christian CD, my first Christian music, I think it was a band called PFR, I don't think they exist anymore. But it was a rock band, was a Christian rock band. And I just couldn't believe that Christian music could be like that. And that sort of triggered in me, this was even before my conversion, this was before I had my turn around in my life. And I somehow, I knew that this Christian music existed because of a teacher. And I also remember even in primary school in elementary school, I just remember these teachers that were just so full of joy and so full of faith and they would tell stories of their faith

*crickets* that's something that Fr Rob does every time I'm supposed to talk, and I forget to talk. He just looks at me and waits.

So one of the things that a Catholic education is, differs from any other education is that we have the freedom in a sense, to express our faith. We have the freedom to reach out to the community in a particular way. And there are often, I see this in Catholic schools just opportunity after opportunity, to reach out not only within the school but also outside of the school.

Yeah, absolutely. I know at my school, I went to Notre Dame College in Shepparton. It was a great school and we had opportunities, things like Remar, we were a Marist and Mercy school. So Remar was the Marist component where it was weekly meetings and you'd go with a group, it was from year nine to year 12, and you'd go outside of the school and do community activities. And then the Mercy side was a thing called Seeds of Justice. So you'd go out and do justice activities in the community and our school also did these year 10 immersion trips. So there was, in my time, there was three offered, so it was Fiji, East Timor and Broome, which is a small indigenous community here in Australia, and you'd go to these communities, you'd step away and just immerse yourself in their culture, in their life and learn so much from that.

Yes, that's very much part of our Catholic ethos very much. But of of reaching out of charity. And I think again, this is where Catholic schools stand out, that sense of justice reaching out to the community, but not only our immediate community, but communities around the world. And at the same time also giving us something out of that understanding, teaching us that the world is not us. That there's so much bigger, but also at the same time, there's that to be the devil's advocate again, you know, that it becomes about the justice and we forget why we're doing it and who we're doing this for. And so how important it is as well too, to come back to that encounter, that relationship with Jesus. And the reason why we do what we do is because we have this relationship with Jesus and it's so hard again, for staff or for people who don't have this encounter with Jesus to bring about that understanding that it is at the end of the day, Catholic schools are about our faith and reaching out to the community, bringing our faith to the community, to the wider world.

When you have a teacher that's passionate, it has that lasting impact on you. But if you walk into religious education class and your teacher's there and they haven't had that encounter with Jesus, it's obvious. Teenagers pick up on so much and if the teacher isn't excited, it's really hard to get the students excited about something that they aren't passionate about already. So I think education does, when a teachers had that encounter, Catholic education has the potential to influence so many people

With this as we continue to talk about the influence of Catholic education, the influence of teachers, the impact that teachers can have on our lives. I'm going to hand over now to the next part of this podcast and that is the interview with Kylie Morrissey. Kylie is a teacher here in Bendigo, Australia and she'll talk a little bit about her faith and about sharing her faith and also the joys and the difficulties of living out her faith in a Catholic school.

So we're back here in Bendigo office in the studio. And I have with me a local teacher, a teacher who is actually an REC for those who don't know what an REC is, I don't actually don't even know. Is that your title? REC. What's your, what's your title?

Faith and Ministry Advisor.

Okay. So that's easy. That's something that everyone can understand. But with me, I have Kylie Morrissey, Kylie's a teacher, a woman of faith and a woman also who continues to grow and seek to grow in her faith. And so Kylie I'll let you introduce yourself quickly.

Oh, first of all thanks for having me Fr Rob. You might not know. I've been teaching, this is my seventh year now and in that time I've been really lucky to do, have, a whole range of travel experiences overseas. Some of those connected who to my faith to, I guess Church history and things like that. But I've also had some really other extraordinary experiences overseas that I think I've made for a pretty interesting life so far.

That's good. And one of the trips actually, I met you, I saw you in Chicago and we got to, we both were studying, actually. Maybe you were studying. I was just sitting. It was great fun. It was fun. We even saw a shooting there, but we won't tell anyone about that.

That wasn't a highlight.

No, No it wasn't, but it's something I probably would remember. But Kylie, I just want to talk to you about teaching, you call yourself in your institution, your school, you call yourself an educator. That's right. But educators also is the same as, as a teacher. But you probably have reasons to say that it is not the same, but let's say for the sake of the podcast. Sounds great. Okay. And you teach in a Catholic school and you have the faith brought up as a Catholic. I'm just going to quickly ask why teaching and why teaching in a Catholic school, why didn't you go to a state school? Why didn't you go to a private school?

Cool. Yeah. I really love the opportunity to answer that question because it goes back to my childhood and my experience with my family and I guess I grew up in a, in a Catholic home, where religious practice, going to church on Sundays was a part of what we did and I never began to question that. I went to a Catholic primary school but then did three years in a secondary state school and then transferred, at the end of year nine, so when I was about 15 years old, and then had three incredible years of Catholic education here in Bendigo, and that was a real catalyst, I think for my discernment, for my career pathway, which I had lots of different ideas around what kind of career I might enter into, but after a really successful year 12 and some really exciting religious education in that year, which might surprise some of our listeners, I decided that I'd go on to become a teacher. I'd had some excellent teachers, particularly in those last three years. And so I decided to, to become a teacher. And I guess it all sort of snowballed from there in a really great way.

And so, now your role is particularly religious education, faith education. It's also about instilling the faith. And I've worked with you in the school 'cause I'm not the chaplain at the school, but I serve as a chaplain in the school and I've seen some of your amazing work reaching out to young people from Masses in the playground. Yeah. Well go on, imagine that. So this is the way we outreach and let in public display. It's an optional mass that students can go to and then you, and we'd run liturgies and, and you help with so, so many things sharing your faith. And so like being in a Catholic school, Catholic institution, how would you think that it helps the faith of the students and what, what are the opportunities of being and serving in a Catholic school?

Yeah, sure. So if I go back to my own experience as a student, two of the biggest influences I guess on my Catholic faith life where my two year 12 VCE religious education teachers, I had two extraordinarily different, both incredible women who are great models of their own personal faith to me, which it really just gave me the courage, I guess to, to pursue a career as a religious education teacher. And now I guess I see a lot of myself in , I see a lot of them, in the work that I'm doing. And it's really great to reflect on, you know, those same questions. And I was asking of of my religious education teachers back in 2007 they're the same questions that my students are now asking of me. And so to have been able to go away until studied and, to have some of the answers, certainly not all of them, but to recognise the privilege that it is to work with, to walk with young people, I guess as they're moving through some of the, the tricky times of their lives. I think that's certainly when, you know, you might find that some students come they need you more in those phases. But it's also a really great opportunity just to help them recognise the joys and where God might be playing a role in their lives that perhaps they're not as conscious of.

Yeah. And I think this is, it comes down to encounter and walking with you use the words to 'walk with'. One of the things that I often say, and I often hear, is that faith is caught not taught through education. You cannot give them the faith, but they can see the faith in you. And once they see the faith in you, they want what you have.

That's right. Yeah. And I think that that's probably one of the most important things that I do at the start of each year is whenever I have a new R.E Class classroom of students sitting in front of me, I think the most important thing I can share with them for the whole year is that story of why I'm here, why I'm teaching R.E , why I believe, and I think it's also really important to be compassionate, you know, that to understand that some students don't walk through that door with the big bag full of faith that perhaps I do. But they tend to, I think, relate to that. They do understand. They don't typically, I don't find, that they judge me for that. But I think that that's a really powerful thing to be able to share, to be able to witness to your own faith to say, here I am, I'm here teaching R.E because this is something that I believe in. you know, it's not just another class that was allocated to me by my principal. I think that that's really powerful for your students sitting in front of you.

So they see the conviction, they see the the fact that you actually believe, because like I again working even in Catholic schools, they have it, some of our youth in our groups who would come up to us and say, 'Hey, Father Rob and I, we just had an R.E Lesson on the Eucharist and the teacher started off the lesson saying, 'Hey, I don't believe this rubbish but I'm going to teach this to you." But what a difference it would make if someone would say like, 'Hey, I actually believe in the Eucharist. I actually receive the Eucharist. I actually follow the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the source and the sumit of my life.' So it becomes about encountered comes about walking with as opposed to that didactic sort of teaching you about the Eucharist.

Yeah. Yeah. I think there's a real power in that, but that's not to say that it's, I think it's very okay to share with students your doubts and your own questions. I think that's also something that they really relate to. And then they see that, you know, a faith life might be achievable for them too. Sometimes I think they associate, being of faith with having, you know, those striking moments where Jesus speaks to them. And for many of us, you know, we never, we never get that. And that's not to say that Jesus isn't present in our lives. It's just occurring perhaps in different ways. So I think yeah, giving students the confidence and to be able to articulate what it is that they're thinking.

'Cause like doubts. We all go through, I go through doubts. I mean I even say it in my homilies I'm sure. And I go through moments where I don't know what I believe. At the moment in Australia, America, we're going through an incredible crisis. There's situation where one of our cardinals, our cardinal, he's in jail at the moment and so the whole Catholic Australia and the world, and it's the happened in America as well. Are in doubt and questioning and, and I have, in my homily last week I cried. Like just thinking what's going on and we have our doubts and it's important for students, for parishes as well, but students, to see our vulnerability too, isn't it?

Yeah, I agree. I think it's a very confusing time to be a Catholic at the moment. And I think, yeah, sharing that with our students can only have a positive outcome.

And so them knowing that we're struggling with them, that we have doubts, but at the end of the day we have a hope. That's what we believe in Jesus. And that's the most important thing that we're holding onto Jesus and His body, the church as imperfect, as broken as it is. So this brings me to this also the difficulties, like how can you live your faith? It's a Catholic school, but in Australia, the schools that are funded by the government, so a lot of our staff and a lot of our students are not Catholic. They don't have the Catholic faith. And even students themselves tell me how difficult they find it to live out their faith in a Catholic school. And they're bullied at school for practicing their faith. And, and I even hear it from teachers, you know, some teachers find it really hard to practice their faith. So tell me about your experience in school about living out your faith.

Yeah. Well if I go back to my own my own experience as a student, particularly in 2007, so that was when I was in year 12, so 17 years old and I undertook to year 12 religious education subjects, which just was not cool. I think, I don't know of anyone else to do that and yet it was the most rich experience and obviously a really massive catalysts for my own personal growth. But I guess that year really challenged me to reflect on what it was that I believed and why I was doing what I was doing even as a 17 year old. And I guess it was a really great time of coming to terms with my identity and things like that. So it made me, I think far, far stronger. I had to stick up for what it was that I believed in. And so that bit of personal challenge it really has brought me to where I am today and trying to encourage other young people to do the same. So it certainly wasn't cool. You can probably imagine some of the names and the stereotypes that went along with that. And yet from that experience, and I gained my future career, I gained some really wonderful friends, lost some other friends, because of that choice or the choices that I made as a consequence of that, of that growth. But I think that I'm a better person for it in the long run and would hope that today, working as a teacher, that I have the capacity to help another young person in that same sort of way.

What about staff like, among the staff, how easy is it for a teacher who has faith to work among other staff members who don't necessarily have that faith?

Well, I think that there's, you know, our faith, our Catholic faith is evangelical by nature, so we're called to share that. And there's a real joy but also a real challenge in that because it can be met with some resistance and you might anticipate in a Catholic school setting that everyone would be on the same page. And yet we know that there's some issues that are really divisive within the church. And high school is a reflection of a church, so that can be challenging and problematic. I think it's most important that when schools employ staff that the number one position, or key selection criteria, is a demonstrated commitment to the Catholic ethos of the school. And I think if staff can't satisfy that. That might be a little bit problematic down the track.

Yes. So I guess it's just the, the expectation of staff is the same as we have students and families enrolling at our schools. And that is that they demonstrate an openness. Yeah. I think our staff need to understand that, you know, by working in a Catholic school, they are working for the Catholic Church and therefore it's the teachings of the Catholic Church that need to be shared. Sometimes I think personal opinions aren't always relevant, but the teaching of the Catholic Church always is. And I think that an ability, the ability of a staff member, to unpack that with their class about why does the Catholic Church teach what it does? I think that's so critical because there's so many misconceptions and misunderstandings that lead to so much angst and hurt.

So it's an educating as well, trying to figure out how it's okay to doubt it's okay not to agree, but at the end of the day, don't stop in your doubt. Don't stop in your disagreement. Just figure out why.

Yeah. And don't stop in your questioning, know if you're unsure or if you're uncomfortable with someone. And I think particularly my school setting, we have a really respectful dialogue around some of those issues and we're really invited to have those conversations. And I think that enables everyone to grow and that can only be a good thing.

So this is like, it's interesting and I'm sure I'd love to hear from the listeners about how your situation is different in the United States and Canada, in India, all of these places actually, even in Malta, for some reason, some that a lot of listeners from Malta, I wonder why that is. Just be curious to know how the situation is different to what Kylie is saying here. Is there dialogue in your school or do you have to think one way and speak one way or at the end of the day, are you open to discussion in this school? Anyway, Kylie, I think we've reached the end of our time together. I just want to quickly, if you could give us some advice to educators, the advice to teachers who want to be a brave influence of the truth of Christ at school. Maybe you can even bring it to students as well. Just how can, well, what's the thing that is important for, for them to understand, to know and to do, to be an influence Catholic influence that in a Catholic school?

Yeah. I think the phrase that comes to my mind is just be authentic, be Yourself, be real with the kids. I think they relate most to people that they can trust. They can see through the lies or the facade, if you like, at times. So I think just being open and honest with them in a, in a respectful way, to the mission of your college and then the mission of the church I think is really important. And trust that God will do the rest.

So this is beautiful. This is wonderful. So Kylie, I thank you so much for your time here. I thank you for speaking to us so openly and so authentically as well, and we will pray for you. We'll pray for your mission and we ask the listeners to do the same, to pray for you in your work. Thank God bless you and thank you. Thanks very much.

Thank you so much for joining us today on the Catholic influences Podcast. Remember to be in touch at FRGministry.com/podcast or any of our social media, so Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at FRGministry. Send us your questions and your thoughts and we'll be back next week. God bless.

Danielle Sullivan