Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education
Gareth Byrne, Ros Stuart-Buttle, Bernadette Sweetman

Conference Keynotes

At the recent Conference of the Network of Researchers in Catholic education hosted by Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE) on the theme, Catholic Education: Formal, Informal and Lifelong, Dr. Gareth Byrne, the Director of MDCCE provided the Church with an image for Catholic education, both in schools and beyond, at home, in the parish and for adults as well as young people. In the final contribution to the conference, a keynote address entitled, ‘Catholic education; Breathing in and out the Spirit of God’s love’, Dr. Byrne suggested that what makes Catholic Education remarkable is that it consciously breathes in the love of God, inhales the Spirit of God’s love, and exhales wisdom, love, truth, justice, service and care - for the transformation of the world and its people. Catholic education, whether it is focused on adults or young people at any particular moment, has something transformational to say, centred on the teaching and healing presence of Jesus, and the power of God’s Holy Spirit to renew and support us in responding to the needs of all. One of the delegates from the United Kingdom, Raymond Friel, described the final address of the conference as, ‘a rich and compelling conclusion reflecting on the mission of Catholic education.’  

In her keynote, Dr. Ros-Stuart-Buttle from Liverpool Hope University highlighted the lifelong nature of Catholic religious education, introducing Irish participants to wonderful efforts in England and Wales, and with good success, to provide ongoing religious education for adult Catholics. She introduced participants at the Conference to a review of the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies, offered to trainee teachers in the UK and also to adults who engage in the programme as adult religious education for themselves and their communities.

Dr. Bernadette Sweetman in her keynote address introduced participants to research work she is engaged in at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education into possible models for adult religious education and faith development that might respond to the needs of adults in Ireland today. In an engaging keynote, she reported on initial results from the recent survey of adults in Ireland on adult religious education and faith development, introduced elsewhere on this MDDCE news feed. It seems that while many Irish adults have distanced themselves from the institutional Church, they are looking for spiritual and religious engagement and support. Dr. Sweetman reminded us to keep a focus on the importance of Catholic education for the whole Catholic community, and for members of every age.

Many of the delegates to the Conference noted the vibrancy of the many wonderful contributions over the two days. They thoroughly enjoyed meeting with colleagues and networking with new friends. It seems that there is an upsurge in research into the value and contribution Catholic Education can make into the future.