MDCCE People

Teaching and Research Associates
Teaching and Research Associates

prof Jim Gleeson

Prof Jim Gleeson

The Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education warmly welcomes Prof. Jim Gleeson as Adjunct Professor to the Centre.  Having worked as a post-primary teacher in Dublin and his native Tipperary, Jim Gleeson spent much of his professional life as a teacher educator and researcher at University of Limerick (1981–2011) where he filled a variety of roles including Department Head. He was the inaugural Professor of Identity and Curriculum in Catholic Education at Australian Catholic University (ACU), Brisbane from 2012-18.  This Chair was established with a view to facilitating the integration of Catholic perspectives across the curriculum of Catholic schools, beyond Religious Education. Reconnaissance for this task involved: a) a large-scale mixed methods study of the opinions, attitudes and beliefs of teachers in Queensland Catholic schools regarding the identity, purpose and characteristics of Catholic schools and the planned integration of curriculum perspectives across the curriculum; b) a longitudinal study of the opinions and attitudes of ACU pre-service teachers regarding the purposes and characteristics of Catholic schools. The next stage involved action research in eight Queensland Catholic schools (primary and secondary) where volunteer teachers sought to integrate various Catholic Social Teaching principles in their curricula. The main outcomes of both the quantitative and action research are reported in Gleeson, Jim and Goldburg, Peta (Ed.) (2020), Faith-based Identity and Curriculum in Catholic Schools, published by Routledge.

Jim holds an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and postgraduate degrees in Education from the National University of Ireland, postgraduate degrees in Philosophy and Theology from the Pontifical University and a PhD is from the University of East Anglia (Centre for Applied Research in Education). He has worked extensively in curriculum evaluation and development, including transition from school to work programmes, European Studies (Ireland and Great Britain) and the Leaving Certificate Applied.  His main research interests include curriculum and education policy and practice; faith-based education; teacher education; education leadership. Jim was an Irish Universities Association nominee on the Teaching Council of Ireland (2005–2012). He is married to Anne and they have one son, James.


Prof Andy McGrady

Prof. Andrew McGrady

Andrew G. McGrady is Emeritus Professor in the DCU School of Human Development.  He was previously on the staff of the former Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin (incorporated into DCU in 2016 ) for over 40 years serving as lecturer, Head of the School, Registrar and Director of the Institute.  He also served as Chairperson of the Catholic Primary School Management Association, as a member of the Teaching Council and of the Governing Authority of DCU.  Presently he is a director of the Catholic Education Partnership and of the Association of Patrons and Trustees of Catholic Schools.

Andy’s own doctoral research explored the development of religious thinking during childhood and adolescence with particular reference to the use of metaphorical knowing (University of Birmingham 1991). His current research interests have broadened to other related areas such as the rights of both the child and the parent regarding the religious dimension of education; the characteristic spirit of the faith school in a pluralist context; parental expectations of faith schools; school patronage, trusteeship and management; and the interplay of religious identity and other factors such as gender and citizenship.

Andy’s approach to education and religious education is grounded in the insistence that our accompaniment of another in exploring the religious dimension of personal and societal experience must be appropriate, accountable and invitational, respectful of freedom of religion and belief, and informed by ongoing research.


Sandra Cullen

Dr. Sandra Cullen

Dr. Sandra Cullen is currently Head of the School of Human Development where she is Assistant Professor of Religious Education (RE) specialising in the area of second-level religious education. She is also Director of the Irish Centre for Religious Education (ICRE) which supports and coordinates research and resourcing in RE and contributes to policy development in Church and State approaches to RE.  Sandra is the Lead for the RE Area of Professional Focus in DCU’s EdD Programme. She currently serves on the Catholic Education Services Committee of the Irish Episcopal Conference and the Board of Members of CEIST.  She is a member of the Executive of EFTRE (European Forum for Teachers of Religious Education and serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Religious Education. Her research interests include the development of a conversational approach to RE, the relationship between theology and RE, and designing a reflexive praxis approach to the education of RE teachers. Sandra’s most recent publications include:

‘Two roads diverged: Policy shifts in second-level Religious Education 1998-2020’. In B. Walsh (Ed.) Educational Policy in Ireland since 1922. (Palgrave, in press); ‘Turn up the volume’: Hearing what the voices of young people are saying to religious education. In G. Byrne and L. Francis (Eds), Voices of Young People on Religion and Education. (Veritas, 2019); The religious education of the religion teacher in Catholic schools. In M. Buchanan and A.M. Gellel (Eds), Global Perspectives in Catholic Religious Education Volume II: Learning and Leading in a Pluralist World. (Springer 2019).



Thomas Grenham Bio Pic

Dr. Thomas G. Grenham

Dr. Thomas G. Grenham is currently Assistant Professor of Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work in the School of Human Development, DCU Institute of Education, and is associated with the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education. He teaches a variety of modules on the Chaplaincy programme: spirituality and professional development; cultures, religions and pastoral ethics; and the chaplaincy research methods module. He is keenly interested in the interreligious and intercultural aspect of chaplaincy and how chaplaincy with its roots in the Christian tradition has expanded beyond this tradition to other religious and secular traditions. Other research interests include the art of presence in pastoral ministry; interreligious dialogue; practical theology; the intersection of religion and culture.

Thomas was formally the Head of Theology at All Hallows College. He has lectured in Religious Education at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick and was previously the Head of the Department of Pastoral Theology at the Milltown Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Dublin.  He served as a missionary for many years among the Turkana of Kenya (1985-1995) and is a member of St. Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow.


Anne O'Farrell

Anne O'Farrell

A graduate of DCU (St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra & All Hallows’ Drumcondra), Anne lectures on the Certificate of Religious Studies at post-graduate level. She also lectures in Catholic Theology electives on the Bachelor of Education Programme. Her areas of interest include Christology, Trinitarian Theology, Social Justice, Liberation & Feminist Theology. Since 2008, Anne also serves as a Chaplain on St Patrick’s campus, DCU.


Dr David Kennedy

Dr. David Kennedy

Dr. David Kennedy is Assistant Professor of Religious Education at DCU, Institute of Education where he is also associate researcher at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education. Prior to DCU, David was a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick (2013-2015) where he worked as a researcher and departmental assistant teaching in systematic, biblical and sacramental theology. From 2015- 2019, he worked as a researcher for numerous national bodies in Catholic education namely, the Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP, now CEP), the Association of Trustees of Catholic Schools (ATCS, now APTCS), the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) and the Irish Episcopal Conference (IECON).

David is currently the Programme Chair of the Certificate in Catholic Religious Studies (Part-time) programme. He also lectures on a number of programmes at DCU, namely the Bachelor of Education (Primary), Bachelor of Education (Post-Primary), and the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies(Full-Time & Part-Time). In 2021, David received the DCU President's Award for Excellence in Teaching for Distinctive Approaches to Teaching and, in 2022 he achieved the status of Senior Fellow with Advance HE. He is a member of the Irish Philosophical Society, the Irish Theological Association, the European Society for Catholic Theology, the Association of University Lecturers in Religious Education, the Network for Researchers in Catholic Education, and Advance HE Connect. David’s research interests and publications come from a broad range of disciplines including systematic and philosophical theology, philosophy, religious education, educational studies as well as management, leadership, and governance in education.

Dr Colette Maloney

Dr. Colette Maloney

Colette is joining us as an Assistant Professor of Theology and Spirituality at DCU Institute of Education and the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education. Colette lectured in moral theology and Christian ethics at Trinity College, Dublin and taught in moral theology at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth. Colette completed her doctoral dissertation at St Patrick's College, Maynooth focusing on the area of integration between theology and spirituality in the work of Sandra Schneiders, Jon Sobrino and Donal Dorr.

Colette has a keen interest in liberation theology and social justice issues and her master's thesis was on the 'option for the poor' and the history of social encyclicals in the Catholic church.  Colette has travelled to Lima, Peru every year since 2010 to work at a home that cares for children who are sick and disadvantaged called the 'Hogar San Francisco de Asis.' and while there also worked with a variety of community projects designed to help women and their families in the most disadvantaged areas of Lima. Colette is also a qualified teacher of mindfulness with a personal focus on mindfulness for chronic pain and she also incorporates Christian forms of contemplation and meditation into her own practices.


Dr. Amalee Meehan

Dr. Amalee Meehan

Amalee Meehan is Assistant Professor of Religious Education at the Institute of Education, DCU. She teaches on the Bachelor of Religious Education (BRelEd) and is a guest lecturer on the Doctor of Education (EdD) programme and with the Church of Ireland Centre, DCU.  An Associate Researcher at the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) at DCU, Amalee is on the management team of the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) project TRIBES Transnational Collaboration on Bullying, Migration and Integration in Second-Level Schools.

Amalee’s publication profile ranges from theology and spirituality to education, religious education and wellbeing.  For instance, she co-authored a number of religious education textbooks for Catholic high schools in the United States as part of the Credo Series; her current research interest is in the intersection of education and wellbeing and the implications for curriculum, school culture and practice.  

Before joining DCU, Amalee was an executive member of CEIST (Catholic Education, an Irish Schools Trust), exercising the trustee role to Catholic schools in areas of ethos, leadership and management.  She currently serves as a director of the Catholic Education Partnership.

Amalee holds a PhD in Theology and Education from Boston College, USA.

Vivek da Silva

Vivek da Silva is an assistant professor in Religious Education in DCU.  Prior to joining DCU he worked with Veritas as a catechetical writer and a producer of digital audio-visual resources for Religious Education programs in primary and post-primary schools. He is a member of the Irish Bishops' Council for Catechetics Working Group on Laudato Si’. He spent 25 years working in different parts of India and Africa in the areas of education, religious formation, human development, spirituality and leadership. His current area of research is Relationship and Sexuality Education in Catholic Post Primary Schools in Ireland.

Centre Staff
Centre Staff

MDCCE Director, Dr Cora O'Farrell

MDCCE Director


Cora’s background in education was initially as a primary school teacher serving as a class teacher, learning support teacher and Home School Community Liaison coordinator. She became involved in teacher education early in her career through the facilitation of CPD courses with the DES, Drumcondra Education Centre and the INTO. Cora first took up a full time role in teacher education in 2000 at Coláiste Mhuire, Marino Institute of Education, where she taught Religious Education. She began working in DCU in 2008 and has taught Religious Education at undergraduate and postgraduate level since that time. 

Cora is a member of the Council for Catechetics of the Irish Episcopal Conference and has been involved with a number of initiatives in Catholic Education. She played an active role in the development of the Grow In Love programme for Religious Education in primary schools on the island of Ireland. She is currently a member of the Pastoral Strategy Implementation Group of the Archdiocese of Dublin. 

Cora’s doctoral studies addressed the area of Children’s Spirituality and focused on the potential of Godly Play® for its nurturance. Cora is co-founder of Godly Play Ireland and is an accredited Godly Play® Trainer. Her current research activities focus on the Domestic Church. In addition, her passion for Contemplative Pedagogies has led her to take on a lead role internationally in the development of Deep Talk.


Rita McCartan

MDCCE Administrator

Rita McCartan is the administrator of the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education. Rita brings many years of administrative leadership to MDCCE, reporting to the Centre Director. 

Rita is the first point of contact for staff, students and stakeholders, dealing with correspondence, phone calls and requests for information. Rita manages the MDCCE Director’s diary, meetings and appointments at the Centre, and engagement with outside events. A significant part of her role includes supporting the Centre’s engagement in collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders in the Catholic education sector. Administrative organisation of conferences hosted by MDCCE, and event management associated with a variety of Centre initiatives, have become central to Rita’s very varied role as MDCCE Administrator.


Advisory Board
Advisory Board

The Director of the MDCCE is supported by an Advisory Board.  The membership of the Advisory Board is as follows:

Archbishop Dermot Farrell (Chair)

Dr Ailis Travers

Dr Ros Stuart-Buttle

Dr Michael Shortall

Ann O'Donoghue IBVM

Dr Eilis Humphreys

Mr Brian O'Doherty

Dr Cora O'Farrell (Director)

Rita McCartan (Secretary)

Postdoctoral Researcher
Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr Bernadette Sweetman is the post-doctoral researcher investigating Adult Religious Education and Faith Development at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education. Ongoing since 2018 when Bernadette joined the MDCCE team, this project is researching the nature, scope and potential of religious education and faith development for adults in Ireland. 

Formerly a primary school teacher, Dr Sweetman completed her doctoral studies in religious education in 2016.  She is the author of the Our Family Mass series published by Veritas and was part of the writing team for the Credo series of high school Catholic education textbooks in the USA. She has been a researcher at third level since 2013 and has lectured across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at DCU. 

Dr Sweetman was an invited keynote speaker at the Network of Researchers in Catholic Education Annual Conference at DCU in October 2019.  She also presented on her research at the International Conference for Catholic Religious Education in Schools in Melbourne, Australia in February 2020.  

She has a growing publications portfolio. Recents publications include ‘Learnings from the AREFD project for the initial teacher education of religious educators' in the Journal of Religious Education, 2021. DOI 10.1007/s40839-021-00152-8 and 'Valuing and Cultivating Dialogue Amongst Learner–Educators: Ongoing Challenges for Post-Primary Religious Education Teachers in Catholic Schools'. In L. Franchi & R. Rymarz (Eds). Formation of Teachers in Catholic Schools: Challenges and Opportunities in a New Era. Springer. DOI