Cora O'Farrell

Assist. Prof

Contact Details

SPC D114
T:Ext. 9154

Profile Photo
Cora is the Director of the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE) at DCU. She manages the Centre's operations and is engaged in its development.  A core aspect of her role is to ensure that the distinctive focus on Catholic education and Catholic theology formerly provided by the incorporating colleges (St Patrick's College of Education and the Mater Dei Institute), is maintained  within DCU. 

Cora has oversight of the teaching and learning of students preparing to teach in Catholic education contexts. She chairs the Certificate in Religious Studies programme which qualifies teachers to teach RE in Catholic schools. She coordinates a team of teaching and research associates who are affiliated with the MDCCE.

As Director, she is responsible for initiating and facilitating research projects of importance to Catholic education nationally and internationally. She ensures that the findings of research projects associated with the Centre are disseminated widely to ensure the highest level of impact.

Outreach and engagement with key stakeholders in Catholic education are key dimensions of the role as Director of MDCCE and Cora engages with a range of bodies within the sector. This is achieved by hosting conferences, gatherings and offering services such as continuing professional development opportunities. In addition, Cora also serves on a number of committees both inside and outside DCU. 

Cora is also a member of the School of Human Development in the IOE. She teaches Religious Education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her research interests include Religious Education, Children’s and Family Spirituality and Contemplative Pedagogies. Cora has a passion for Montessori inspired forms of Religious Education. She is a Godly Play Trainer and a founding member of Godly Play Ireland. She is also a Deep Talk practitioner. 

Other Journal

Year Publication
2022 Cora O (2022) 'Families at the Centre' The Furrow, .

Conference Contribution

Year Publication
2022 O'Farrell, Cora (2022) Committed to a Vision: The Significance of Catholic Schools in the face of contemporary challenges What contribution can Godly Play offer to Catholic schools? Vienna, Austria .
2022 Maeve O'Brien;David Gibson;Andrew O'Shea;Paul King;Rory Mc Daid;Gareth Burns;Timothy Murphy (2022) ESAI: Reconstructing Education - what matters? Recovering what matters in education through building a critical community of praxis: thinking, dialoging, caring as teacher educators in challenging times Marino Institute of Education (Virtual) .
2019 Cora O'Farrell (2019) Revolutionising Education through Play and Voice (Mary Immaculate College of Education) Godly Play, a Growing Practice in Religious Education Mary Immaculate College of Education, Limerick .
2019 Cora O'Farrell (2019) Chaplains without Borders Godly Play presentation to Chaplains from 3rd Level Institutions in Ireland Dublin City University 24/01/2019- .
2019 King, P., O’Brien, O'Farrell. C., M., O’Shea, A., Gibson, D. (2019) British Educational Research Association (BERA) Symposium: Hope in the PUCA: Possibilities for a Freirean Dialogical Praxis in Teacher Education Manchester .
2019 Maeve O'Brien, Andrew O'Shea, Paul King, Cora O'Farrell (2019) Education Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) ‘Education in Times of Change, Choice and Challenge' Hope in the PUCA: Possibilities for a Freirean Dialogical Praxis in Teacher Education Sligo 12/04/2019- 12/04/2019.
2019 Cora O'Farrell (2019) Network for Researchers in Catholic Education Annual Conference (DCU) Deep Talk, a tool for embarking on the journey to the threshold Dublin City University .
2017 O'Farrell, C (2017) Network for Researchers in Catholic Education Annual Conference (2017): Developing Research in Catholic Education Annual Conference of Catholic Educators in United Kingdom and Ireland Heythrop College, London 19/09/2017- .
2016 Cora O'Farrell and Elaine Mahon (2016) National Religious Education Congress 2016 Workshop presentation on proposed changes in sacramental preparation Maynooth 01/10/2016- 01/10/2016.
2016 Cora O'Farrell (2016) Teaching Beliefs and Values in the Primary School Symposium Lecturers and practitioners from the disciplines of RE, SPHE and Ethics in education gathered to consider the place of Beliefs and Values in primary schools in Ireland Institute of Education, DCU 03/12/2016- 03/12/2016.

Book Chapter

Year Publication
2018 O'Farrell, C (2018) '‘It’s like as if I’m close to God. I feel as if God is beside me’ Giving voice to children in the field of Religious Education - an Irish study' In: Religious Education in Catholic Schools: Perspectives from Ireland and the UK. Oxford : Peter Lang.
2018 O'Farrell, C (2018) 'The Desire for God: Irish children’s voices on spiritual education' In: Godly Play – European perspectives on practice and research. Germany : Waxmann.


Year Publication
2016 Mahon, Elaine and O'Farrell, Cora (2016) Grow In Love, National Religious Education Programme for Catholic primary schools (Second Class/P4). Dublin: Veritas.
2016 Mahon, Elaine and O'Farrell, Cora (2016) Grow In Love, National Religious Education Programme for Catholic primary schools (First Class/P3). Dublin: Veritas.


Year Publication
2016 O'Farrell, Cora (2016) An Exploration of Children's Experiences of a Process which provides Opportunities for Spiritual Expression and Development. THES

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2023 O’Farrell, C. (2023) 'Religious Education in the Early Years: An Irish Perspective'. Religions, 14 (459).


Year Publication
2022 O’Farrell, C. (2022) Inviting God into our children’s play. NEWSA
Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2023) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.


Committee Function From / To
Council for Catechetics 01/01/2018 - 01/02/2024
RE Lecturers Forum 01/01/2018 - 30/06/2024


Start date Institution Qualification Subject
DCU Doctorate in Education
DCU (St Patrick's College and Mater Dei) Master of Religious Education [Religious Education]
University College Dublin Master of Education
Trinity College Dublin (Coláiste Mhuire, Marino) Bachelor of Education


Language Reading Writing Speaking
Irish Fluent Functional Fluent

Enterprise Engagement

Year Engagement Type Client Description
2016 Invited talk/presentation Diocese of Meath Diocesan Assembly Presentation on changes to sacramental preparation envisaged in new RE programme for Catholic schools
2023 Continuous Professional Development/Training Shekinah Retreat training Input onto Shekinah Programme, MU.
2017 Other Teaching Enhancement Unit DCU NIDL at DCU Annual Teaching and Learning Day
2017 Invited talk/presentation Irish Episcopal Conference Presentation on Godly Play
2017 Invited talk/presentation Veritas Publications, Ireland Presentation on the Grow In Love programme
2017 Invited talk/presentation Scripture Union Ireland Godly Play presentation to church outreach co-ordinators
2016 Invited talk/presentation Association of Catholic Teachers of Ireland (ACTI) Parish-home-school links in preparations for Reconciliation and Holy Communion for the First Time
2016 Invited talk/presentation Diocese of Cloyne Proposed changes with regard to sacramental preparation in Catholic primary schools
2016 Invited talk/presentation Ashbourne Parish, Co. Meath Addressing parents of children preparing for First Communion and Confirmation


Title Year Type Authors
Discovering God through story and play 2014 Newspaper article (Print) Mags Gargan

Research Interests

Children's Spirituality
The voice of the child in relation to spiritual education 
Continuing professional development for teachers 
Deep Talk

Research Projects

Title Role Description Start date End date
Deep Talk - a stimulus for Reflective Thinking Leader 17/08/2017 20/12/2017
Adult Religious Education and Faith Development Project P.I. This postdoctoral research project aims are to provide: ∙ A broad picture of current practice in adult religious education and faith development in local faith communities in Ireland today. ∙ A critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches to adult religious education and faith development operative in other contexts worldwide. ∙ Some pilot projects with partnership communities, providing case studies planning and reviewing local practice. ∙ Proposals for new models and approaches responding to the adult education challenges of contemporary Ireland. 01/10/2018 31/12/2023
The Voice of Children in Religious Education in Primary Schools in Ireland Co-researcher This research builds on previous research in Ireland which sought children’s perspectives on religious education. It aims to allow children’s voices to contribute to the debate on the nature and purpose of religious education in Irish Primary Schools 01/02/2023 30/09/2024
Pastoral Development and Renewal, Dublin Diocese P.I. This postdoctoral research seeks to capture an overview of the context of pastoral development and renewal in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. 01/01/2020 31/12/2023
Baptism Project Co-Lead researcher This research seeks to find ways of supporting young families in the spiritual nurture of their children 01/01/2020 31/12/2023

Current Postgraduate Students

Student Name Degree Supervision
O Brien ,Tom Doctor of Education Supervisor
Mc Cabe ,Miriam Doctor of Education Supervisor

Teaching Interests

Religious Education
Methodologies rooted in Montessori approach to religious education - Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
Contemplative Pedagogies e.g. Deep Talk

Continuing Professional development 

Modules Coordinated

Term Title Subject
2022 Foundations in Catholic Religious Education ED1010
2022 Religious Education CCE501
2022 Introduction to Theology CCE502
2020 Moral & Systematic Theology CCE504
2022 Sacraments, Liturgy & Spirituality CCE202
2022 Spirituality, Liturgy & Sacraments CCE503