The Catholic Institute

Graduation speech Lucy Paul

Good evening everyone.

I’d first like to acknowledge His Eminence Cardinal John Dew, TCI Director Gerald Scanlan, TCI staff, my fellow graduates, and all of you who have come along to support them.

Tonight, I will graduate with a Certificate in Christian Studies – Religious Education. When Dr Longhurst asked me to deliver this graduate reflection, I thought back to why I originally started the certificate in January this year.

It was for some very pragmatic reasons. I was also embarking on a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Teaching at Victoria University and I fancied the idea of adding another subject to my repertoire. I was also drawn to the prospect of teaching in a Catholic school because of my own wonderful experiences at St Joseph’s Primary and Sacred Heart Girls’ College in Hamilton. I also thought, because of this background and my upbringing as a Catholic, it would be familiar and safe subject matter.

While this has proven to be true, I could never have imagined how much I would learn and be challenged and have my own faith affirmed throughout the various papers I have taken.

  • It started with some great, sometimes thorny, Wednesday evening conversations in ‘What Catholics Believe’, taught by the lovely and inspiring Catherine Gibbs.
  • It continued with ‘Introduction to Religious Education’ and ‘Spirituality for Teachers’, which were extremely accessible and practical and on which I drew heavily when I was lucky enough to teach Year 9 and 12 Religious Education for several weeks at St Marys’ College. In these courses, David Sullivan created an extremely supportive environment in which we could think about our developing teaching practice and reflect on the place of religious education and faith development in our students’ lives.
  • In the online universe, I continued my journey with Dr Longhurst in ‘Understanding the Old Testament’ and ‘Interpreting the New Testament’. I was surprised by the depth and breadth of content and theory, and the communal feel created in what is usually such a lonely learning environment.
  • And I finished up as I began, on Wednesday evenings with ‘What is Theology’ with Dr Longhurst. This was the most intellectually challenging of the papers and, for that reason, my favourite.

My own teaching philosophy and style is still developing, and has definitely been positively influenced by the teaching and modelling I experienced during this entire course. All three lecturers – Catherine, David and Christopher – sought to know their students and what we brought with us, built and fostered relationships with us, and had high expectations and aspirations for us.

Along the way, I have also met and learned from some wonderful fellow students – including trainee teachers, practicing teachers, and those simply with a curiosity driven by faith and intellect.

My goal is to be a good teacher in a Catholic school, which can seem like a daunting and challenging prospect. Teachers in Catholic schools are expected to teach their subject in a way which assists in both the human and faith formation of the student. And a teacher of Religious Education needs to particularly allow space for the faith development of their students. Personally, I see these expectations as a wonderful challenge and a privilege to be embraced.

And it is something I will be lucky enough to get stuck into in the New Year, as I have recently received confirmation that I will be teaching Religious Education at Sacred Heart College in Lower Hutt.

This qualification has obviously provided me with content and practical knowledge that can assist in achieving my goal. But it has given me so much more. I have made professional and personal connections with some very special people. It has both challenged and affirmed my own knowledge and faith. And it has reignited an intellectual curiosity in matters of religion, theology and faith that undoubtedly means The Catholic Institute hasn’t seen the last of me as a learner.

Thank you very much and good luck to all of my fellow graduates in whatever the future holds for you.