Immersion programs enable senior students, teachers and on occasions parents, to discover firsthand the Church at work amongst the poorest of the poor or an opportunity to reflect on the charism of the founding religious order of the school. These immersion opportunities can often have the ultimate transformative experience for those participating.
The benefits for our present generation to walk in the footsteps of the founders of the educational communities that have provided us with a rich heritage, are immeasurable.
To see disciples of the Church working in the poorest of communities provides motivation and a vision for the realisation of a just world where the dignity of the human person is realised.
The following are examples of immersion programs which have taken place or continue to take place:
- The Catholic Schools Office under the leadership of the Director travel to Kenya to see the work of the Catholic Church in a developing country
- St Pius X High School, Adamstown conducted a Year 10 Immersion Program to Vietnam
- St Francis Xavier's College, Hamilton engage in a Marist Program in Cambodia and/or East Timor
- St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton in the past have visited Siena to study the origins of their founder St Catherine of Siena. They have also visited Mercy International House in Dublin – the home of the Sisters of Mercy who founded St Catherine’s College
- St Clare’s High School, Taree - travel to PNG.
Student Retreat and Reflection Days
Retreat and reflection days form part of the distinctive character of Catholic schools. They recognise the individuality and dignity of each student by fostering their unique potential and spirituality. These occasions are a call for deep reflection where prayer, liturgy and scripture are at the centre of the experience.
All schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle offer a program of retreat and reflection days to enrich the lives of our young people. The aim of this is to honour the development of the whole person: physical, intellectual, emotional, aesthetic, psychological and spiritual. This is a mandate provided to all schools in the Melbourne Declaration on educational goals for young people in 2008. This societal goal and Catholic principle is served uniquely through retreat and reflection opportunities for the formation of students.
The retreat programs and reflection days provide an inimitable opportunity for exploration of the students personal and diverse faith. The experiences enable students to understand each other in a new light and experience closeness to God based on personal encounter with the person of Jesus. By placing the overall educational endeavour in this context, it recognises a fundamental principle which underpins Catholic education: “children’s flourishing is an expression of God’s grace.” (McEvoy, J. 2015, p.9 Children Close to the Mystery of God.)
Some examples of retreat and reflection days include:
- Year 6 Young Leaders Retreat Day
- Year 7 Belonging and Orientation Reflection Days
- Year 10, 11, 12 Live-in Retreat Experiences
- Senior Student Leadership Retreat (Stage 6)
Staff and CSO Retreat and Reflection Days
Each year, all employees in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are invited to be part of a one day or overnight or extended retreat and reflection day experience. As part of the currency requirements for Faith Education Accreditation, each school community and the Catholic Schools Office plan a faith formation experience. The aim of these gatherings is to foster a personal encounter with Jesus, to share stories of faith and experiences that enrich the spirit of God present in our daily lives and work.
Themes that are explored via these gatherings include:
- Building the Catholic community based on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching
- Exploring the charisms of the religious founders of the schools in the diocese
- Exploring the nature and purpose of Catholic education
- Discovering the various entities that promote justice and peace initiatives in our local community
- Environmental stewardship
- Enriching our Catholic spirituality in the workplace
- Regular visits from noted theologians both Australian and International
- Formation in the doctrine and practises of the Catholic Church
- Formation of new teachers into the Catholic character of the school
- Invitational renewal for experienced staff to renew and re-engage in their faith and their spirituality of teaching
- Formation of newly appointed senior leaders in schools into the moral purpose of the Catholic school, theological reflection and the reimagining of the mission of the Church in the world
- Extended and varied pilgrimage experiences to explore, nurture and enhance school charisms.