Sandwiches for the Soul

Bernadette Gibson believes passionately in the importance of faith formation. As part of her role with the Catholic Schools Office, Bernadette is responsible for spiritual and faith formation programs for teachers and staff in Catholic schools.

As an educator for 29 years (18 years as a principal) and a mother, Bernadette is also well aware of the important role parents play in the faith formation of their children, as well as their need occasionally to take some time for themselves.

With this in mind, Bernadette formulated a spirituality program for parents and has recently trialled it at St Benedict’s Primary School, Edgeworth.

Religious Education Co-ordinator at St Benedict’s, Michelle Collins, suggested the name Sandwiches for the Soul for the program and so it was that a group of mums came together to share a meal, listen to each other and talk about spirituality.

Bernadette likened spirituality to an umbilical cord; a cord that is continuously stretched throughout our lives. “We are so close to God when we are born, as newly-created beings, but as we get older our connection can become compromised. We must give life to our spirituality in order to keep connected to God,” Bernadette said.

This is especially important as more families become disconnected from the church. Bernadette’s program allows parents, grandparents and carers to nurture their own spirituality in order to enhance their child’s spiritual life in a relaxed, non-threatening environment.

It is also an opportunity for parents who aren’t Catholic to understand what their children are being taught in religion, as well as more about the Catholic faith in general.

"Our faith, when nourished, can lead to a special kind of freedom. Our faith gives us a guide when setting boundaries for our kids, when teaching them how to deal with conflict or when they feel alone.

“Kids can feel profoundly alone, but as parents we can teach them some simple prayers that will help them deal with this. The story of Jesus helps give context to their own struggles and suffering,” said Bernadette.

We live in a complicated world, at a fast pace. People are focused on the ‘I’ and not the ‘we’. As parents we can get caught up in extracurricular activities, work and consumerism. If we want our faith really to mean something to our kids, we have to live it too. We can’t simply rely on their teachers to nurture their spirituality. But how often do we turn our attention to this?

Bernadette showed a video likening Jesus to a song. People have always been captivated by the song and it’s been playing for thousands of years. The song is about love, forgiveness, truth, grace, mercy, justice and compassion. It is a song that we can all relate to, but one we are not always in tune with.

The afternoon ended with Bernadette giving an insightful and moving affirmation to each mum in turn. This simple and loving act was greatly appreciated and summed up the whole idea of the gathering – through community we can get in tune with the song.

Bernadette will be visiting many more schools within the diocese to roll out her faith formation program to parents. I highly recommend you take this wonderful opportunity to nurture yourself.

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Joanne Isaac Image
Joanne Isaac

Joanne is a Communications Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and a regular columnist for Aurora Magazine.

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