Faith formation program receives praise in East Africa

Education and church leaders from four East African nations have praised a faith formation program developed by Australian Catholic University (ACU), and offered pro bono to countries that would otherwise not have access to such a program.

Spiritus East Africa is available for the first time to approximately 100 education and Church leaders from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya, following its successful uptake in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The Spiritus program aims to cover both the intellectual and rational understanding of evangelisation, but also a practical component. It was created by ACU’s La Salle Academy, which develops and delivers quality teaching and research programs in the spirit of the New Evangelisation.

Executive Secretary of Education for the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Fr Ronald Okello, said the program would empower and equip lay educators in East Africa to evangelise young people in Catholic schools: “The Spiritus program is a very welcome idea and is a blessing to us in East Africa because it’s going to help us network with other members across the planet,” he said.

“We have been waiting for this program for a while now, and the day has come.

“I want to thank ACU for giving us this opportunity and giving us your time, resources, and energy. On our own, we would not be able to do this.”

In Uganda the program is being welcomed as a resource for educators who have found themselves pastorally caring for a cohort of students severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With more than 6000 Catholic schools in Uganda, Fr Okello said the Spiritus program could equip teachers who have found themselves caring for young girls who became pregnant during the lockdown, and their newborn babies, but also teenagers who have lost touch with their faith.

“Coming back to school, it’s all afresh, you are starting from almost nowhere,” Fr Okello said. “Spirituality has been so affected. The Spiritus program we think is going to make a positive contribution.”

La Salle Academy’s director of Teacher Faith Formation Programs, Peter Woods, said Catholic schools had an important role to play in evangelising young people.

“I've been a teacher for a long time, but my recent conviction would be the importance of equipping staff to evangelise, particularly principals, to understand that the faith is the central focus of a Catholic school,” Mr Woods said.

“Catholic education is the meeting point for families. young people, and the Catholic Church.”

La Salle Academy Dean, Br David Hall fms, said the Spiritus program offered leaders more than a professional learning program.

“While the intention is to increase knowledge and skills so as to improve their efficacy for evangelisation, none of that matters unless your passion is awakened as a witness of Christ,” Br Hall said.

“Spiritus is a program that works with the with the heart and the soul of the person, as well as forming their knowledge of the faith.”

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