Religious Ed as Core Subject Would Benefit Society, Says Irish Education Expert

Nov 28, 2016 02:20 PM EST

Students and society would benefit if religious education was included as a core subject in all schools' curriculum, said education expect Dr. Amelee Meehan, who works in faith leadership for the Catholic Education an Irish Schools' Trust (CEIST), the Trustee body for 110 Voluntary Catholic Secondary Schools in Ireland.

On Nov. 30, Meehan will assert that religion underpins so much of Western culture and thought, it is only through religious education that children can hope to interpret their society and find meaning in their lives, according to The Irish Catholic. She will address a gathering of post-primary principals, chaplains and religious education coordinators in County Kerry, Ireland

"There is a cultural literacy that comes with religious education in our society," Meehan told The Irish Catholic this week, referencing the religious influence in "art, poetry and music" among those elements on which culture rests.

"By its very nature, religious education is involved with the ultimate questions, and religion in its own right is important to have on the curriculum."

In addition to this, Meehan said she will point out the answer to much of the discord currently experienced by young people, and manifesting itself through depression and anxiety, lies in the support clearly offered in belonging to a faith tradition.

Meehan, who has extensively studied faith within U.S. communities, cited evidence now coming from the American Psychological Association which, she said, shows "that those who have a positive experience of religious education, rooted in a tradition, have better coping mechanisms." This is the finding of the Association, a secular organization, she reminds.

She often speaks about Christian theology and spirituality for educators, as well as how to develop richness of the Christian tradition. She is the author of the following three books:  The Message of Mercy; Joining the Dots: A Programme of Spiritual Reflection and Renewal for Educators; and Son of God and Son of Mary.

CEIST schools, which are located throughout Ireland, seek to reflect a distinctive vision of life and a corresponding philosophy of education based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. According to the group's website, it is a vision of God as love and of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

A native of Galway, Meehan spent many years as a science teacher at Colaiste Iognaid, Galway, at which her experience of Ignatian Spirituality and her school's ethos commitment prompted her in 2004 to go to Boston College in the United States to complete a doctorate's degree in theology and education. She joined CEIST in 2008.