Religious education encompasses various areas such as evangelisation, catechesis, giving witness, introduction to church, prayer, experience of faith, and knowledge of other faiths. At the same time, the Religious Education specialist teacher’s duties need to be performed on the basis of what the Catholic church teaches; what the government states: the curriculum for excellence; and what schools expect from them in the context of any extracurricular duties which are not expected of other teachers in the school. Thesis Statement: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of the Catholic Religious Education (RE) specialist teacher, the various areas of religious education, and the influence on the RE’s role by the Church, the government and the school. Religious teaching can be understood as a ministry with a professional dimension (Cook & Hudson, 2006). Catholic educators need to think and act sentire cum ecclesia which refers to the ideal form of thinking and feeling with the church on the basis of individuals’ identity as Catholics.
ng to Cook & Hudson (2006: 399), assessment of religious teaching as a profession can be based on a framework composed of the following characteristics: "essential service to society, motivation by a call to serve, special knowledge and skills, specialized and advanced university training, public trust and status, code of ethics and performance standards, and professional organization".
Religious Education helps in students' development of the self, socially, morally and spiritually (SCAA, 1994). Research conducted by Sikes & Everington (2001) indicates that a religious education teacher's life history plays a vital part in determining their teaching skills and approach to work. Further, "the quality, range and flexibility of teachers' classroom work are closely tied up with their professional growth - with the way they develop as people and as professionals" (Hargreaves, 1994: xi). This evidence would be useful in screening potential candidates for training as RE specialist teachers, by addressing negative identities unsuitable to carry out the important work.
Evangelisation and Catechesis
Ecumenism is the essential task of the whole Church to bring the Gospel to the entire world. Ecumenism and mission, evangelisation and Church community converge in a common witness to the same God (Houtepen, 1998). The Church's evangelistic mission is expected to be carried forward by the RE instructor by imparting the Faith to all students in the classroom, including those students who do not share the Christian faith, in the interests of sharing the wisdom and benefits of the Catholic religion (Francis et al, 1996). Teachings of the Catholic Church are mainly through catechesis. Bishop O' Donoghue (2008) believes that the key element or essence of the aims of a