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Beyond the Hymnbook – Unlocking the Power of Music in Catholic Religious Education (RE)

Catholic hymns have undeniably carved a special place in our faith’s landscape, echoing with cherished traditions and profound truths. But within the vibrant spectrum of Catholic music, there’s a world beyond the usual repertoire waiting to be explored. Instead of limiting ourselves, the challenge is to embrace the richness that lies beyond the norm.


Connecting Hearts, Not Just Minds

RE teachers have an opportunity to embrace the power of contemporary songs and Catholic artists by introducing their students to music and musicians who speak to their experiences and struggles, like hip-hop artists reflecting on hope and redemption or secular stars singing anthems of love, justice and service. This music resonates with their language, making faith relevant and relatable in a way traditional hymns might not. Imagine the discussions sparked by analysing lyrics about finding forgiveness, caring for the earth or the power of community!


Music Suggestions from Willow Publishing’s catalogue include: ‘To Be Heard’ by Brian Procopis, ‘No Hands But Ours’ by Amanda McKenna and ‘Holding On’ by Gen Bryant.


Celebrating Diversity, Honouring Inclusivity

Within the vast tapestry of Catholicism, voices from various cultural and theological backgrounds deserve to be heard. Choose hymns and songs that avoid outdated terminology and embrace inclusive language. Celebrate the richness of different Catholic traditions, showcasing music from indigenous composers, marginalised communities and highlighting the common threads of compassion, grace, and justice that bind us all. This inclusivity not only creates a welcoming learning environment but also fosters empathy and understanding for various perspectives within the faith.


Music Suggestions from Willow Publishing’s catalogue include: Collections, ‘Sanctuary’, ‘Deep Waters’, and ‘Invocation’ by Trisha Watts, and ‘Falling into Light’ by John Coleman.


Melodies for Meaning, Rhythms for Remembering

Transform scripture from text to tune! Rhythmic chants, catchy tunes, and even rap verses can turn biblical stories and theological concepts into unforgettable ear-worms. Students not only learn the words but internalise the meanings through melody and rhythm, creating a deeper connection with their faith. Imagine memorising the Beatitudes through a vibrant chant or understanding the concept of faithfulness through a poignant ballad. Music makes learning an immersive experience, not a mundane task. There is a wonderful opportunity here for students to contribute to lyrics and writing music for their own compositions. This collaborative creativity deepens their understanding of the material and fosters a sense of ownership over their faith journey.


Music Suggestions from Willow Publishing’s catalogue include: For children – ‘Don’t Just Stand There!’ by Patricia Smith and ‘Great Times with Jesus’, ‘Great Gifts’ and ‘Great Stories & Songs’ by various composers including Bernadette Farrell and Damien Halloran and Maria Millward. For secondary students – ‘Send Us Out’ by Gen Bryant, ‘Gospel of Love’ by James Maher’ and ‘Break the Crystal Frame’ by Maeve Heaney.


Music as a Bridge to Empathy and Action

Catholic music isn’t just about congregational song: it’s about sparking critical thinking and action. Use songs that tackle social justice issues, environmental concerns, or interfaith dialogue as springboards for meaningful discussions. Let students analyze lyrics, research the artists’ stories, and connect the music to their own lives and communities. This creates a dynamic learning environment where music becomes a bridge to empathy, understanding, and action, empowering students to be agents of change in the world.

Music Suggestions from Willow Publishing’s catalogue include: Music collections, ‘Gift of Grace’, ‘Mercy’ and ‘One‘ by Gina Ogilvie.


Building a Sense of Community

Singing together transcends individual differences, creating a sacred space where students connect with their peers, their faith, and God on a deeper level. This shared journey fosters a sense of belonging, community, and support, reminding them that they’re not alone on their spiritual path. Imagine the bonds forged when students from different backgrounds come together to raise their voices in a unified chorus of praise!


Music Suggestions from Willow Publishing’s catalogue include: ’As One Voice for Kids’ and ‘As One Voice The Next Generation’ by various Australian and international composers.

So, dust off your instruments, crank up the speakers, and let the music lead the way. But more than that, please share your experiences, resources, and music recommendations with the community in the comments section below. Let’s build a vibrant network of educators dedicated to amplifying the diverse, enriching world of Catholic and contemporary music. Together, we can further enrich RE lessons into vibrant journeys of faith, connection, and social awareness, drawing students closer to God and each other.

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