Lecturer Gives Keynote on Religious Education at Global Conference

Stephen Parker

Professor of the History of Religion and Education, Stephen Parker, spoke at the event at KU Leuven, the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium.

Professor Parker was invited to give the lecture in the context of an ongoing research project, funded by the Australian Catholic University and involving KU Leuven and the University of Tilberg, on the Second Vatican Council and its effects. There were around 40 doctoral researchers and academics from across the world in attendance, in person and online.

The Second Vatican Council was the 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, which met in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome over four sessions between 1962 to 1965.

Professor Parker’s lecture, titled Vatican II and Religious Education in the 1950s, was one of three keynotes providing background on different aspects of this research project. He has since been asked to publish his lecture in a book arising from the conference.

His lecture offered insights into the state of Catholic Education in Europe the mid-20th century, and Professor Parker used his current research into Catholic/Christian education in the 19th and 20th century to inform the lecture.

“Christian educators faced a number of problems in the middle of the century due to the changing nature of societies across Europe, changes which included increasing religious pluralism, advancing secularisation and more organised and vocal secularist and humanist opposition,” said Professor Parker. “Both in schools and churches, thinking about how to respond was limited and unimaginative and rarely strayed beyond the same methods and content that had been used in previous decades. The churches found it hard to go beyond defending their own position in education and society, and Christian education was found largely to be uninteresting to young people and ineffective in conveying faith in an appealing way.”

Professor Parker has contributed extensively to the historiography of religious education in European settings in the 1950s. He is the current President of the History of Education Society, in the UK. He is co-convenor of the Religion and Society Research Interest Group, a collaborative research initiative between the University and Worcester Cathedral.