Special Education, the Church and Faith Development


Religious education is a hallmark of any young person’s journey through the Catholic faith. From baptism, to first Communion and confirmation, religious educators are the leaders who pass this important knowledge onto the next generation. The Diocese of Providence has long been committed to providing a safe environment for children to learn and grow under God’s roof.

Julie Bradley has been a religious educator at St. Paul’s Church in Cranston for nine years. During that time, she has taught hundreds of children about passages and events from the Bible, the sacraments and how to participate in the Mass.

Bradley started as a catechist but ultimately her role grew and she eventually became the director of Faith Formation. “I never imagined myself working for the Church as a kid,” Bradley said. “But I have found everything I could have dreamed of working for the Office of Faith Formation.”

Bradley grew up the oldest of five in suburban Detroit, Michigan, and attended the University of Delaware, graduating with a degree in elementary education. She met her husband Steve while at college and they eventually settled in Cranston. She previously taught first grade which made her transition to religious education seamless. The Bradley’s have three children Ben (18), Caroline (17) and Clare (12), who are all active in Church activities.

Bradley noted that she takes her role as an educator, role model and active member of the faith community seriously. She coordinates the Safe Environment Training for all volunteers and new members of the Faith Formation office at St. Paul’s Church. She noted that there has never been an issue with volunteers participating. In fact, the transparent process is appreciated, she says.

Nearly 10 years before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops formalized procedures to protect children across in the country in 2002, the Diocese of Providence created the Office of Compliance. The Office of Compliance is tasked with administering comprehensive safe environment training for all members of the clergy as well as all diocesan volunteers, including religious educators.

Training offers religious educators extensive information on awareness of abuse, a clear code of conduct when dealing with children and a strict reporting process. The office also maintains an online database to ensure all volunteers have completed training.

“Boundaries between kids and adults in the Church are real and more important than ever,” Bradley noted. “It is not difficult to participate in the training and it accomplishes the goal of fostering a safe environment for kids to grow in Faith.”

Religious education is important for children to learn the foundation of what the Catholic Faith entails. The classes form an oasis where the children can gather together in a positive learning environment and explore the principles of their faith.

The curriculum is separated into three sections. The first is for elementary level students and teaches faith development. The second stage is for middle school children and teaches them more about the sacraments, social justice and living with faith. Finally, students receive the sacrament of confirmation.

Along with the Office of Compliance, the diocese established an advisory board for the Protection of Children and Young People. This group is comprised of a retired former R.I. State Police officer, a Rhode Island District Court judge and clergy from other faith organizations in Providence.

The board’s job is to provide an additional layer of safety by reviewing diocesan policies and ensuring they are strong enough to protect young people.

”The Office of Compliance has open communication with educators throughout the diocese so we are always aware of who needs training,” Bradley added, “Each parish takes safety seriously and I don’t know what else they could be doing to protect kids.”

To sign your child up for religious education,

visit your respective parish’s website.