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Centre Director

Stephen G Parker


Stephen G Parker is Director of CERRL and Professor of Education and Religious History. He joined St Mary’s in May 2023 from the University of Worcester, where he was Professor of the History of Religion and Education, a long-serving research lead, and, formerly, Head of Postgraduate Studies in Education. Prior to this, Stephen has taught across sectors of education, from primary to sixth form, as well as being a Diocesan RE Adviser and lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester.

As Director of CERRL, Stephen leads and facilitates colleagues across the remit of the centre’s activities, internally and externally. Over the next few years, he is looking to develop the University’s and Centre’s strategic responses to the ongoing developments in Catholic education, while establishing CERRL as an international hub for research in Catholic and religious education. More broadly, he intends to ensure that CERRL’s activities and courses continue to promote inter-religious dialogue and learning.

Internal Staff

Matthew Dell


Current PGCE RE & MA Education lead, Matthew has a strong practitioner background but here at St. Mary’s is across several current initiatives. These include writing projects with Aidan Cottrell-Boyce on School liturgy, a multi-institutional recruitment and retention initiative for the Catholic Education Service co-ordinating local and national organizations and the establishment of a new entity ATCRE – the Association of Catholic Teachers of Religious Education. Now with over 1200 members, it hosts day conferences that attract talented speakers from across the RE spectrum.

Susan Elderfield


An experienced teacher and school leader, Susan is currently working with the Archdiocese of Southwark and St. Mary’s on the new Government initiative around Apprenticeships. This work-based qualification has Youth Ministry and Chaplaincy as its focus and is drawing students from Southwark to Nottingham, from Brentwood to Westminster and beyond. Susan brings a wealth of insight to her role and having welcomed a January cohort she is readying the team for another group beginning in September!

Claire Fernandes


Primary RE expert, Claire works part-time at St. Mary’s and is active in a variety of roles. She currently leads modules on Theological literacy for the Primary Education with QTS BA (Hons) degree at St Mary’s and has published resources for the liturgical year in Pastoral Review.

Sarah Green

SARAHGREEN-JULY2023-DSC_7461Primary RE expert, Sarah is forming students for educational futures and has recently completed research on the classroom experience of pupils. Sarah leads on RE and World Religions for Primary PGCE students at St Mary’s. She has recently contributed to a TEDx Talk exploring Teaching of Values to Children - At home or At school?

Cynthia Harper

CYNTHIAHARPER-JULY2023-DSC_7398Recipient of the Millennium Fellowship for Religious Education from the Farmington Institute in 2000, Cindy joined St Mary's University in 2002. Senior Lecturer in Primary R.E. and the PGCE MA, Cindy delivers modules across the undergraduate, postgraduate and work based routes working with the science and RE teams. Having worked in schools in the Midwest of America, the UK and in France and forms part of the Epistemic Insight project with CCCU.  Cynthia recently helped deliver a TED talk titled: ‘Is it the job of schools to teach our children values?’

Caroline Healy


Programme lead for the MA Catholic School Leadership, Caroline is also a mentor and director on the professional doctorate in education. Dr Healy is currently helping co-ordinate the CERIAN scholarship scheme - an international project to build educational capacity involving post-doctoral African researchers. An outstandingly exacting scholar, she is much sought after as a supervisor.

John Lydon


Prof Lydon is a well-travelled academic who has given recent keynote addresses in Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Chicago. He is an Executive Member of the World Union of Catholic Teachers which has consultative status with UNESCO. He is the author of numerous articles and his latest book published by Gracewing in 2018 is ‘Contemporary Perspectives on Catholic Education’ . John is also editor of International Studies in Catholic Education published by Taylor and Francis.

Mary Mihovilovic


Secondary RE expert, and Section 48 inspector, Mary leads post-graduate provision for St Mary’s School of Education which entails responsibility across a range of disciplines including the M.A. pathways in Leading Innovation and Change and Religious Education. Dr Mihovilovic is currently conducting longitudinal research into the experience of non-Catholic teachers in Catholic schools and vice versa.

Káren North


Expert in Faith Transmission and religious practice among Young Adults, Dr North is Programme Lead for CCRS – the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies. She has published print and video resources for sacramental preparation and catechesis and completed two recent feasibility reports for the Archdiocese of Southwark and the national organizing body for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Her PhD research Disrupting the Limbo of Non-belonging has been lauded by Bishops and academics alike.

Naved Siddiqui


Active across a range of inter-faith and religious literacy initiatives, Naved is lead for the soon to be launched CERRL short course in Islamic studies. Aimed at teachers and indeed anyone with an interest in developing their competency in matters relating to Muslim doctrine, practice and culture, this new award will come on stream in 2022-23. A pilot/ taster set of sessions will occur in May 2022 – watch this space for details.

Sean Whittle


Sean  Whittle is a member of CERRL serving as a Senior Lecturer in Catholic Education. He joined the teaching staff in April 2023, having worked as a Visiting Research Fellow working with Professor Gerald Grace for many years. Sean has published widely in Catholic education and completed a range of post-doctoral research projects, including a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at Brunel University on a religious literacy project, ‘Researching RSE in Catholic schools in Northern Ireland’, and a research project of a Catholic multi-academy trust in Birmingham. Since 2016 he has been collaborating with other academics working in the field of Catholic Education Studies, serving as the organising secretary for the Network for Researchers in Catholic Education (NfRCE). Sean serves as chair of the academic association AULRE. Alongside these academic roles he works part-time as a secondary school RE teacher in London. Within CERRL, he is keen to foster further research into the philosophy or theory of Catholic education. 

Honorary appointments

David Fincham


Honorary Professor David's recent research paper ‘Headteachers in Catholic schools in England: contemporary challenges. A follow-up research study: part 1’, can be found in the 2022 International Studies in Catholic Education. His recent book Being the Good Shepherd: Pastoral Care in Schools is available through Amazon.


Gerald Grace


Emeritus professor, Gerald Grace, KSG, KHS. FSES has been a leading theorist in Catholic Education for over half a century. His development of the concept of ‘Spiritual Capital’ articulated an educational reality applicable to both primary and secondary schools as well as international contexts. He founded International Studies in Catholic Education and his global contribution was marked in November 2021 with a festschrift celebrating his achievements.

Visiting Prof Simon Uttley


Simon is Head of Blessed Hugh Farringdon School in Reading and an Associate Professor at Notre Dame University’s London Global Gateway. He contributes fully to CERRL, is involved in the supervision of research and is a sought-after speaker. He has contributed to scholarly and sector specific journals and his latest initiative is the formation of Koinonia – a consortium of schools in partnership with St. Mary’s addressing research and CPD.

Visiting Fellow Peter Ward


Peter is an expert on the history of Religious Education in this country and through a long and distinguished career, has contributed greatly to the shaping of curricula in RE. He is vice-chair of NBRIA – National Board of Religious Education Inspectors and Advisers and continues to advise dioceses on curriculum policy.

Doctoral students

Joey Oliva 

Formation of Women Leaders: the effects and influence of Catholic Education in the Philippines 


Joey's research investigates the extent to which Catholic Education affects and influences the formation of women leaders in the Philippines. The Catholic Church is particularly sensitive to the call from every part of the world for a more just society. It tries to make its own contribution towards the promotion of the common good in various sectors but more importantly in the educational field. The research will identify the distinctive nature of Catholic Education, investigate how the sacramental vision of leadership is inculcated among students, and lastly, critically analyse the contribution of Catholic Education to the formation of female students during their formative years. The study will discuss the cultural context of women leadership in the Philippines and how it emerged throughout history from pre-colonial to current context of women and leadership. 

Lynn Elder

Parents as the primary educator: Rhetoric or reality?


Lynn's study focuses on the role of the parent in their child’s spiritual and academic development. The study is not new as this has been a focus since at least the time of Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century. Aquinas put forward that parents are the primary educator and that this obligation lasts a lifetime. However, Pope Francis in 2015 stated that parents need support in this role. He recognised that parents need to be involved and need to take this role seriously. Therefore, it is an ongoing issue. The study looks at what schools perceive to be parental engagement and what parents see as their role. The study then moves on to interview school staff to understand their perception.

 Nicholas Sutton

Clashing symbols: seeking compatibility between postmodern culture and faith within the context of Post-16 Catholic education


Building upon current research within the field of Catholic education, the research thesis is seeking to better understand the communication of Catholic Christian faith to students within post-16 Catholic education. The implications of culture have significantly impacted upon Catholic schools in their mission of faith formation. Many scholars have noted the challenges associated with the theme of postmodern culture, using the term as a gregarious adjective, and emphasising its relativist nature. The research however, in reference to Michael Paul Gallagher’s work, examines the underpinning hidden sensibility affiliated with postmodern consumerism, in contrast with a renewed sense of searching for belonging and wonder. Conducting a regional study of Catholic post-16 institutions, and analysing the student voice, the research seeks to examine the synergies and dissonances of postmodernity in relation to the communication of Catholic Christian faith to post-16 students

Interdisciplinary colleagues

CERRL also enjoys partnerships with colleagues across the University such as Philip Booth, Roland Daw, Christine Edwards-Leis, Gerardo Ghilberti and Anna Lise Gordon who each make insightful contributions to our discussions and strategic decision-making.