Dublin parishioners are being asked to come up with creative ways to help spark faith in parents who bring their children for First Holy Communion but are not churchgoers.
In a wide-ranging consultation process launched this week, parishes will be asked to face up to the reality that of the many children who receive the Sacraments on annual days like Communion and Confirmation, they rarely if ever see the inside of the church again until their wedding day.
It’s part of a survey intended to transform sacramental practice in the country’s largest diocese.
The archdiocese is appealing for parents, guardians, parishes and schools to respond to an online survey considering how the Faith is passed on, as a first step in a sacramental preparation review process.
Introducing the survey, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said: “Ireland is changing, and Irish religious culture is changing, and we have to see how in the developing Irish religious culture we prepare people for the Sacraments, in particular for the Sacraments of initiation – Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation – which are the ways people are brought into the life of the Church community.”
In a letter to accompany the survey, Archbishop Martin said he has become aware over the years of a “growing need” to review the preparation and celebration of the Sacraments, with there being a widespread concern that they should be “celebrations of a vibrant faith rather than the ‘conveyor belt’ they are often described”.
The first step in the consultation process will be a listening exercise, Dr Martin explained, beginning with a short online survey which will be online for the three weeks from February 4, after which a Review Group will contact parishes across the archdiocese to ensure that a representative sample of parishes have engaged with the process.
Done properly, the survey could help have “a transforming effect”, Dr Martin said.
As well as asking for thoughts on how many families involved in sacramental preparation are not churchgoers, the survey asks parents to consider whose responsibility it is to pass on the Faith and the role of Catholicism in their own lives. It also asks how the Faith of children and parents is enhanced by sacramental preparation, and what new directions should be considered in preparing for the Sacraments.
Describing this as “a great opportunity”, Dr Martin said: “There’ll be difficulties, but it’s a great opportunity of renewal in the Church, and I hope that many, many people will join in this consultation so that we come up with results that will be owned by people in today’s Church and in tomorrow’s Church.”