The Church needs to pump serious resources into parish Faith formation if children are to be brought up in an age where schools play a less direct role in sacramental preparation, a leading catechist has urged.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Maeve Mahon of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin warned, however, that Church-owned schools would no longer be Catholic if religious education ceased to be an essential part of the school curriculum.
“The sacramental preparation issue is something that’s definitely to be explored in a real way, and there needs to be a serious discussion about that nationally, but religious education in a Catholic school is a foundational subject,” she said.
“If there’s to remain Catholic schools I cannot see them taking religious education out of the classroom,” Ms Mahon said, while venturing that sacramental preparation could be more parish-based.
However this was done, resources would be urgently needed, she said: “Most parishes don’t have the resources at their disposal at the moment, given what else is happening – it would be a huge challenge.”
Natalie Doherty, a parish catechist in Kilnamanagh, Dublin, said a key challenge is to help parents support their children.
“At the end of the day, you can do what you want with the child, realistically, but if there’s no solid support at home it won’t go anywhere, or even if they don’t know what’s happening in the conversation,” she said.
“The whole point of our support gatherings is to equip parents and tell them the exact same language that we’re using, so that if the child is anxious the key corners of support for them – home, school, and parish – are all using the same terminology,” she said.
The issue, she stressed, is not that parents lack Faith, but that they might lack the confidence to speak in a language that they don’t use every day.
“If we’re looking to move forward to create a new paradigm in the Church of people who genuinely believe then it needs to be done in a different way,” John Quinn of Alpha Ireland told this newspaper.
“People can do the best they can with a catechetical framework, but if you’re building on sand it’s going to fall apart. You need to build on stronger foundations,” he said.