Preparing children for Communion and Confirmation will no longer be part of the role of a Catholic school if radical new plans proposed by Dublin priests are acted upon The Irish Catholic can reveal.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who will make the ultimate decision on whether to implement the parish-based programme, has received the recommendation by the Council of Priests and has now asked that discussions begin at parish level this week The Irish Catholic understands. It would see parishes take on the leadership role and remove sacramental preparation from the schools.
Chairperson of the council, Fr John Gilligan told The Irish Catholic that parishes are concerned that “there’s that kind of pressure put on children, and their parents, as it becomes a school event and everyone in the school wants to do the same thing”.
Under the recommendations the number of lay volunteers and catechists in parishes would be increased, as Fr Gilligan says they must be developed into “centres of learning and faith development”.
He added that this would take “some of the burden from the schools in the preparation for the sacraments, and will hopefully lead to a more balanced educational approach to religious education in every class from junior infants to sixth class”.
Secretary of the Council of Priests Fr Donal Roche of Wicklow parish admitted “we have a system at the moment that isn’t really working”.
“We’re preparing children for sacraments, for a day, for an event, and parents aren’t really part of that process, we’ve left them aside whereas schools have been doing a wonderful job, but they’re preparing the children almost in isolation.”
The move was welcomed by faith development specialist and columnist for this newspaper, Bairbre Cahill who described the decision as “courageous”, especially as it would receive a backlash as “some people have an allergic reaction to change”.
“But I think it’s where we need to move. I definitely think it’s where the Holy Spirit is pushing us, we need to look at the integrity of the sacramental preparation.
“This is a really important move and hopefully it will encourage other diocese to have that conversation, to move forward,” she said.