The bishop said it is important students are re-awoken to the fact that being a Catholic is an option.
At the launch in Adare last night of Catholic Schools Week, Bishop Leahy said sacramental ceremonies can have little resonance for the child and often appear like a prefabricated package of Irish heritage that is to be discarded nonchalantly later in life as part of a “throwaway culture”.
Removing Confirmation from the primary school would not mean, he stressed, less religious education as the religious education programme would still be very central in a Catholic School.
Sixth class, Bishop Leahy suggested, could still include a module on the Holy Spirit and there could be a final blessing ceremony in parishes linked to “graduation” ceremonies to mark the child’s completion of primary which could amount to a large family event.
“But is Confirmation not a sacrament worth celebrating in its own right and at another time?” he asked.
“By way of helping us reflect on how we might envision the future, I would like to suggest one practical avenue for consideration and that is whether we should change the age at which young people make their Confirmation. Currently, they do so at 12 years of age and in the context of school.
“I have been really impressed by the level of ceremonies, the care to detail, the level of preparation. And here I want to express enormous gratitude to teachers for their commitment.
“And yet, we have to ask the question: Is 12 years of age too young? Are the boys and girls really aware of what’s going on? Is Confirmation too detached from the experience of a living Christian community of faith? Does our current practice offer the best model of interaction between child, parish, school and family? Are children opting or floating into Confirmation?”
“Might we not avail of the fact that Confirmation is still viewed as an important ritual and invite 16 year olds to celebrate the sacrament?”