Q. How do Catholic children prepare for the sacraments currently?p
A. Ireland is uniquely dependent on schools when it comes to preparing for, and celebrating, the sacraments. Traditionally, Catholic schools prepare students for their first confession, communion and confirmation, which are made usually in second and sixth class.
Under the ‘Grow in Love’ programme, responsibility for preparing for the sacraments is shared between three parties; the home, the school and the parish. A child’s teacher is also considered “paramount” in delivering the programme. The vast majority of children here attended Catholic primary schools.
Q. What prompted the move away from schools?
A. The Dublin Diocese set up a review group in 2018 to make recommendations on the future practice of baptisms, first confessions, first communions and confirmations. Parents, parishioners, clergy, parish workers, school principals and teachers all had their say.
The consultation found a strong desire for change across the board. All expressed dissatisfaction that the sacraments are still largely considered school events. Schools in particular felt that they are still "working in a vacuum".
All respondents said that instead families should be responsible for passing on their faith, along with the support of the parish and the school. More and more children from Catholic families are also beginning to attend schools that are not under Catholic patronage, according to the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.
Q. Under the proposals, how will children prepare for the sacraments?
A. The proposals begin to shift the responsibility away from schools, and places it instead on Catholic families and their parishes. The plans also require lay-people to take on more of the preparatory work associated with the sacraments, a role usually assumed by teachers.
However, it doesn't remove learning about the sacraments from Catholic schools entirely. According to Archbishop Martin, the plans involve a new approach that ultimately in the future will see parishes become responsible for preparing students for each sacrament. Any changes will be made in line with the different circumstances of each parish, he added.
Q. When will this proposal come into effect?
A. According to the Archbishop, it will take some time to effectively implement the move in each parish. However, the preparation and training of voluntary lay-people and the development of resources materials will begin immediately.
Q. How likely is it that similar proposals will be rolled out across other dioceses nationwide?
A. The plans relate to the Archdiocese of Dublin, which covers the capital and Wicklow, as well as parts of Kildare, Carlow, Laois and Wexford. A number of review groups examining the first sacraments are currently underway in several other dioceses and it is likely that we will see similar moves introduced in other parts of the country.