The Archdiocese of Dublin has begun a process of significant change in relation to how children are prepared for the Sacraments.
It follows a consultation process on future practices, which earlier this year found a widespread desire among parishioners and clergy for a shift in primary responsibility for sacramental preparation from schools to parish.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has said training must begin immediately to prepare volunteers in parishes to support families in preparation for Baptism, Confession, First Communion and Confirmation.
Archbishop Martin has this week written to priests and parishes informing them of a proposal by Priests Council endorsing a new approach to the sacraments, centred on supporting parents in sharing faith with their children and that in time will see parishes will assume responsibility for the preparation and celebration of all four sacraments.
In his letter Archbishop Martin said that “at the heart of the proposal is to stress the primary role of families in sacramental preparation. It also advocates a renewed relationship with Catholic schools in promoting Catholic ethos and in delivering the Grow in Love programme.”
He said that any change must be achieved in line with the differing circumstances of each parish. “We must remember too that more and more Catholic children today attend other than Catholic schools. The proposal is not something that will be accomplished overnight; it cannot however be put forever on the long finger. We must begin now”, said Archbishop Martin. “It will take some time to put in place an effective development of parish capacity to implement this initiative. We need however to begin immediately with the preparation and training of voluntary lay catechists and the development of resource materials.”
This week’s decision by the Priest’s Council is the culmination of a process that began in September 2018. A sacraments review group was set up to consult widely and make practical recommendations on the future practice around Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation.
1800 people responded to an online survey. This reflected the views of parents, parishioners, clergy those in parish ministry, schoolteachers and principals. In addition there were a number of focus groups with young parents who were not regular churchgoers, to hear their voice more clearly.
Three assemblies were subsequently held across the Diocese, where the outcomes of the survey were presented and discussed.
Some key findings emerged from this process among them that the family has the primary responsibility for leading children in faith; that there is a desire for shifting the primary responsibility for sacramental preparation from school to parish. This was expressed strongly across the board and included the wish to continue involvement with schools.
An implementation group is to be set up to look at a range of issues around the proposal including, communicating with schools and with parents; recruiting and training volunteers in parishes to work with regional support workers; providing resources and finance. This group is expected to be in place by early 2020.