Massgoers will pay to help get children ready for sacraments

Massgoers in the Archdiocese of Dublin are being asked to help fund the training of parishioners to take over the preparation of children in their community for first communion and confirmation from Catholic schools.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has announced a new, ministry Sunday collection, starting this weekend, to support the training of lay people to help build up faith in parishes.

The ministry Sunday collection will replace the share collection on a designated weekend every year.

The archbishop has sent a letter to parishes advising of the change, coinciding with the release of findings of a survey by a diocesan sacraments review group, showing demand for parishes and parents to play a greater role in preparing children for the sacraments.

The online survey gathered the views of 1,800 parents, parishioners, school principals, clergy and parish workers in the archdiocese, which covers Dublin, most of Wicklow and parts of Kildare, Carlow, Laois and Wexford.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese said all the voices in the survey were asking for more movement in the direction of parent and parish responsibility, saying that passing on the faith was primarily the responsibility of the home, with the support of the parish as well as the school.

The spokesperson pointed out that Ireland was unique in its dependence on schools in preparing for the sacraments.

She said that while parishes were becoming more involved and there were some efforts to involve parents more, all those who responded to the survey expressed “dissatisfaction” that it is still largely a school event. Schools themselves felt that they were working in a vacuum, she added.

As a next step, the archdiocese will host discussions in three areas, involving groups of parishes, to look at how best to facilitate practice in the years ahead.

There are no immediate plans for significant change, but it is expected to happen gradually.

The issue has been the subject of much discussion within Catholic education circles for some years, linked to the fall in clergy numbers, a failure by some parents to take any responsibility for their children’s faith formation, and some concerns about depth of teachers’ knowledge in respect of the sacraments.

A study in 2011 showed principals and teachers felt over-burdened and unsupported in the task of sacramental preparation.

The archbishop’s letter makes no reference to a potential shift of responsibility for sacramental preparation from schools to parishes, but it does point to the changing religious culture and stresses the need for more lay men and women working in various ways alongside priests.

It notes that many lay people are already involved in parish work, including as catechists, who attend to the faith development of young adults and young families and of children who do not attend Catholic schools.

Dr Martin said the collection was “about ensuring that we will have the people we need – men and women who will be to the fore in making our parishes vibrant faith communities into the future”.

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