Catholic primary schools in the Archdiocese of Dublin will continue to prepare children for communion and confirmation as part of a policy to place greater emphasis on families and the local parish in preparation for the sacraments.
The archdiocese – which covers Dublin, Wicklow and parts of Kildare, Carlow, Laois and Wexford – announced in 2019 that parishes would take primary responsibility for preparing children for the sacraments. It followed a poll conducted a year earlier that indicated a desire for change among parents, parishioners and schools.
Since then, many parishes have been enrolling children in the sacraments, holding online meetings to connect with families, and hosting small group celebrations.
Under a “sacraments of initiation policypublished last month, the Archdiocese has formally adopted these approaches and will apply them in all of its parishes.
The policy confirms that Catholic primary schools will continue to play a key role in sacramental preparation and faith formation by offering the Grow in Love program.
Under current rules, schools have the right to set aside up to 30 minutes of the school day for religious instruction or faith formation.
“Sacrament education in the school setting begins with toddlers and continues through the curriculum through sixth grade,” the archdiocesan policy states.
He adds that the content specific to the first celebration of the sacraments of confession and communion is a two-year process starting in first class, while the content specific to the celebration of the sacrament of confirmation is also a two-year process starting in fifth. class.
The policy states that the Catholic school will remain “attentive and supportive of parents and the parish in this journey of faith” and that “teachers teach, witness and encourage a lived relationship with Jesus Christ, helping young people discover their community of faith, their journey of faith and the meaning of the sacraments”.
He adds that teachers will continue to be supported in their role of teaching and preparing children to receive the sacraments by primary diocesan counselors, while the school will remain “sustainable to all parochial and diocesan initiatives that enable children and families to grow in faith”. .
Where the parents have not opted for a Catholic school, it is indicated that an alternative program of religious education may be organized in the parish, facilitated by the parents using the approved diocesan curriculum.
The policy comes at a time of debate over the role of religious education at the primary level.
A draft curriculum at the primary level – due to be implemented from 2026 – proposes a reduction in the time devoted to religious formation or sponsorship programs from two and a half hours per week to two hours, and more “time flexible” to allow schools to focus on other areas of learning.
Some activists, meanwhile, have called for the abolition of religious training in state-funded schools.
“Schools should teach and churches should preach,” said Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland. “They should treat everyone the same, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs.”