By Cian Molloy - 03 June, 2019
A major investigation into the need for adult religious education and faith development in Ireland has been launched by the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education at Dublin City University.
The Adult Religious Education and Faith Development (AREFD) research project is set to run for the next three years following a major grant by the north-east province of the Presentation Sisters.
The first phase of the project is an online survey that is currently live on the centre’s website. Organiser Dr Bernadette Sweetman said she hopes to gain as wide a range as responses as possible, not just from Catholics, practising and lapsed, but from people of other faiths and denominations, and from those who are of no faith at all.
“This research is long over-due,” said Dr Sweetman. “In religious circles, many would acknowledge that the faith development of the adult population has been neglected. Thankfully, the Presentation Sisters identified this as an issue that needs addressing and they came to the Mater Dei Centre and commissioned this research.”
Completing the initial online survey takes about 20 minutes. Afterwards, respondents are asked if they would be willing to participate further in the project to explore issues of adult religious education and faith formation in Ireland today.
As well as gathering information, the AREFD research project aims to help enhance public awareness of “the great work already happening with adults in some communities, parishes and groups”.
“In particular, the survey encourages adults to reflect on how they express their beliefs and values, the opportunities (or lack thereof) for religious education /faith development at various stages of life and, ultimately, what would Irish adults like to see happening in the future to engage them in ongoing religious education and faith development,” said Dr Sweetman.
“Giving affirmation and recognition to those already actively engaged in adult religious education and faith development, the research team will work with many different groups across Ireland setting up new opportunities for adults to explore.”
The Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE) already runs religious education courses for those involved in early-childhood education, for primary school teachers and for post-primary teachers.
“This project marks the start of the centre being explicitly involved in adult religious education,” said Dr Sweetman. “It is a very exciting time for us. It means we can start looking at inter-generational learning in religious education and faith development.”