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Responsibility for sacramental preparation to shift to parishes

By Sarah Mac Donald - 04 December, 2019

Parishes in the archdiocese of Dublin are to begin training volunteers who will assume responsibility for preparing families and children for the sacraments of Baptism, Confession, First Communion and Confirmation.

The Dublin Diocesan Council of Priests has endorsed the new plan for parish sacramental preparation.

The Council’s support follows widespread consultation across the Archdiocese of Dublin on how to strengthen the bond between family, parish and school in preparing children for these four sacraments.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin this week wrote to priests and parishes informing them of the Council of Priests’ backing for the new approach to sacramental preparation, which will be centred on supporting parents in sharing faith with their children.

Dr Martin called for preparation and training of voluntary lay catechists and the development of resource materials to begin immediately.

The resolution of the Dublin Diocesan Council of Priests calls for the diocese to implement an approach to Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation that pivots on supporting parents in sharing faith with their children.

It also calls for the parish to assume responsibility for the preparation and celebration of all four sacraments.

In relation to First Reconciliation and First Communion, the resolution urges the diocese to adopt the timeline proposed to the Council of Priests.

The Council of Priests’ resolution calls for the setting up of an implementation group for this new policy and says that the composition of the group should be ready for presentation at the Council’s January meeting.

The implementation group will 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; and providing resources and finance.

The group is expected to be in place by early 2020 and will develop:
·         a communications strategy, with particular attention to communications with schools and parents
·         a planning strategy, addressing the following: recruiting locally; training these people; providing regional support workers; generating and piloting resources; financing the project.
·         guidelines for a consistent diocesan approach to Baptism as the foundation for future ministry around these four sacraments.
·         a proposal to the Council of Priests and the Archbishop for the future practice of the sacrament of Confirmation.

In his letter to priests and parishes, Archbishop Martin said that the aim “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.”

Dr Martin 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 [schools] 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,” the Archbishop said.

“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.”

The decision by the Council of Priests is the culmination of a process that began in September 2018.

A sacraments review group was set up in Dublin to consult widely and make practical recommendations on future practice around Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation.

Eighteen-hundred people responded to an online survey. These responses 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 are not regular churchgoers, which allowed them to have their voice heard.

Three assemblies were subsequently held across the Archdiocese of Dublin, where the outcomes of the survey were presented and discussed.

One of the key findings that emerged from this was the view that the family has the primary responsibility for leading children in faith.

Another key finding was that there is a desire for shifting the primary responsibility for sacramental preparation from school to parish.

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