Catholic primary schools in the Archdiocese of Dublin will continue to prepare children for Communion and Confirmation under a policy aimed at placing a greater emphasis on families and the local parish in sacramental preparation.
The archdiocese — which covers Dublin, Wicklow and parts of Kildare, Carlow, Laois and Wexford — announced in 2019 that parishes would assume primary responsibility for the preparation of children for the sacraments. It followed a survey conducted a year previously which indicated a desire for change among parents, parishioners and schools.
Many parishes have since been registering children for the sacraments, arranging online meetings to connect with families and organising smaller group celebrations.
Under a “sacraments of initiation policy” published last month, the archdiocese has formally adopted these approaches and will apply them across all of its parishes.
The policy confirms Catholic primary schools will continue to play a key role in sacramental preparation and faith formation by delivering the Grow in Love programme.
Under existing rules, schools are entitled to set aside up to 30 minutes of the school day for religious instruction or faith formation.
“Education for the sacraments in the school setting begins with junior infants and continues through the curriculum to sixth class,” the archdiocese policy states.
It adds that content specific to the first celebration of the sacraments of Confession and Communion is a two-year process beginning in first class, while content specific to the celebration the sacrament of Confirmation is also a two-year process beginning in fifth class.
The policy says the Catholic school will remain “attentive to and supports the parents and the parish on this faith journey” and that “teachers teach, witness to and encourage a lived relationship with Jesus Christ, by helping young people learn about their faith community, their faith journey and the meaning of the sacraments”.
It adds that teachers will continue to be supported in their role of teaching and preparing children for the reception of the sacraments by primary diocesan advisers, while the school will remain “supportive of all parish and diocesan initiatives that enable children and families grow in faith”.
Where parents have not opted for a Catholic school, it says an alternative programme of religious education may be organised in the parish facilitated by parents using the approved diocesan programme.
The policy comes at a time of debate over the role of faith formation at primary level.
A draft curriculum at primary level — due to be implemented from 2026 — proposes a reduction in the time set aside for faith formation or patrons’ programmes from two-and-a-half hours a week to two hours, and more “flexible time” to allow schools to focus on other areas of learning.
Some campaigners, meanwhile, have called for the removal of faith formation in State-funded schools.
“Schools should teach and churches should preach,” said Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland. “They should treat everybody equally, regardless of their religious or nonreligious beliefs.”