State schools and preparing children for sacraments


Sir, – I see that the “Bishops are not satisfied with State schools over sacraments” (June 18th), while it appears that Catholic schools prepare very well for the first holy communion and confirmation celebrations. These are wonderful Catholic school events, even though they take place in churches. In city parishes, the numbers can be so great that not all the family members are allowed to attend. But are the bishops in touch? Are they aware that on the following Sunday, the vast majority of the young neophytes are nowhere to be seen. The Irish Episcopal Conference is considering that the sacramental preparation be held in the State-run primary schools outside of school time. People who are conscious that these sacraments represent the two final stages of the initiation process into full membership of the church, can only regret that the parishes, and not the schools, have responsibility for the sacramental preparation. As a recent Irish Times opinion piece commented: “The surprise is not that the Catholic Church in Ireland is dying, but that it has lasted so long” (Fintan O’Toole, “Catholic Ireland is now a religious rust belt of half-empty churches”, June 2nd). And if the present charade continues, and our pensioner-members die off or become immobile, I would see the end come well before 2032, the centenary of the wonderful Eucharistic Congress that highlighted the status of the Catholic Church so powerfully in the newly formed Irish State. However, there is a modicum of hope if the hierarchy can analyse the problem of youthful commitment, and act decisively. – Yours, etc,