Sacraments Review in Dublin Diocese
In September 2018, Archbishop Martin set up a Sacraments Review Group to make recommendations on the future practice of Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation. The approach agreed was to consult widely and deeply and, out of this, to determine future directions.
The Review Group carried out an online survey, with 1800 responses from parents, parishioners, clergy and parish workers, school principals and teachers.
The responses have been collated and now form the raw material for a further stage of reflection among the interested parties. The responses are not ‘results’ but data for use for future reflection and consideration.
A strong pattern in the responses is a desire for change being expressed across the board.
Ireland is unique in its dependence on schools in preparing for and celebrating the sacraments. Parishes are becoming more involved and there are some efforts to involve parents more. However, in the survey, all express dissatisfaction that it is still largely a school event. Schools themselves feel that they are still working in a vacuum.
All the voices in the survey are asking for more movement in the direction of parent and parish responsibility. All are saying that passing on the faith is primarily the responsibility of the home, with the support of the parish as well as the school.
A big challenge at the next stage is to figure how this can be actioned. It seems to be about a significant shift of focus, from the current set-up where schools engage with children to a new set-up where parishes engage with parents.
At the heart of what has to be figured out, the survey suggests, is how to relate to parents who are coming from different places. The survey highlights the contrasts between parents who are churchgoers, others who are not churchgoers but profess to have faith, others again who see the sacraments as family milestones with no faith dimension.
The survey asked about future practice in relation to the preparation and celebration of the sacraments. The responses seem to register a strong desire among schools for the home and parish to step up to the plate. The survey did not ask about religious education and religious formation.
The next step is to meet with people who participated in the survey, from home, parish and school. At these gatherings over the coming months we will reflect together on the responses and what they might mean for us.