Irish News

Teaching the teachers is ‘Irish Church’s top priority’

Prof. Eamonn Conway

Greg Daly

Teachers and parents need support in helping prepare children for Christian lives, a leading theologian has said.

Speaking after an education conference in Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College, which discussed whether sacramental preparation should be taken out of schools, Prof. Eamonn Conway said the conference affirmed the importance of very close working relationships between parents, parish, and Church schools.

“But that relationship needs to be reconfigured so that sacramental preparation is seen as a joint responsibility,” he told The Irish Catholic, continuing: “In many instances this means that parishes need to take greater ownership of the parish and the home as places of evangelisation and not leave everything to the school.”

The third edition of Do This in Memory, the parish-based programme of preparation for First Holy Communion will emphasise the family even more than before, Maeve Mahon, the Primary RE Advisor for the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, said, adding that the intention is that the new edition should be released to coincide with the World Meeting of Families in August 2018.

Although stressing that many parishes already see significant levels of parish and parental involvement in sacramental preparation, she told The Irish Catholic that the ways in which parishes engage with parents need to be considered so parents can be given “an opportunity to re-engage and reconnect”. 

Primary task

Arguing that parents and teachers urgently need help in forming young Catholics, Prof. Conway said: “I think the primary task facing the Irish Church is to evangelise the evangelisers and in this instance that means teachers and parents. We need to invest heavily in the ongoing formation of teachers in Church schools to help them to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a confidence in speaking about Christ in the classroom, and similarly we need to support parents.”

This should be a priority even if parishes and dioceses are not in robust financial health, he urged, saying “we need to find the resources”. Maintaining that “the continuing formation of teachers in the Catholic faith seriously both in terms of what we offer and what we require”, he said: “There is no point in having a Catholic school in which Christian faith cannot be proposed at least as an invitation.”