Parents, teachers and parishes are being invited to work together on the proposals which will likely see smaller groups of children receiving the Sacrament during Sunday Mass with their local parish community.
Launching the document, with pupils from St. Columba’s N.S., Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the focus of the new policy was to root First Communion and First Reconciliation more firmly within the parish. He said he accepted the changes would take time to introduce across the Diocese. He said the aim was that First Communion would in general take place at a Sunday Parish Mass, to stress the fact that First Communion is not a private celebration, but involves a welcome into the parish liturgical community.
Archbishop Martin also stressed that in the current economic situation, parishes should work to ensure that the celebration of First Communion not be accompanied as sometimes has been the case, by extravagant expense. He said, “Parishes should encourage people to celebrate the Sacrament with the simplicity and authenticity which will help the child to fully understand the mystery of the Eucharist.”
Fr. Kieran Mc Dermott, Diocesan Vicar for Evangelisation said they were at the start of a process of changing attitudes and mindsets around this major annual event in Irish life. He said they wanted to refocus on the fact that there are three partners involved in forming young Catholics in their faith – the home, the school and the parish. Fr. Mc Dermott said this new policy places parents as the main agents accompanying children on their faith journey. While the local parish is being given a more prominent role in the preparation for and celebration of First Communion and First Reconciliation, the school continues to be the main resource in assisting family and parish.
Fr. Mc Dermott said they were also striving for consistency of practice throughout the Diocese and there would be a significant period of consultation with everyone involved in preparing a child of First Holy Communion.
He added that many parishes had already adopted similar programmes of preparation such as “Do This in Memory of me” and they would be drawing on the experience of those involved in such programmes.
A copy of the new policy document which is being distributed to all schools and parishes in the Diocese is available to download.