Page 4, 17th June 1977

17th June 1977
Page 4
Page 4, 17th June 1977 — Faith for our children

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Faith for our children

On so many occasions lately I have heard it said by people involved in Catholic education (including clergy and teachers) that the children would never persevere in their Faith if (as seems almost the norm in sonic city areas) the parents had "lapsed".

My comments may sound naive — since possibly experts have pondered the situation, But if (and I do not dispute this) parents and home life are the key to perseverance, then could not more be done when interviewing parents , who want their children admitted to Catholic schools — as, apparently, so many still do? I mean could not the occasion include an undertaking (forms and all!) that the parents would themselves regularly attend Christian instruction talks (no doubt many have themselves been inadequately taught).

It could be explained that the vast cost of educating their young in ;Catholic schools was only justified when there was firm support at home. Probably it would be wiser not to distinguish among parents known to be practising and others. The former might well be glad to join in the effort. It seems to me curious for priests and teachers to remark calmly(as I have heard them do) that the First Communion may well be the last for many children.

Incidentally, although I see the theoretical value of First Communicant children being with their families for this great occasion in church -I am not so sure now since, in various places, I have noticed the isolation of the whiteclad "stars" as they climb out to get to the altar from among a group of (presumably lapsed?) noncommunicating relations.

There seems to mc much to be said for the practice, still maintained in some lively parishes, of the children being "set apart" and the whole Mass. planned round them — including of course sermon, music, offertory. I have heard of one church where the parish priest has them assembled all round the altar.

By all means let the day be memorable — white dresses, and if you like, photographs and all. But, to put first things first surely the occasion of receiving the Eucharist for the first time should be careful, joyful, leisurely — and with no scope for confusion to the small candidates.

If things are really as bad as many teachers maintain then why not, if necessary, defer First Communion — or even baptism — until the parents have first been taught what the children are undertaking? It is worse than meaningless for crowds of people to go around calling themselves "Catholics" when they have, apparently. pushed their children through a process which can become a farce or a superstition.

I am sure that many teachers themselves try hard to keep in touch with parents. But if school places — yes, and the Sacraments — were withheld from children whose parents would not even show or acquire some knowledge of the Faith, then the future quality of Catholic Christian life might be more hopeful.

1 am far from feeling pessimistic about the young and their attitude to religion. But it does begin to look as though many do not owe this to the costly Catholic schooling. One more point. I am told that children are no longer taught the Ten Commandments. They learn all their religion (one teacher told me) through "love". But, since society is spending half its time breaking the Commandments — or forming committees to repair the damage done through the lack of an ethical code — wouldn't it be a good idea to have these Jewish and Christian rules once more set out and proclaimed? Haven't the young the right to know what these rules.are?

Constance Holt London, WC I,

Your correspondent, Dorothy Wallis (June 2), deplores the absence of a representative of the teaching staff on the board of management of Catholic schools. Unfortunately the Education Act 1944 and the relating Trust Deeds preclude this, but as she rightly states there is no reason why a member of the teaching staff should not be invited to managers' meetings as an observer.

agree with her and would go further; with teachers I would include parents, as between them they have the main responsibilities :and are the principal formative factors in a child's upbringing and education. This, I understand, is recognised and catered for by some boards of management; 1 can give one example, St Gregory's school, Cheltenham, where it has for some time been the practice to have a representative teacher and also a

representative of the parent/teachers association attending the managers' meetings and participating fully in all deliberations and discussions.

It's true they haven't a vote — as yet — but their contributions to the dicussions are of much value. In any case, the need for a vote rarely arises; in over 30 years as a manager of Catholic schools my experience is that most decisions are reached by consensus, Cheltenham, Glos, B. J. Keating Your correspondent R. L. Ted stone (June 3) believes " there must be something wrong with our Catholic education . . " There have been more than a few letters in similar vein over the past few months. Perhaps it is now the eleventh hour for the Church as far as the Schools Policy / Religious Education is concerned. Do we in fact need our schools as they exist today?

Doubtless the new catechetics was a great step forward, but rapidly proving inadequate. The changes have not been radical enough. Should not the Church's efforts now be focused upon the adult community? Why not let the children just grow up — having been introduced to Christian living in the family unit, and early (only early) schooling. Even in the new Catechetics, results of psychologists' findings have been disregarded. Religious concepts introduced too soon may lead to regressive thinking in religion, and not only retard later insights, but may even prevent them from developing at all!

The Church should be confident that no great calamities will follow because of less religious instruction. Why not a complete re-orientation of the educational effort. with a recognition of the fact that there is a time in the development of the child when the greater good can be achieved by actually refraining from formal religious teaching. Then, as young adults, they would be more likely to find the study of the Christian faith intellectually challenging, and, hopefully, arrive at an intellectually satisfying belief in God.

Barbara T. Harris Redruth, Cornwall.

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