Meeting with P4 Teacher – Catechists
Paisley 30th October 2008
- I have often described Catholic teachers as the principal co-workers with the priest within our parish communities. This description, which comes from my own experience as a parish priest, is true especially of those teachers who in any given year who are responsible for the preparation of the children for the sacraments.
- In the new guidelines I published at the beginning of school session 2008-09 entitled Sacraments for Children – Doctrinal, Pastoral, and Practical Principles, I note that the parents above all, the parish and the Catholic school all have responsibility for the preparation of the children for the sacraments. Of the Catholic primary school I say “The Catholic primary school has the principal role in the formal catechesis and preparation of candidates.” You are the ones who will deliver what I refer to as the formal catechesis and preparation. Your role is most important and most appreciated. Here, in religious education understood as catechesis and in the preparation of the children for the sacraments, is where teaching as profession and teaching as vocation most perfectly overlap.
- The immediate aim of this catechesis is to prepare the children for First Confession and First Holy Communion. But the longer term aim to help them to understand that the sacraments should be part of the lives for evermore after that. You could say that evangelisation and catechesis for Catholic life is 25% teaching and learning, and 75% witness. The example and witness of the significant adults in their lives is crucial for children. You are a very important significant adult in their lives. Your sincere witness about the place of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and of the Mass in your lives will be worth than your most creative lesson on these matters.
- Your Primary 4 class and the fact that you are preparing them for the sacraments is actually a grace for you. God is calling you and inviting you, the Church is calling you and inviting you, I am calling you and inviting you to deepen your own faith in Christ and to deepen your knowledge and practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and of the Eucharist during this teaching session.
- As you will know, I took the decision to reserve the Sacrament of Confirmation for children until Primary 7. One of the reasons I did this was to take the pressure off P4 teachers so that you could spend more time on the Sacrament of Penance and on First Holy Communion, and so that the children would receive these sacraments with a greater awareness. I hope that you will be able to use that extra time to the best advantage.
- My guidelines Sacraments for Baptised Children – Doctrinal, Pastoral and Practical Principles is not a syllabus or a curriculum. As the bishop, it is my responsibility to guide catechists and teachers as to what candidates for the sacraments should know. I have written these principles principally for you, the teachers, and for other adult catechists so that you have a reliable doctrinal and linguistic framework for your teaching, and so that you can help the children to know what they should know in the best manner appropriate to children. I also refer you to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These are not resources like any other resources. These are the sure foundations for all catechesis and teaching about the faith. It would good for every Catholic teacher, and especially for those who are preparing children for the sacraments, to be familiar with the Catechism and/or the Compendium, and have no fears about accessing it to help you prepare lessons.
- So I thank you for coming to this meeting. I was most keen to meet you, to encourage you, and to pray with you. I know you will do a superb job of preparing the children in your charge for the sacraments. I can never tire of thanking you for the sacred task that you do in the name of the Church. May your work in preparing children for the sacraments bring you great joy! May you grow in union with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I gladly bless and dedicate you now as teacher-catechists for the work of preparing the children of our Catholic schools to receive the Sacraments of First Confession and First Holy Communion in 2009.
Bishop of Paisley