Introduction and Welcome
I welcome you all as leaders in Catholic Religious Education here in the parish, Principals, Catechists, teachers, parents and pupils and members of the Primary Advisory Committee in Catholic Religious Education. Welcome to the priests of the parish, the Administrator, Father Pat Farragher and Fathers Shane and Seán.
In an increasingly pluralist society, where there are more and more people of different faiths, we have to be clear about the difference between Catholic schools and other schools. We have to be clear about our own identity, what our schools are about and why they are important. We have Catholic schools because parents want them. It is parents who must insist that the religious ethos of our schools is respected and not abandoned. For those who do not want faith education for their children, it is appropriate that non-faith schools be provided. It is faith that makes Catholic Schools Catholic and what makes Catholic education different. In the past schools may have been places of fear and anxiety, today thankfully our schools are places of welcome, development and formation where the ideals of Catholic education and the Christian ethos are being implemented. In all of this the Principal, teachers and Boards of Management are hugely instrumental.
Welcoming Grow in Love
It is an historic occasion as we are launching two valuable texts regarding Religious Education in school here in Ireland: The Catholic Pre-School and Primary Religious Education Curriculum for Ireland and the new Primary School Religious Series, Grow in Love.
Gratitude and indebtedness for Excellence of Primary Teachers
I want to thank Bríd Cosgrove and Presentation Primary School for hosting this event. Irish Society has benefited enormously from the quality of our education system and particularly from our primary schools which set the tone and lay the foundation for the future. As Church we are indebted to our primary teachers for the way in which they so diligently and conscientiously educate children in the faith.
Importance of Solid Foundations
From our own experience we realise the importance of good foundation if any significant development is to take place later. This is very true with regard to education and particularly with regard to religious education. The Church has always acknowledged that the first educators in the faith of any child must be the parents.
It may come as a surprise to you that while there was a curriculum available for all the other subjects, English, Irish, Maths, History, there was no curriculum available for Religious Education. That situation has now been addressed with this new curriculum which provides a structured outline of what religious education in Catholic schools contributes to the Catholic education and formation of our young people at pre-school and primary level.
Thanking the many involved in the preparation of the Progamme
This curriculum has been warmly welcomed by teachers and parents. I am proud to say that the curriculum is the result of the wonderful work done by Dr. Anne Hession of St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra who herself is from the West of Ireland along with Dr Michael O’ Keefe of Saint Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. A very dedicated team consisting of Brendan O’ Reilly (former National Catechetical Director), Maura Hyland and Elaine Mahon at Veritas as well as Kate Liffey, the current National Catechetical Director have been doing wonderful work in this area over the years. This curriculum will determine the way in which Catholic Religious Education will be approached in primary schools for the foreseeable future.
In launching the Grow in Love Programme I congratulate Maura Hyland and all the team at Veritas and especially Elaine Mahon and Dan O’ Connell of Mary Immaculate Limerick. This programme has been very warmly received by teachers. The Let’s Look, Let’s Learn, Let’s Live” sections illustrate the way in which this programme now unfolds. There are resources for children, for teachers and parents. The art work is very attractive and inviting. This programme envisages that parents and children will be involved together in homework in this area. It will involve a team effort, parents become interested and get to know what their children are learning in this new programme Grow in Love. There are opportunities for parents to renew and deepen their own faith as they share with their children and together use this beautiful resource programme.
Introducing students to the Catholic Faith
Through this programme children will be introduced to a religious literacy that will enable them to express their understanding of the faith in prayer and knowledge. Catholic Religious Education was confined to school. Now we have an opportunity whereby school, home and parish community will co-operate in introducing children to Jesus Christ and impressing on them a sense of their own dignity and the fact that they are loved by God and because of that they are expected to respond to each other in an appropriate manner.
Involvement and role of Teachers
I take this opportunity to congratulate our Principals and their teachers for the wonderful work that they are doing in the area of Religious Education, not just preparing children for the sacraments but also for life itself as they help to provide infrastructure on which the children will build.
Priests, Religious and Parish Personnel
Congratulations to our priests who visit the classroom, work with and support the teachers in handing on the faith to the young. The priests have already been introduced at the Deanery Conferences to the new Curriculum and are very welcoming of it.
Diocesan Primary Director for Tuam Archdiocese
A special word of appreciation and thanks to John McDonagh who leads the Primary Diocesan Advisory Committee and to Monsignor John O’Boyle, the Education Secretary. He has been very busy in arranging in-service for those involved with the new Curriculum and the new Programme, has addressed the priests of the diocese in seven centres and with his team of diocesan advisors provides on-going support.
Conclusion and Good wishes
Finally, I thank you all for attending today’s launch and hope and pray that we will all avail of the opportunities presented by this curriculum and programme.
- + Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam.
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