Parish Catechists the Future of Faith Formation in Ireland?

Aug 17, 2021 | 2 comments

Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin

“The handing on of the Faith to the young is one of the most serious challenges facing our Church today,” according to Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin.

He said there was need “for an effective programme of catechetics throughout the diocese to add to and, eventually, replace the current teaching of faith to the young. With the gradual decline of family socialisation in religion, the role of the qualified catechist will be essential.”

The subtext of the Archbishop’s interview – in the 2021 edition of the Maynooth seminary journal ‘Siolta‘ –  is obviously growing concern among the Irish hierarchy over the struggle faced by Irish Catholic schools to develop a sustained faith in their pupils, once early sacraments of communion and confirmation have been received.

This comment by the archbishop follows a decision of Pope Francis in May 2021 to make the role of the Catechist a recognised ministry in the church.

The archbishop declared that the public visibility of Catholic belief in Ireland “has for all intents and purposes vanished.”

Inevitably this has led to the following headline in Belfast’s ‘Irish News‘ : “Christian belief ‘vanished’ in Ireland, Archbishop warns.”

[ Editor’s Comment: As if!  The Archbishop was obviously speaking of the public visibility of the faith at this time – the relatively ‘quiet’ faith of those who do practise and the absence of a ‘high profile’ for religious events, especially during the ongoing pandemic.]  

“Public commentary in the media in Ireland has not been positive in its understanding of the Church and its need for vocations, and for public support of those trying to preach the Gospel,” Archbishop Farrell said.

Bishops and priests need “to encourage a participatory institutional model of Church with a leadership of service” to the People of God, who comprise 99.99 per cent of the Church’s members. “When this is grasped all else changes,” he said.

So the message obviously is to ‘watch this space’ rather than count out a church with a proven record of rising with a new ‘shape’ and a new vitality from every apparent disaster. With Ireland about to embark upon a ‘synodal pathway’ towards a national synodal assembly within five years we are likely to hear much more soon about the new parish ministry of the Catechist.

Ireland’s Faith Formation Crisis


  1. Tony Corcoran

    As this catechetic initiative is urgent, my concern is that while there is a particular training programme for catechetics and a required qualification to be achieved, it be may be difficult to find such people “on tap” and time may be lost. But I’m sure that in most parishes there are people who have attended various courses in theology and pastoral care, e.g. All Hallows, Pathways etc. Perhaps these people could be commissioned by the diocese to act as facilitators in getting conversations on faith, communications, pastoral care etc. underway.

    • soconaill

      You are right about those initial hurdles, Tony. For many people the meaning of Catechetics has been set by a 700 plus page book of intimidating and mostly tedious close print, when originally it was surely a matter of a telling of the story of Jesus as a victory of love over the cruelty and death of that Roman world. To my mind Catechetics now needs to begin with a new look at salvation and what Jesus is asking us to repent or rethink about our own currently chaotic world. Who will be interested in Catholic catechetics if it is once again only about life AFTER death, rather than what it was for St Paul – a new beginning right away, a new creation, a new way of living and a new horizon to everything?


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