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Galway church faithful’s concerns over ‘à la carte’ Catholics

Retaining the Catholic faithful beyond the big ‘celebratory’ Sacraments of Initiation was one of the main challenges facing the Church, according to local parishioners.

Positively promoting what the Church has to offer young people in the era of social media and fake news, and making the Sunday homily more engaging, were among the other suggestions to restore the faith.

The analysis emerged from a survey across the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora which gauged parishioners’ views on the future of the Catholic Church.

The Diocesan Synthesis fed into the National Synthesis document which was sent to Rome and was prepared by 26 Catholic dioceses following a consultation in every parish.

It forms part of the Synod of Bishops planned by Pope Francis for October 2023.

National media reports on the National Synthesis focused on calls by Irish Catholics for radical changes including on celibacy rules, women priests, and attitudes to the LGBT+ community.

But none of these issues are mentioned directly in the ten-page Galway Diocesan Synthesis, which instead focused on ‘faith as a lived experience’ and ‘faith formation into adulthood’.

One of the ‘failures’ identified by local parishioners was that the celebration of the sacraments (baptism, first communion and confirmation), “has not led to a sacramental life or a daily life of faith”.

These were ‘landmark events’ but often viewed as ‘once off’ occasions rather than a journey of faith. One respondent noted first communion and confirmation were just ‘money collection’ days, while confirmation was viewed as an ‘exit point’.

The document stated that “isolation of the sacraments to mere events was a result of poor formation” and noted that “little is done to support young people to grow in faith after they receive the sacraments”.

It said, “schools alone were left with the responsibility of faith formation for young people”.

“This over-reliance on schools means that for many young people their only experience of Catholic community is through their school rather than the Church. Schools cannot be left with this responsibility,” it said.

The report said that dedicated religious teachers need to be “more actively supported” in future.

A common view expressed throughout the process was the need for “ongoing faith formation programmes at all levels”.

Faith formation should not be left to staff of Catholic schools alone, and priests and laypeople should visit schools during religion class.

Sunday schools and children faith groups at a parish level were also suggested.

The Diocesan Synthesis noted a “huge concern” was “the handing on of the faith”.

It added: “It was stated that the Church needs to market what it has to offer, especially if we are to connect with the marginalised and disenfranchised. Faith formation will have to take on the challenge in a world where social media promotes ‘fake news’ and continually sees the Church in a negative light. How will the next generation be taught or educated about their faith?”

The importance of the Sunday homily was also emphasised.

“As an expression of our lived faith, the Sunday Eucharist has to be celebrated in a more engaging manner. The whole area of liturgy needs to be examined, with special attention being given to choirs and liturgical music in general.

“We need to make the connection between the Eucharist and the daily life of each and every one of us. This is one of the major ways in which our faith grows,” it said.

The diocesan synodal team included laity and clergy, with equal representation of men and women.

It held sessions in person and online and reached out for feedback through parish meetings and an online survey.

Ten meetings, encompassing seventeen parishes, across a diocese with thirty-nine parishes took place over three months.

The synod said engagement with the survey, “exceeded our expectations”.

There was a total of 377 respondents, representing about 0.36% of the diocesan church communities in Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora, or an average of almost ten respondents per parish and was “representative of the diocese”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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