THE Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy, has questioned whether the age a person makes their Confirmation should be moved to 16 years of age, as he fears the current age of 12 might be too young.
Bishop Leahy has he also wants children to feel that being a Catholic is an option, and not something they are just born into.
Speaking at the launch of Catholic Schools Week in the Diocese at the Woodlands Hotel in Adare, Bishop Leahy said he wondered if this “wonderful sacramental ceremony” has little resonance in a child’s everyday life.
“Instead of coming to know Catholic faith as a new, challenging and meaningful horizon that can be opted into, it is often appears like a pre-fabricated cultural package of Irish heritage we are born into and to be discarded nonchalantly later in life as part of our throwaway culture,” he said.
“It is important in Ireland that we re-awaken students to the fact that being a Catholic is an option. Catholic schools are important and religious education in these schools is vital in this re-awakening. We need all of us together to explore this more. And we can’t leave it only to the teachers to do so.
He said one practical avenue for consideration is whether the age at which young people make their confirmation should be changed.
“Is 12 years of age too young? Are the boys and girls really aware of what’s going on? Is Confirmation too detached from the experience of a living Christian community of faith? Are children opting or floating into Confirmation?”
He noted that some dioceses abroad have confirmation even before eight years of age, and said there are good theological reasons for doing that too.
He said if students would invited to celebrate the sacrament at 16 years old it might mean committing themselves to a parish-based programme during Transition Year, possibly linked to a project in school.
“Removing Confirmation from the primary school would not mean less religious education. The Religious Education programme would still be very important, central in a Catholic School. Sixth class could still include a module on the Holy Spirit,” he said.