The Diocesan Assembly on Tuesday 15 November 2016 was attended by representatives of almost every parish in the Diocese of Meath.

Chaired by Fr Denis McNelis, the Assembly addressed two significant themes – promoting a pro-life message and preparing children for the sacraments.

The first presentation was given by Eilis Mulroy from the Pro-Life Campaign.  Eilis Mulroy encouraged parishes to engage with the work of the pro-life movement, especially on social media, in view of the bias in mainstream media circles.  There was general agreement that parishes can do more at local level to offer people a more balanced view of the issues at stake.  “Experience shows that when we give a clear and balanced position on the right to life” Eilis Mulroy said “people respond positively to the idea that protecting mothers and babies go hand in hand”.

Bishop Michael Smith proposed to the Assembly that, in the coming months, pro-life information sessions should be made available by parishes to give parishioners an opportunity to reflect on this important matter.

The second presentation was delivered by DCU lecturer Cora O’Farrell. She explained that the new religious education programme in Catholic primary schools has been very well received, especially by teachers.  “The majority of student teachers I work with are happy to be involved in preparing children for First Holy Communion and Confirmation” Dr O’Farrell said.  “However this is not something we should take for granted.  It may not be fair to expect the teachers always to be only catechists for handing on faith to the children”.

Drawing on her experience as a university lecturer and member of the baptism team in her local parish, Dr O’Farrell pointed to the significant gap in time from when a child is baptised to when the child is presented for First Holy Communion.  “These formative years are critical and parishes will need to be more engaged with young parents before they present children for the sacraments” she said.

“Catholic schools do valuable work to support the parents and parishes. Yet it is only a supportive role” she explained. “The parishes and parents will need to work closely together for this work to bear fruit.  Parents want the best for their children and we are here to help them.” The new religious education programme, “Grow in Love”, she said, provides a number of new resources to help both parents at home and parishes at Sunday Mass to deepen children’s knowledge and experience of faith.