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Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Irish bishops launch document on nurturing children's faith
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¬†Dr Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway and Chairman of the Catechetics Commission of the Irish Bishops' Conference (IBC), yesterday launched a Pastoral Message from the bishops entitled Nurturing Our Children's Faith. Speaking at the launch in St Patrick's National School in Drumcondra, Dublin, Bishop Drennan said: "It is very appropriate that we find ourselves in a school today for the launch of the Bishops' Pastoral Letter "Nurturing Our Children's Faith". One of the points that the Pastoral makes is that the faith of children is best nurtured when home, school and parish work together in partnership. It is fitting that we have representatives from the home, the school and the parish with us here today. "Today's pastoral message by the bishops is intended as a word of encouragement to all those who assist children to grow in faith, parents ≠ the first and best teachers in the ways of faith, grandparents, teachers, chaplains, diocesan/parish workers, clergy, religious and members of our faith community. The future of the Church depends on today's children and the future of today's children depends on today's adults! If we are to build up young people's faith in themselves, as well as their faith in a God who has faith in them, we need to strengthen the links between the home, the school and the parish." In their Pastoral Nurturing Our Children's Faith the bishops said: "As priests and bishops we have the privilege of being present at some of the most important moments in the lives of families. We are very grateful that we are welcomed to be part of such occasions, not only in churches and schools, but also in homes. We are happy to be present at joyful times for our young people, such as Baptisms, First Holy Communions and Confirmations. We are also present and available at times of pain, when a family is visited by sickness, or is distraught with grief because of death and bereavement. Whether the occasion is joyful or sorrowful, we can certainly say that faith makes a great difference. "Our experience tells us that the faith of children is best nurtured when home, school and parish work together in partnership. Firstly and most importantly, children learn about faith in the home. Their faith is supported in the school by the hard work of teachers and chaplains, and by both priests and people in the wider parish community. "We see the love in Irish homes as the most important foundation for faith. Since God is love, it is not hard to find the face of Christ in the Irish family today. This witness of love in the family is an irreplaceable foundation out of which a child's faith can grow and be nourished." The bishops said: "There are many pressures that affect families. A time of increased prosperity has not benefited everyone. Many young couples feel forced by the high cost of living, especially housing, to work for long hours. Many people now seem to have more of everything except time. The gift f time spent with their children is one of the most precious gifts that parents can give. The home has always been central to our faith, to the extent of being known as the 'domestic church'. It is here that children learn the message of Christ for the first time, in the love that their parents show them, and in the ordinary, simple, everyday things like prayers before bedtime. Family prayer is very important; even very small children can take part. It has become harder and harder to gather the family around the kitchen table for meals, but it is an investment of time that is repaid many times over. "The frantic pace at which we live our lives has led many to look for quiet spaces and opportunities for reflection. Jesus said 'I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me'. Our Catholic tradition is full of rich opportunities for developing our relationship with God; for example through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and Christian meditation, novenas and places of pilgrimage. In order to be able to help their children to pray parents need to pay attention to their own prayer lives. Thankfully, in recent times, it has become easier and easier to find books, magazines, websites and other resources which are designed to help us sustain and develop our prayer. All of these are ways of quietening down, of making space for a vital connection with God who loves us." The bishops concluded: "Each of us has a responsibility to live in a way that bears witness to the message of Christ. Many people in Ireland strive to live the gospel, and do so in very practical ways. Still, we feel often that there is so much more that we could do. Yet, when discouraged by our many failures, it is a source of comfort that the grace of God continues to work through the messiness of all our lives. "There are so many signs of hope and growth in the Irish Church, which are well-nigh invisible, because they happen 'beneath the radar' of the media. To name but a few, there has been the resurgence in the tradition of local pilgrimages, a great increase in parish-based programmes, and many thousands of young people gather regularly for prayer in small groups. All of these initiatives connect with, and depend upon, lively and vibrant Catholic family life. We would urge you to take pride in your Catholic heritage, and to do your best to be part of keeping it strong by seeking out and forming bonds with other families and individuals who value their faith. The gift of faith is precious; it is God's gift for us with the Holy Spirit working through us. Let us appreciate and nurture it together." Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
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