Read two of the main addresses given at a recent conference in Limerick entitled – Catholic Primary Education in contemporary Ireland: Facing New Horizons.


Catholic Primary Education in Contemporary Ireland:
Facing New Horizons

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick
May 22nd – 23rd, 2009

The purpose of this conference was to examine the currently changing cultural situation in which the Catholic primary schools are now operating and explore ways of responding to this. The conference was hosted by Department of Theology & Religious Studies, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick.

Bishop Donal Murray

Bishop of Limerick Diocese and Chair of the Irish Bishops’
Department of Catholic Education and Formation

Click on link to download full text –
The Catholic Church’s Current Thinking on Educational Provision

An education that does not address the pupil’s quest for the truth about the meaning of life is not neutral. The widespread acceptance of the assumption that it is neutral is an extraordinary coup by those who argue for that position.

Our reflection also reveals, however, that people of faith cannot but have difficulties with a system of education which does not see the openness of the human person to the Transcendent as essential to the nature of education. This means that the study of religion simply as a historical or cultural phenomenon is not educative in the fullest sense of that word. In other words it does not address the growth of the person of the pupil in his or her most fundamental dimension. A study of religious faith without commitment, without worship, leaves the matter exterior to the pupil as an object to be studied rather than as a personal relationship to be developed.

Bishop Leo O’Reilly

Bishop of Kilmore Diocese and Chair of the
Irish Bishops’ Commission on Education.

Click on link to download full text – The Patron’s Perspective

Historically, the Catholic Church has been the provider of the great majority of primary schools in the State because of its position as the Church of the great majority of the people. However, that situation has changed and continues to change. We are now providing primary education for 92% of the population even though the proportion of those in the population who describe themselves as Catholics has fallen to 87%. If we take into account those who are simply nominal Catholics and who may not wish to have their children educated in a Catholic school, and those who, while continuing to be attached to the Church, would choose to send their children to schools under different patronage, it is clear that our stake in educational provision is disproportionate to our needs.

In general I would say that, faced with the prospect of relinquishing ownership of a Catholic school in favour of another model, Catholic Patrons would favour transferring to something modelled closely on the existing second-level Community School. This would involve the Patron entering into a joint patronage or trustee arrangement with the Department of Education and Science. Such a joint patronage might even include another religious patron of a different faith or denomination. The resulting school would be genuinely multi-denominational in that it would include all and try to cater for the religious instruction and worship of the different denominations represented in the school. It would also have the advantage from the Church’s point of view, over the new Community National School model proposed recently, that the Church would, through the exercise of its joint trusteeship, have an input into the management of the school. This in turn would give it a voice in shaping the ethos of the school and in particular of the provision of religious education in the programme.