By Joanna Lawson
Catholic parents who send their children to state schools may feel marginalised in their parish communities.
Dr Carmel Suart, a consultant on the Catechist Service Team for the Catholic Education Office, researched the ways in which families who do not school with the Catholic system nurture faith development in their children. The research paper, entitled Nurturing Faith Within the Catholic Home: a Perspective from Catholic Parents who do not Access Catholic Schools, sampled families from metropolitan and country parishes and included 36 parents.
Amongst a range of findings which covered liturgical education, moral formation and spiritual challenges within the families, Doctor Suart found that they often feel a sense of being on the outer of parish life in spite of the various programs that have been developed by the Church which are designed to include all families. She said that the problem was not that families who don’t attend the local Catholics schools are not welcome, but that the families are not aware of what is available to them, and that there should be a focus at both diocesan and parish levels to promote social and catechetical involvement. “Parishes have to be mindful of those parents within their community who do not have the support or resources offered to parents in the Catholic school system,” said Dr Suart in the thesis. “…parishes have a responsibility to identify who their marginalised members are and put into place support structures that will enable them to feel part of the community as well as educate them for the task at hand.”
Dr Suart is herself a mother of three and was prompted to choose the topic of faith building within families who choose state schooling, because as a contributor to the current curriculum for the Catechesis Program, she became aware of the lack of research outside the Catholic school system.
“I was trying to work out how to support parents in the home, and the research came from there,” she said.
As a result of the research, Dr Suart makes several observations, including that many of the parents felt themselves inadequate in terms of faith education and were anxious for further support from their parishes to assist them in nurturing the faith of their children. She recommends that an Archdiocesan agency be set up specifically to facilitate home catechesis in all Catholic families.
A summary of the findings has been submitted to Archbishop Hickey for his consideration.