The Diocesan Advisors for Religious Education (Primary) have responsibility for the 160 Primary and National Schools that exist within the Archdiocese of Armagh. The principal function of the team is to visit each school annually on behalf of Archbishop Eamon Martin, as principal trustee, to offer support, guidance, encouragement and advice on the dissemination of Religious Education at primary level. Beginning in September each year, the period of visitation normally extends until the end of May or early June, with the main focus of visits being to sacramental classes, ensuring that the religious programme is offering a comprehensive understanding of the significance and meaning of the sacraments received. In other classes the focus is on the provision of a balanced development of faith understanding to give grounding for future catechesis.
At the request of the school we offer pre-sacramental meetings for parents of those about to receive the sacraments. In-service days for staff, either on request or on a larger diocesan level, normally take place at the beginning of the academic year, to discuss the introduction of religious programmes, other catechetical based programmes and staff faith development.
A new Catholic Preschool and Primary Religious Education Curriculum for Ireland (2015) was approved by the Irish Episcopal Conference and granted the Decree of Recognitio by the Holy See in 2015. The aim of the Curriculum is ‘to help children mature in relation to their spiritual, moral and religious lives, through their encounter with, exploration and celebration of the Catholic faith’. The publication of new Curriculum places Religious Education on the same firm foundation as all other subject areas in our Catholic primary schools.
Inspired by this new Curriculum, a new Religious Education series for Catholic primary schools – Grow in Love – is being rolled out by Veritas over the next four years. The implementation begins with the introduction of Primary 1 and 2 / Junior and Senior Infant materials in September 2015.
In many cases the school is the main source of faith development and so support of teachers in this task is highly important, and the Diocesan Advisors seek to encourage teachers in this work but also to offer alternative and further means to ensure the success of their work.
During visitation we constantly note any opinions of staff on where programmes are lacking and look for gaps in current catechetical literature that ought to be addressed in the revision of the programmes in use.
Additional resources are distributed to schools throughout the year to offer alternative and complimentary activities and lessons on key religious moments.
We also hold responsibility for the distribution of financial and other assistance to third level students of theology. Applications for assistance are normally received in the first term of the year, and in most cases a grant is forwarded to applicants to assist in their studies.
An annual report is compiled at the end of the year, analysing statistical trends in the primary school system, from which the planning of the following year’s visitation is based. We also report back to the Archbishop on the progress of catechetics in the archdiocese and express the views, opinions and needs of teachers to him and seek to relay back any messages of support, encouragement and gratitude the Archbishop may have to offer.
The publication of the Catholic Preschool and Primary Religious Education Curriculum for Ireland and the rolling out of a new programme, Grow in Love, in the coming years offers a unique opportunity to re-engage, re-imagine and re-commit with primary schools in the way in which we teach Religious Education as a core subject in our Catholic schools, with parents as the first and best of teachers in the ways of the faith and with the parish as the community that nourishes and supports our faith journey.
Sr Elizabeth Wall, OSC.
St Clare’s Convent
028 3085 1206