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Luxembourg, Catholic religious education no longer in schools. Catechesis, a second “revolution” in parishes

After the recent “territorial restructuring” of parish communities, Luxembourg’s Church is now promoting religious education for youths. In fact public schools, which used to ensured catechesis, have recently abolished the teaching of Catholic religion, replacing it with a class on the “values” enshrined in world religions on equal grounds. It thus became necessary to review Christian formation and the preparation for the sacraments. Patrick de Rond provided an overview of the changes implemented over the past few days

In the past weeks the Church in Luxembourg has been going through a second revolution. After the reorganization of church parishes enforced past May, envisaging the transformation of 280 parishes into 33 communities, it’s now the turn of catechesis. In fact, starting with the present school-year, parishes will provide for catechesis for children, carried out by public schools until recently.

Public schools: a broken tradition. Until January 2015, when the new Convention promoted by Xavier Bettel was signed, “we had a long tradition of religious teaching in public schools, while catechesis courses held in parishes were centred on the preparation to the sacraments, First Communion and Confirmation. Some parishes had more elaborate courses, but efforts focused on religious education in public schools: teachers of religion were formed, appointed and hired with the missio canonica conferred by the archbishop and assigned to various schools”, Patrick de Rond, in charge of catechesis for the diocese, coordinator of the passage to the new system, told SIR. The Convention that came into force this school-year 2017/2018 provides for the elimination of religious education in schools, except for a course on “values” that addresses themes regarding coexistence. Religions may be presented “on equal grounds” but “we have to wait and see how the new course will be put into practice.”

“Following the footsteps of Jesus.” Parishes have no other option than to “assume the responsibility of ensuring Christian education through catechesis courses.” A program has been developed at diocesan level titled “Living the faith, growing in the faith”, differentiated into three age groups, centred on the figure of Jesus. In addition to dedicated meetings for children, the program envisages several meetings during the year providing “catechesis for everyone”, for “it’s never too late to deepen our faith and our discipleship of Jesus”, reads the presentation of the program. Materials were prepared by the team directed by Daniel Laliberté, Canadian, former director of the Catechistic Centre of Quebec, Professor at the Jean-XXIII Centre for the past three years, renamed the Luxembourg School of Religion & Society. Now it’s the turn of the parishes.

The teachers, the volunteers. It represents a “major change in terms of organization” and in terms of the new territorial reorganization of parishes, but most of all in view of

the need to find people that will assume this responsibility to ensure the implementation of formation programs.

Of the over two hundred religion teachers paid by the State, some of them underwent re-training and continued teaching in public schools; 40 were absorbed in dioceses, as provided for in the 2015 Convention, while retaining their state salary. As of September 15 the latter have taken up their new assignments in parishes as catechesis coordinators, a role which they prepared for with a two-year training course. Moreover, the help of volunteers is equally needed, and the Convention stipulates that once these people will retire the State will not replace them. “This means that in the next 10-12 years many of them will retire and Catechesis in parishes will be carried out solely on a voluntary basis.”

The role of the parents. There is still an unknown factor: “In the coming weeks we will see how registrations proceed: while before the teaching of religion in children’s ordinary curriculum did not affect the parents now catechesis is taught outside school hours and it will have to face the competition of various sport and recreational activities for children. Parishes will need to take stock of this reality and identify the best time to hold the meetings to ensure the participation of children and adolescents alike.” In any case, everything is ready: the parishes were offered information and formation programs to integrate this new vision of catechesis within the pastoral teams. All those involved have prepared and published their proposals, but “in some cases problems make it hard to ensure their full implementation”, especially for those parishes “that cover large territories but have few inhabitants.” The challenge lies ahead.

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