Parish mergers, dwindling attendance at church services

Pastoral theologian sees upheavals in preparation for First Communion

Mainz - First Communion: even for Catholic families, this is no longer a matter of course. A pastoral theologian explains how parents can support their children – and why preparation is changing.

Published  on 03.04.2024 at 09:54  – 

According to one expert, First Communion preparation for children is changing. "We are seeing parishes being merged, which means that First Communion classes have to take place in a new format. In addition, fewer and fewer adults are willing to accompany the children during the preparation period," said pastoral theologian Hubertus Brantzen from Mainz to the Catholic News Agency (KNA).

In addition, for more and more children, "First Communion preparation has become a first introduction to the faith". Brantzen refers to statistics that show that only around four per cent of Catholics still attend church services since the coronavirus pandemic. Parents therefore play an even greater role in preparing their children for First Communion. According to Brantzen, this usually happens almost incidentally in the middle of everyday life: "They teach them what is important in life. They set an example of which values will actually help them in life." It is essential to involve families in First Communion.

A critical look at compact courses

He takes a rather critical view of compact courses, in which the entire content of Communion lessons is taught over one or two weekends. "Socialisation into the faith practice of the church is a question of slow and holistic growth," explained the expert. Parents are the most important educators of their children. Even in the everyday lives of families who rarely go to church, there are elements that support preparation: When parents choose beautiful gifts for their children and point out that these gifts should show how important the gift of friendship with Jesus is, this is also already part of the introduction to faith, said Brantzen.

In addition, children who are lovingly accompanied by their parents can also realise that God is there for them. When children learn that arguing is not the end of the relationship, it prepares them for the sacrament of confession. The pastoral theologian also expects further upheavals. Tradition will become less important, he said: "In the coming decades, only those parents who consciously live their faith will allow their children to take First Communion." (KNA)