In order to make concrete the link between school and parish, we encourage priests and parish workers to make regular visits to classrooms in Catholic primary schools. The aim of this book is to provide starting points for discussion during those visits, and to give you an insight into the language that children are familiar with. It provides notes for five visits to the classroom each year, from Junior Infants/P1 to Second Class/P4.
On a visit to a classroom the priest or parish worker comes, not int he role of teacher, but as a person of faith who is recognised by the children as having a particular role in the local Church. He or she comes, therefore, as a friend, as someone who is interested in the children, and who wants to share the responsibility of handing on to them the faith of the community, whom they represent. In addition to using this guide to visit classrooms, priests and pastoral workers can also support religious education in schools by:
- Taking part in the end of theme prayer services outlined in the Grow in Love Teacher’s Manual. In First Class/P3 and Second Class/P4, some of these prayer services take place in the church. Teachers are encouraged to welcome the school chaplain to these prayer services.
- Donating religious education resources to the school(s) in your parish, for example children’s Bibles, candles, holy water fonts, crucifixes, etc.
- Taking the children on a visit to the church at high points in the liturgical year (Advent/Christmas/Lent/Easter) and pointing out the signs of the liturgical seasons.
- Inviting the children on a tour of the church where you talk about the different features – stained-glass windows, seats and kneelers, the crucifix, candles, reconciliation room/confessional, etc.
It is best to chat with teachers in advance of classroom visits, to arrange an appropriate day and time for you to call. Those who visit classrooms on behalf of the parish community will receive a warm and generous welcome from school staff. It is important to prepare for these visits, and to always be aware of the age and stage of development of the children. Your role is to be the friendly face of the local parish community, and to welcome the children and their families to play an active part in it. For some children, this will be their only connection with the local parish. This makes these visits all the more important.