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LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Archbishop Dermot Farrell says “the growing diversity of Irish society” led to the transfer of a Catholic primary school in Dublin to a multi-denominational patron.
The patronage of St. Enda’s Primary school will be transferred from the Carmelite Order, which has run the school since it was founded in 1894, to the City of Dublin Education and Training Board.
Unlike in the United States, the government funds religious schools in Ireland, and about 96 percent of elementary schools in the country are under the patronage of a religious group, and approximately 90 percent of these schools are run by the Catholic Church.
The Irish government has tried to loosen the grip of the Catholic Church on education, but in the last decade, less than 20 Catholic schools have transferred to a non-denominational patron.
In March 2022, Irish Minister for Education Norma Foley announced that arrangements are being put in place in a number of towns and areas of cities that have no multi-denominational primary schools at present to run a pilot reconfiguration program.
The Irish government plans to have 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030, making up 13 percent of the total.
“I would like to thank the school patron and trustees and the St Enda’s school community for their positive, constructive engagement in the process and congratulate City of Dublin Education and Training Board as incoming patron. I also wish to express my thanks to the facilitator appointed by my department to engage with the school community for their diligent work in this regard,” Foley said in a statement on Monday.
“I am delighted that this transfer of patronage will increase diversity of provision and that there will be a multi-denominational primary school option for parents in the area,” she continued.
Archbishop Dermot Farrell of Dublin said he supported “the reconfiguration of patronage within the Archdiocese in order to reflect the growing diversity of Irish society and that he looked “forward to continuing cooperation with the Department of Education in order to bring this about.”
“I wish to express my sincere thanks to all those involved in this consultation process, in particular the school staff, board of management, parents, and the school and parish community who were part of the process,” Farrell said.
“A particular word of thanks to the Carmelite Order for the manner in which they have facilitated and provided for primary education in Saint Enda’s over many, many years,” he continued.
Father Michael Troy, the Prior Provincial of the Irish Province of Carmelites, told the Irish Independent that faith formation classes and religious instruction in preparation for the sacraments, for families and pupils of the new school who desire it, will be coordinated and provided by the local parish.
He told the newspaper St. Enda’s had “a very bright future” and “it will continue to flourish within the local community.”
Currently, just over 78 percent of the population of the Republic of Ireland describes itself as Catholic, a sharp decline from the 84 percent who said they were Catholic in 2011. Of that number, less than 30 percent attend Mass every week; it was over 87 percent just 20 years ago.
The situation is even more dire with the youth of the nation: According to the European Social Survey released earlier in 2018, only 54 percent of people in the Republic of Ireland between the ages of 16-29 identify as Catholic.
Revelations about clerical sexual abuse has led to much of this decline, and to a less deferential position towards the Church from the government.
Despite these numbers, parents still seem to want their children to attend Catholic schools – despite the bishops supporting efforts to transfer some schools to multi-denominational patrons, the moves have been for the most part opposed by the students’ families.
“Much has been learnt from the existing process which can now be built on,” Farrell said.
“As has been shown, there are no easy solutions to a complex situation: Consensus is vital. I, along with the other Catholic Patrons, will continue to work with the Department [of Education] to identify remaining barriers to the building of that consensus. This includes reassuring Catholic parents that their choice of a school with a Catholic patronage and ethos will continue to be secured and facilitated within the education system,” the archbishop said.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome