Monday, September 11, 2023

Parents’ shock at €100 ‘donation’ to register for Communion and Confirmation

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Parents of children who are due to prepare for the sacraments of First Holy Communion or Confirmation next year have been left shocked at a request for a ‘financial donation’ from the Parishes of Greystones and Kilquade, in County Wicklow.

Registration for the ‘Sacramental Preparation Program 2024’ for those children about to embark on the sacramental preparation journey is conducted online through the website, which covers the parishes of both Kilquade and Greystones and includes a vast number of schools in the region, including St Brigid’s NS; St Patrick’s NS; St Kevin’s NS; Greystones Educate Together NS; Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath; St Laurence’s Primary School; Delgany NS; Greystones Community National School; Kilcoole Primary School; Newtownmountkennedy PS; St Catherine’s Special National School; St Francis’ Primary School and Woodstock Educate Together National School.

Following an outline of what is involved in the programme, a box titled ‘What is the commitment?’ is required to be ticked to move on with the registration process.

The registrant is then informed: “We are delighted that you have decided to continue the sacramental journey with your family and register your child/children for our preparation programme.”

Having read more details on the requirements to have your child baptised, you are then told: “A financial contribution will be required in the registration process. The donation can be made in full, or through ten monthly contributions of €10. We accept credit card payments. Please have your details ready before proceeding.”

Once the details of the child are entered (DOB, school attended etc) the registrant must then choose to pay the €100 ‘financial contribution’, either in full or by monthly instalments.

This came to light when a Greystones caller to Liveline brought it to the attention of listeners, when she had been unable to register her child for Confirmation without opting to pay the €100.

“€100 is a little bit too much for us. There’s 14 schools in the catchment area. They’re saying it’s a donation, but it’s a forced donation,” she said. “A donation is what each individual can afford. None of the parents have an issue paying a donation, it’s the price of €100. We’ve only just got them back to school,” she added.

The caller was asked whether the church regarded many parents as “bouncy castle Catholics”, in that they only use the church on the same day that they rent a bouncy castle and celebrate the big sacraments.

“Is there any exception for people who go to the sacraments every week, for example?” he asked.

“Nothing,” the caller said. “But that’s not the thing, no other parish is charging €100. Some parishes haven’t mentioned their prices yet, some have said €20 or €30, but nobody has asked for €100.”

The €100 for either sacrament does seem exorbitant, particularly when you factor in the cost of the day, which, according to a survey by Ulster Bank, can come in at an average of €860.

However, the Parishes of Kilquade and Greystones have explained the need for the donation under a section headed ‘Financial Support’, which alludes to the state of its coffers, as well as the need to hire resource staff in what is a burgeoning part of the country to cope with the demand for both sacraments.

“For the last years, there have been close to 800 families each year presenting their children for First Holy Communion and Confirmation,” it says, which would mean a total of €80,000 was raised in what it acknowledges as a growing community.

“Supporting this number of families requires ongoing planning, administration, preparation and investment. The Pastoral Area of Greystones and Kilquade has employed two Sacramental Coordinators to work with families, liaise with the schools and coordinate the preparation and celebration of the sacraments within our Pastoral Area.

“Initially, we were asking parents for a free donation towards the program. Unfortunately, only 20% of the presenting families responded to our plea, so last year, we introduced a minimal financial donation at the registration point to secure the delivery of the program and the coordination of the celebrations.

“At the same time, we used every opportunity to call parents for ongoing support for our parishes, as even €2.50 per family donated weekly would make a massive difference to our functioning. Unfortunately, besides the initial donation, there was no response to further financial support. The current situation forces us to increase the required donation across the preparation programs for each sacrament,” the statement continues.

“This year, we ask families to contribute €100 to support the preparation and celebration of the sacraments.”

A list of services are said to be covered by the donations, and includes administration and registration costs, as well as the many ceremonies and preparatory meetings that are involved in the lead-up to the big day.

In contrast, the Church of the Holy Redeemer, in Bray, asks for a registration fee of €30 – and it does state it is a ‘fee’ not a donation. 

However, the form is dated 2020 and this may have increased. 

There is also a request for a €30 fee at St Peter’s Parish, Bray, while a fee of €50 is needed to complete the registration at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Bray.

The parish priests of both Kilquade and Greystones were contacted for comment, but had not responded before publication.