“Fighting for First Communion”
Although she is partially deaf, Madison Smith is a typical 9-year-old girl.
She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She feels like people don’t always understand her.
And as a Catholic, she wants to fully understand what it means to take part in her First Communion.
Although Madison was supposed to make her First Communion in April 2007, she may not able to, said her mother, Diane Smith.
Smith wanted Madison to have an interpreter in religious education classes at St. Ann Church in Lansing so she could understand what communion means. Smith said she began speaking with church and school officials in September in order to find an interpreter for her daughter.
In November the school said it would provide an interpreter if the mother agreed to attend classes with her daughter. The mom said she was too busy and didn’t have time.
This is the problem with much of Catholic religious education. We treat it like we treat the school system: as an institution over to which we hand our children to be indoctrinated. The first responsibility for the religious education and catechesis of our children belongs to the parents, not the parish or the Church as a whole. We are under no obligation under canon law to hand over our children to a parish or school to prepare them for First Communion. In fact, I would say that the normative place for such education is in the home. When I was coordinator for my parish’s religious education program, all too often I saw parents who simply dropped off their children with the expectation that we would make them Catholic despite the fact that the rest of the week they had no discernible Catholic formation.
It wouldn’t be a bad thing for the deaf girl’s parish and school to provide an interpreter, but I don’t think they have a moral obligation to do so. Rather than expressing a sense of entitlement regarding First Communion and religious education, maybe the girl’s parents need to assess their own priorities.
“I have never in my 36 years of life felt so abandoned and attacked by my church,” Smith said. “If I’m not going to be an advocate (for Madison), who is going to be?”
Instead of being an “advocate,” why not be a role model and teacher and catechist for your daughter?
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