Recently the authorities of the Church in Malta issued a directive laying down that catechism classes in preparation for the sacrament of the Eucharist should be held twice a week. This is already the practice in various parishes around Malta with the exception of a few chapels that hold one session of catechism a week. Consequently, such chapels can no longer provide this service unless they follow the new Church instructions.
This ceremony was until recently celebrated at various chapels around the Maltese islands. One particular chapel where this ceremony has been held for several years is St Patrick's in Sliema which is run by the Salesian fathers of Don Bosco. The procedure until recently was to obtain special permission from the parish priest and, if granted (as used to happen in the majority of cases), one could then follow catechism classes and eventually celebrate the First Holy Communion ceremony at St Patrick's. One hour long catechism classes were held once a week, unlike in parishes, which held two sessions of a shorter duration.
Unfortunately, the new Church directives stipulated that unless they follow the same catechism hours like the parishes, classes can no longer be held in such chapels. This is absolutely absurd.
The weeks my son spent following catechism classes at St Patrick's in preparation for his First Holy Communion were "quality" time for him. The charisma, friendly approach and religious guidance of Fr Joe Cini SDB, chaplain of St Patrick's, and the two catechists, Doris Borg and Sr Michela Paris, were truly admirable. Words cannot express the immense joy our children felt every week when they attended classes at St Patrick's. Catechism was no longer a boring issue but yet another opportunity to learn more about God, His Church and its teachings. Following the first two weeks of lessons, my son started to like Church and was eager to go to Mass every Sunday. And I owe all this to Fr Joe and his team at St Patrick's.
In the circumstances and following the recent developments, it is indeed a pity that one cannot choose the church one feels comfortable in to receive a sacrament. On the contrary, one must follow the dogmatic rules of the local Church authorities.
I wonder why the local Church authorities made such a decision. If our children are receiving the right preparation, why must one insist on having two sessions of catechism? Will an extra 30 minutes a week make all the difference? Why cannot our children follow catechism classes in the chapel or church they are accustomed to? Is there any other valid reason justifying the Church's decision?
This decision has left several parents and children disappointed at the fact that the ceremony will not be held next year at St Patrick's. Perhaps one could argue that St Patrick's, like any other chapel in their same situation, could have added another catechism class to be in compliance with the instructions of the Church authorities. However, this is easier said than done: it often proves rather difficult to find a good catechist to dedicate two days a week to provide catechism classes voluntarily for nearly eight months.
The Church authorities should also note that the time available after school is already packed with homework and other extra curricular activities such as ballet, art, football, basketball. Hence isn't one "good" catechism session a week enough? Can't we utilise the religion lessons at school to partially prepare our children for this important sacrament?
I urge the local Church authorities to reconsider their position for the benefit of all, particularly the Christian community in Malta.