Plan to give Catholic education to all who want it
By JOE JENKINS THE BISHOPS' Conference of England and Wales this week launched a programme for Catholic children who do not have the benefit of a religious education because of the type of school they attend.
Walk With Me, launched on Wednesday at Newman College in Birmingham by Bishop David Konstant of Leeds, is the result of four years of development as part of Living and Sharing Our Faith, the national project of catechcsis and religious education, and accompanies the Here I Am programme already taught in schools.
Thousands of Catholic children do not attend Catholic schools in England because in some Dioceses there are not enough places to meet demand. In Wales, there are no Catholic primary schools at all.
There is also the need for an extra-curricular RE programme because some parents feel that the standard of local Catholic schools does not meet their expectations and choose to send their children elsewhere. Often this is to a Church of England school because it retains the Christian ethos they wish to expose their children to. However, ultimately their children miss out on a Catholic religious education.
Walk With Me has been piloted in nine Dioceses and fine-tuned by catechetics over the past two to three years. Catechetics in parishes will help to guide parents in the use of the programme.
Anne White, secretary of the Bishops' Conference Committee for Catechetics, said that the programme could be used in a variety of scenarios.
"It can be used in a Sunday school setting but the way it is used will be different in different parts of the country. Some will use it on a Sunday„ some on a Saturday and some will work at home."
Ms White also said that the development of the programme had exposed certain weaknesses in the provision of Catholic education. Initially it was thought that the programme would be of most use in rural areas, but it was discovered that urban areas such as in the north of the Westminster Diocese were lacking in school places.
Bishop Vincent Nichols, Bishop in North London, where the programme has been piloted, told the Herald that the programme had been a success.
He said: "It brings together all the children of a parish, those who go to Catholic schools and those who don't. It's very important."
The headmaster of a Catholic primary school in north-west London welcomed the programme. He said: "It sounds to be the sort of thing that is particularly needed."
A Church spokeswoman played down its timeliness as "just another part of the jigsaw" of Catholic religious education. "Ten years ago nuone would have noticed."
However, she added: "At the moment education is very sensitive. It is likely to be observed very closely."