THE Catholic bishop of Cork and Ross has spoken out against the pressures families face at communion and confirmation time.
Bishop Fintan Gavin was commenting after The Echo reported last week that Cork Penny Dinners had helped families struggling with the costs associated with religious ceremonies, and that the charity had given 36 communion dresses and 24 pairs of shoes to girls, while also dressing 17 boys.
Caitríona Twomey, Penny Dinners volunteer co-ordinator, had said the charity had also supplied confirmation outfits for nine boys and 15 girls.
Bishop Gavin told The Echo that the Catholic Church does not require anyone to spend money on First Holy Communion Day, and he described the eucharist as “a free gift from God”.
“That’s what communion day is all about, and I do appreciate there are all of the other sociological, cultural challenges that people, through the culture, put onto themselves,” Bishop Gavin said.
The bishop said the church was attempting to address the culture associated with communion and confirmation, but while he did not want to “bash” people for dressing up, it was not the Church’s intention that any family would be under pressure.
“The pressure some people may feel to spend is coming from places outside the Church and the schools and the parishes are powerless in influencing that,” he said.
“We do our best, we’ve done it most successfully maybe with confirmation, that everyone is gowned, in most parishes, in a white garment for the confirmation, not unlike what a priest wears, with a symbol of the Holy Spirit on it, so what you have underneath is not the same, very often people will get new clothes, but there isn’t the same pressure, there’s no performance.
“To do that for holy communions would be more difficult, because of the traditional thing with the girls and the white dresses, but, as far as we can, we’re trying to place the emphasis on what holy communion is.
“I’m hearing stories about people putting an awful lot of pressure on themselves for confirmations with hair-dos and all kinds of other things... but it’s not what’s the essential.”