Archdiocesan Guidelines for Preparing Children Being Educated at
Home for the Reception of First Penance, First Holy Communion,
(December 4, 1998)
The word "homeschooling" may be defined as the work of parents who have undertaken the task of providing for the religious or academic instruction and formation of their children at home. This task has traditionally been carried out in institutional classrooms.
Church teaching consistently affirms the right of parents to provide for the faith formation and religious education of their children. The "Declaration of Christian Education" of the Second Vatican Council acknowledges this right by stating: "since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children."
In his "Letter to Families," Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this right of parents when he stated: "Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area"; however, in "Catechesi Tradendae," our Holy Father also stated that "catechesis can be given anywhere, but I wish to stress...that the parish community must continue to be the prime mover and pre-eminent place for catechesis." (#67)
These guidelines have been developed by the Secretariat for Catholic Education of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to assist pastors and parents in preparing children being educated at home for the reception of First Penance, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation.
- Parents and pastors have responsibility for preparing children being educated at home for the reception of First Penance and First Holy Communion in accord with the provisions of Canon 914. ("It is the responsibility, in the first place, of parents and those who take the place of parents as well as of the pastor to see that children who have reached the age of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the divine food as early as possible, preceded by sacramental confession; it is also for the pastor to be vigilant lest any children come to the Holy Banquet who have not reached the use of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed.")
- Likewise, parents and pastors have responsibility for preparing children being educated at home for the reception of Confirmation in accord with the provisions of Canon 890. ("...their parents and shepherds of souls, especially pastors, are to see to it that the faithful are properly instructed to receive it [Confirmation] and approach the sacrament at the appropriate time.")
- Children being educated at home are to receive First Penance, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation in their own parish church. (Cf. "Archdiocesan Policy Statement: Confirmation and First Holy Communion," July, 1994.)
- A pastor or his delegate is to meet with the parents and the child at least twice during the period in which the child is preparing to receive these sacraments. At these meetings, the parents are to discuss with the pastor or his delegate the plan that is being used to prepare the child for the reception of these sacraments.
- Parents are to review with the pastor or his delegate the instructional materials that are being used to prepare children for the reception of these sacraments. The parish is to make available to the parents, a copy of the "Archdiocesan Guidelines for the Reception of the Sacraments," as well as copies of textbooks and other resources that are used in the parish school or the parish religious education program. Parents may use these materials or any other suitable materials that are judged to be in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
- Attendance at Parish Religious Education classes may not be made a condition for the reception of these sacraments.
- Children being educated at home are to receive these sacraments at the same age as other children from the parish.
- Children being educated at home are to be invited and strongly encouraged to participate in all liturgies for those preparing for sacraments since the liturgy is the source and summit of Christian life and the privileged place for catechesis. This invitation and encouragement should include other special events supporting sacrament preparation. (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1074.)
- Parents of children being educated at home are to be notified concerning special programs that the parish is sponsoring for parents of children preparing to receive these sacraments. Parents should be encouraged to have their children participate in these programs; however, children may not be denied the reception of these sacraments because of the failure of parents to participate in these programs.
- Cases of doubt should always be resolved in favor of the right of the child to receive the sacrament.
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