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Not Catholic? A Guide for Non-Catholic Parents

A Guide for Non-Catholic Parents:


This short guide is to help you understand some of the

terms and practices you may find in a Catholic Primary School.


If you are a non-Catholic parent who has chosen to send your child to a Catholic primary school, you may have some questions about what to expect. Catholic schools are not just places where children learn academic subjects, but also where they are nurtured in their faith and moral development. Catholic schools aim to provide an education that is based on the teachings and values of the Catholic Church, and that respects the diversity of beliefs and backgrounds of all pupils.


In this guide, we will explain some of the terms and practices that you may encounter in a Catholic primary school, and how you can support your child's learning and growth.


What is Religious Education (RE)?


Religious Education (RE) is a core subject in the curriculum of every Catholic school. It is not just about teaching facts about religion, but also about helping pupils to explore their own beliefs, values and spirituality. RE also helps pupils to learn about other religions and cultures, and to develop respect and tolerance for people of different faiths.


RE in Catholic schools has four main aims:


- To present engagingly a comprehensive content which is the basis of knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith;

- To enable pupils continually to deepen their religious and theological understanding and be able to communicate this effectively;

- To present an authentic vision of the Church’s moral and social teaching so that pupils can make a critique of the underlying trends in contemporary culture and society;

- To raise pupils’ awareness of the faith and traditions of other religious communities in order to respect them more fully.


RE is taught for at least 10% of curriculum time in every year group. In practice, most Catholic schools would spend approximately one half term per year on the teaching of religions other than Catholic Christianity.


As a non-Catholic parent, you can support your child's RE learning by:

- Showing interest in what they are learning and discussing it with them at home
- Encouraging them to ask questions and express their opinions

- Talk to them about respect and tolerance for the beliefs and practices of others
- Providing them with opportunities to learn about your own faith or worldview if you have one


What is Prayer?


Prayer is an essential part of Catholic life. It is a way of communicating with God through both talking and listening. Prayer can be personal or communal, formal or informal, spoken or silent.

Prayer enables communication with God through both talking and listening. 

Prayer can take different forms depending on its purpose. The acronym ACTS can be used to remember four key components that are found in many formal prayers:


- Adoration - Praising God for his greatness and goodness
- Confession - Saying sorry for any sins or mistakes
- Thanksgiving - Thanking God for his blessings and gifts
- Supplication - Asking God for help or guidance


A fifth common component is intercession:


- Intercession - Praying for others who are in need or suffering


Prayer can also be expressed through gestures such as making the sign of the cross, kneeling or bowing.

In a Catholic primary school, prayer is part of everyday life. Pupils may pray individually or collectively at various times during the day, such as before meals, at assemblies or during class time. Pupils may also say specific prayers such as:


- The Lord's Prayer - The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples
- The Hail Mary - A prayer asking for Mary's intercession
- The Glory Be - A prayer praising God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit
- The Angelus - A series of short meditations performed three times a day


As a non-Catholic parent, you can support your child's prayer life by:

- Allowing them to pray if they wish to do so at home
- Encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings with God if they feel comfortable doing so


What is Mass?


If your child attends a Catholic school, you may have wondered what Mass is and why it is so important for Catholics. Mass is the central act of worship of the Catholic Church, which culminates in celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the belief that bread and wine are consecrated and become the body and blood of Christ.  


Mass is more than just a memorial of the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. It is also a representation of his sacrifice on the cross, which he offered once for all for our salvation. In every Mass, Catholics believe that Christ is truly present on the altar and offers himself to God the Father through the ministry of an ordained priest.  

Mass is also a sacred banquet, in which Catholics participate by listening to God's word, praying together, and receiving Holy Communion. By doing so, they are nourished by Christ's grace and united with him and with one another as his mystical body, the Church.  

Mass has different parts that follow a general structure: introductory rites (such as greeting, penitential act, Gloria, and opening prayer), liturgy of the word (readings from Scripture, responsorial psalm, Gospel acclamation, Gospel reading, homily or sermon), liturgy of the Eucharist (presentation and preparation of gifts or offerings; eucharistic prayer; consecration; memorial acclamation; doxology; great amen), communion rite (Lord's Prayer; sign of peace; breaking of bread; Lamb of God; communion), concluding rites (blessing; dismissal). 

Depending on various factors such as language preference or liturgical calendar season or feast day etc., there may be some variations or additions to these parts such as hymns or songs etc., but they always follow this basic order.


As non-Catholic parents in a Catholic school setting you may be invited to attend Mass with your child on certain occasions such as school celebrations etc., but you are not obliged to do so. If you do decide to join them however please be respectful of their beliefs and practices even if they differ from yours.


Some things to keep in mind when attending Mass are:

- Dress modestly and appropriately for a place of worship.
- Follow along with what others are doing such as standing sitting kneeling etc., but do not feel pressured to say anything you do not believe or agree with.
- Refrain from talking chatting texting etc., during Mass especially during readings homily consecration etc., as these are moments of silence reflection reverence etc.
- Do not receive Holy Communion unless you are a baptized Catholic. You may remain seated during communion time or cross your arms over your chest if you approach the priest or minister to receive a blessing instead.
- Participate in any gestures signs symbols etc., that express your respect love gratitude etc., for God such as making the sign of cross genuflecting bowing etc.


We hope this guide has helped you understand what Mass is and why it matters for Catholics. We also hope that by attending Mass with your child you will experience some of its beauty joy peace hope love etc., that come from encountering Christ who invites us all to share his life.