Cultural change in Ireland: The religious education and pastoral care of youth

Oliver Vincent Brennan, Fordham University


This study examines the paradigmatic change that is occurring with regard to young people's affiliation to the Catholic Church in Ireland, particularly as this is reflected in the withdrawal from participation in the weekly celebration of the Eucharist. Data suggest that a significant social and cultural shift has occurred in Ireland during recent decades on the heels of very rapid economic expansion, paralleling that which occurs in advanced industrial and technological societies generally. In examining the impact of socio-cultural change on the beliefs, values, attitudes, and behavior of young people, the unique Irish situation is explored in the light of contemporary Western culture, which appears to be characterized by a fading modernity and a rising postmodernity. The research design that is employed to explore the faith-culture nexus combines theoretical and qualitative methodology. The findings of this study clearly demonstrate that contemporary Western youth culture, which is characterized by relativism, undifferentiated pluralism, and a deep suspicion of institutions, adversely affects the possibility of young people's commitment to religious institutions. On the other hand, there is clear evidence among the young of a new openness to the mystical and spiritual dimension of human experience as well as a new search for community. This penchant for the spiritual and new forms of community auger well for a community-based religious faith such as that embodied in the Catholic Church. Much, however, will depend on the type of community experience that is offered. The successful inculturation of the gospel message into the contemporary Irish cultural landscape will require much energy and enthusiasm on behalf of Church leaders, religious educators, and pastoral care agencies. It devolves upon religious educators to produce a viable strategic plan which will form the basis of a new pastoral strategy to deal with the issue of faith and culture among the rising generations. This study concludes by exploring a religious education and pastoral response to the unforeseen challenge facing the Catholic Church in Ireland as it prepares to enter the third millennium of Christianity. It also outlines a set of principles that should underpin a postmodern educational and pastoral approach to this new reality.

Subject Area

Religious education

Recommended Citation

Brennan, Oliver Vincent, "Cultural change in Ireland: The religious education and pastoral care of youth" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975339.