New Partnership to Enable Adult Religious Education and Faith Development Research

DCU’s Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education and the Presentation Sisters have announced a three-year partnership to enable research into community-based adult religious education and faith development in Ireland today.

Over three years from September 2018, a postdoctoral researcher based at the Centre will provide a broad picture of current provision in adult religious education in Ireland, conduct quantitative and qualitative research into the educational needs of local faith communities and develop and deliver pilot projects to test new approaches to faith development, working with local faith communities throughout Ireland.

The funding will be provided by the Presentation Sisters, North East Province and the project will be led by Dr Gareth Byrne, Director of the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education.

Speaking on the partnership announcement, Dr Byrne explained the context for the research:

 “Adult faith development in Ireland has traditionally focussed on the provision of talks and workshops by external experts for committed parishioners who volunteer for ministry. Often there is little provision to encourage adult Christians more generally to deepen their faith experience and to grow into their parish. We tend to continue doing the same things without evaluating how effectively these initiatives contribute to supporting Catholic adults to learn about their faith. This culture of provision means we have little understanding of the reasons for low levels of engagement with formal adult religious education initiatives in Ireland.”


Speaking on behalf of the Presentation Sisters, North East Province, Sr Anne Codd outlined the benefits the order believes will arise from this research partnership:

“This research will provide a broad picture of current practice in adult religious education and faith community development in Ireland today and will provide us with a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches. We are excited that this project will also seek to develop new models of adult religious education and faith development through a series of pilot projects working on the ground with local faith communities.”


The partnership announcement was made at a conference on ‘The Voices of Young People on Religion and Education’, organised by the Irish Centre for Religious Education, part of DCU’s Institute of Education, on Friday, 8th and Saturday, 9th June on DCU’s St Patrick’s Campus.