by ROWENA OREJANA
HASTINGS — Too many “preference” students in Catholic schools are not baptised, says the Bishop of Palmerston North diocese, Bishop Charles Drennan.
The bishop called on them to immediately avail themselves of the sacrament.

“If you are not baptised, pound the doors of your DRS or college chaplain tomorrow. Don’t let another day go by.”
Bishop Drennan issued that challenge to students from all colleges in the diocese of Palmerston North and the archdiocese of Wellington in his homily at the O’Shea Shield Mass.
He said Baptism is the gateway from which the life of faith unfolds.
“No Baptism, no first Reconciliation, no First Communion, no full participation in a class or school Mass. Who wants to live life left on the sideline of the playing field of faith?” he
asked the packed congregation of students, teachers and family members at Sacred Heart Church in Hastings.
After Mass, Bishop Drennan explained that he has been troubled to learn of the number of “Catholic” or “preference” children and students in Catholic schools who, in fact, have not
been baptised.
Non-baptised “preference” students are usually children being prepared for baptism in the Catholic Church. The other criteria that allow non-Catholic children entry into Catholic schools include: The child’s parents/guardians have already allowed one or more of his or her siblings to be baptised in the Catholic faith; at least one parent/ guardian is a Catholic; or one or both of a child’s non-Catholic parents/ guardians is preparing to become a Catholic.
In recent seminars across his diocese for “tagged” teachers and school trustees, Bishop Drennan has been highlighting the same challenge: to get non-baptised students into the
Church. A teacher in a tagged position is expected to be actively involved in building the Catholic special character of the school.
“We — leaders of the Catholic community — need to feel in our hearts that this is a tragedy,” he said. “That is not a judgment of others, but a motivator of ourselves that then will trigger cohesive effort involving priests, principals, parents and students to the joy of a life in Christ.”
A Catholic school can enrol up to five per cent non-Catholic or non-preference students, unless it has Ministry of Education approval for an increase to 10 per cent.

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