Mr. Cullen is pictured with Michael Doherty, Chairman, Waterford MABS, and Anna Walsh, Money Advice Coordinator. John Power Photography

Mr. Cullen is pictured with Michael Doherty, Chairman, Waterford MABS, and Anna Walsh, Money Advice Coordinator. John Power Photography

The soaring madness of ridiculous overspending now associated with First Holy Communions and Confirmations was condemned this week when a plea went out to parents to cop themselves on.

In an effort to counteract a fast growing trend whereby spending associated with both Sacraments has reached silly levels, MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) has issued an advice brochure aimed at restoring sensible attitudes.

And in launching the leaflet at MABS’ Catherine St. offices in Waterford on Monday, Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Martin Cullen, added his voice of reason to the campaign.

He pleaded with parents to lay more emphasis on the true meaning of the Sacraments rather than overspending to such a degree that it was leading to crippling debts for some families.

“Nobody wants their child to feel second-best and if one family spends lavish amounts then others feel obliged to follow suit”, said Mr. Cullen. “No matter how wealthy you are there should be an awareness that the religious ceremonies are school and community based and I would ask the big spenders to bear that in mind”.

He said the emphasis should be on a happy day for the children rather than ostentatious spending which created peer pressure and left some parents with major financial worries afterwards.

“I have seen limousines engaged to transport children to church and all kinds of other big outlays on clothes, parties and things as superficial as fake tans. Some can afford that but whether it is good for the kids or not is another matter. And inevitably there is an element of keeping up with the Jones’s for some who can’t really afford the cost”.

He appealed to people to calm down and refrain from spending inappropriate “fortunes”. Rather than lavish expenditure the emphasis should be on fostering togetherness and unity among the children, he added.

The Minister urged families anxious about the financial aspect of the ceremonies to seek help from MABS. The advice leaflet, he said, contained helpful hints which would enable less well off families to plan early and sensibly for the big day.

MABS Money Advice Coordinator Anna Walsh acknowledged that Communion and Confirmation ceremonies were important milestones in a child’s life and were well worthy of celebration. But she urged parents to plan well ahead and budget according to their means, so that they would not be left afterwards with a heavy financial burden.

The Waterford MABS office (Tel. 051-857929) is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The West Waterford office is within Dungarvan Civic Offices (058-44922). The service’s national helpline is 1890-283438.