Jesuit schools celebrated Catholic Schools Week (CSW) from 27 January to 2 February 2019 on the theme ‘Celebrating the Work of Our Local Catholic Schools’.
Catholic Schools’ Week is an all-Ireland annual event, which invites Catholic schools to give expression in a special way to the ethos of Catholic education. It is a celebration throughout Ireland, North and South, which acknowledges the tremendous contribution that the Catholic primary and post-primary schools make, not just to Irish society, but also to the mission of the Church. Staff at Belvedere College SJ and Clongowes Wood College SJ reflected on the event in light of their Jesuit identity.
Belvedere College SJ
Pádraig Swan, Director of Faith and Service Programmes in Belvdere College, reported the following:
In Belvedere, many of the characteristics of being a Catholic school are present in the school every week, and we are grateful that we find expression of our Catholic identity in such a natural and ongoing way.
CSW offered a good opportunity to reflect on the work of so many people in our school community, people like Br Eamon Davis, whose faith inspires them to give a life of service. In Belvedere our engagement with the most vulnerable in society is living one of the Jesuit values – a ‘faith doing justice’. We are inspired by the words of Jesus, “when you do it for these, the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it for me”.
During the Catholic liturgical season of Advent, just before Christmas when so many can become distracted by the materialistic aspect of Christmas, many of our staff and students acted on these words of Jesus and reached out to care for others often forgotten.
Here is a brief snapshot of some of the spaces where we were grateful to be able to reach out:
1. Elements Toy Appeal – the students of Elements undertook a sponsored ‘help at home task’ and they collected a minimum of €10 each to buy a toy for a child living in direct provision in Ireland. We conducted this initiative in conjunction with our Jesuit Colleagues at JRS (Jesuit Refugee Services). The students worked with their Peer Mentors to purchase a specified toy and we offered over 260 toys to children in three direct provision centres across the country.
2. VDP Hamper Collection – through the generosity of many students, staff and their families, the VDP were able to make up a significant number of hampers which were distributed to needy families in the inner city area. The sale of VDP Christmas cards also provided much needed funds for the distribution of food vouchers to other families. From the large quantity of food stuffs gathered we were also able to help communities in Crumlin through a local religious sister working there.
3. Bag packing for Temple St Hospital – over 240 Syntax, Poetry and Rhetoric students took part in a bag pack in Dunnes Stores Henry Street during Christmas week. The initiative is in its 7th year and is coordinated by past pupil John Kilfeather. This year the group raised €9,211.07.
4. Sleep Out – 80 students and many staff took part in the Sleep Out, now in its 35th year, to raise funds for 3 homeless charities and to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness. They raised an amazing €165,000 and thanks to Stephen Carey and Liam Hennelly for supporting the lads in so many ways.
5. Christmas Soup Run – a group of past pupils and current students ran a number of soup runs each of the days leading up to Christmas.
There are many other acts of kindness that may go unnoticed but they too are inspired by a spirit of generosity and love.
As a reminder of being a Catholic school, the Papal flag was put up in the yard and we had some posters and displays on the big screen.
It was a week where we reminded ourselves of what we do to reflect the values of honesty, integrity, love and compassion, and how we endeavour, to the best of our ability, to see these values reflected in the day to day life of the school. It was a time to be conscious too to give thanks everyday for all we have been given, and to seek to do at least one kind thing in the spirit of a ‘random act of kindness’.
Clongowes Wood College SJ
Furthermore, Declan O’Keeffe, Head of Communications at Clongowes Wood College, reported the following:
As Clongowes is a Catholic school set in the Jesuit tradition, the core of our ethos is having a Faith that does Justice and educating Men for Others and so the Catholic Schools’ Week theme for this year was very close to our hearts. We celebrated our Catholic identity throughout the week, during which the Religion Department, in association with the Ethos Department, looked at what it was that made our school a Jesuit and Catholic school.
The themes for the individual days were very much a call to action:
Monday – Living Tradition
Tuesday – Welcoming Diversity
Wednesday – Grandparents’ Day
Thursday – In Service of our Community
Friday – Supporting Faith
Morning Prayers throughout the week addressed the theme for the day and included Fr Paul O’Boyle, the local parish priest in Clane and Rathcoffey, on Thursday morning in keeping with the concept of ‘Service of our Community’.
Other activities during the week included:
‘Contemplative Meditation’ – for students and staff in our Manresa Prayer Room.
‘LifeWorks’ presentation – on the value of life and the dignity of every person.
John Paul II Awards activities – for the next group of candidates from Clongowes.