When schools closed suddenly in March, Grainne Delaney, Chaplain at Crescent College Comprehensive SJ, Limerick, found herself, like many others, at home and setting up ways to connect with others and continue her chaplaincy work.
The closure took place during Lent when there was always daily morning prayer in the school chapel. Grainne says that, like with all religious gatherings, the students would not normally have been fighting for seats! But she was conscious of the committed students and staff who had always come to pray together. So she set up the Morning Prayer on the TEAM platform of Microsoft Office 365.
“I was blown away by the individual messages of uneasy staff and students saying how grateful they were that the TEAM popped amongst all the Maths and History,” she says.
Once the online prayer was up and running Grainne set up a weekly Zoom meeting when staff and students would gather for online prayer together. “My own faith was enriched at opening my computer at 8.30 am to find people in the waiting room.”
Now, on Friday evenings, Grainne gathers 5th-year students in a ‘Wellbeing Zoom Room’ where they reflect on the week gone by. Some students recount the dreams they’ve had during the week too which Grainne says helps to reveal their worries.
“My faith is renewed in their sharing,” says Grainne, adding, “You hear things like ‘I have learned that my younger brother is great fun.’ Or‘ I had a walk with my older brother and talked about winning the lotto and we only ever talk about sport, normally!’ When one pupil shared ‘I did not realise how much I love school, I just like being around teachers!’ it was beautiful to hear.”
Grainne says she sometimes wonders “if reaching into the depths of the students’ faith and wellbeing is helping me more than them, but however small the group or the moment, I have faith in its far-reaching possibilities.”
Read below a selection of the sharings from some of the students who visit the Wellbeing Zoom Room every Friday.
Sharings from the Wellbeing Zoom Room
Sarah: 5th year
During these particularly unusual times, I’m sure we are all learning many new things about ourselves. One of the most important things at the moment is our mental and physical health. I have learnt the importance of taking time to myself and staying in contact with my friends.
The Jesuit Ethos talks about seeing God in all things, whether it’s is in a person, a place, or a moment, we all see Faith in a different way.
There are many things that I have been grateful for over the past few weeks, but one thing, in particular, is my school community. Seeing familiar faces through morning prayer or texting friends helps to keep a sense of normality in these challenging times. ‘’Sometimes you gotta take a break from all the noise to appreciate all the beauty.’’- Robert Tew. Though everything seems surreal at the moment it’s not always a bad thing to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life and take some time to rediscover yourself.
Ashling: 6th year
When I walked into Crescent six years ago I saw faith as believing in this untouchable man in the clouds. As Jesuit students we hear so often that God is all around us in everything. At first this seemed like a crazy philosophy. I would ask myself if that meant God is in my toaster or was he part of the engine of my car?
I can say with certainty now that I do not have a universal answer to those questions because each one of us has our own unique relationship with God. I have found that you can find God all around us but you must be willing to look for him. For me, God is present in my relationship with friends and family, the beauty of nature and my morning cup of tea to name a few.
How does this tie into well-being you may ask? One of the key changes I have made in my life is to live in the present, not worrying about a bad test result or the big match at the weekend. Just taking a deep breath and appreciating everything that I have in that moment.
We all know the saying ‘it’s the little things that matter’ and I have found this to be true when developing my own personal relationship with God. I like to take a few minutes every day to reflect on where I felt his love and presence for example, a stranger opening to door for me or having a cuppa and chat with my grandparents. Noticing and recognising these acts of kindness have connected me more to God and made me a happier and more grateful person.
During these extraordinary times it is so easy to focus on everything we are missing out on; Graduation, Colours day, the Leaving Cert. As a 6th year student it is natural to feel robbed of these rights of passage, but as I said earlier we must live in the now.
My faith has been a source of great comfort for me during this time. I connect with God while I go on my daily walk and feel his presence in the natural world around me. I have never been someone who prays by saying my Hail Marys but I pray my having a conversation with God. I simply go through all the moments when I felt his presence that day and things I would like to work on for the next day.
My relationship with God during this time has focused me on what truly is important; family, friends, and health. As I move onto the next chapter of my life, I do not feel scared but excited because I know that no matter what God is all around to guide and support me.
Mariah: Transition Year
During these three months of lockdown I personally think I have seen a change for the better. I have had more time to do things like learning how to cook. I think I have got significantly better at cooking.
But also I am growing to be more independent and do more things for myself.
I have also realised how important family is and let’s be honest I would never have been able to survive lockdown without them.
In my opinion I have also built a better bond with my brother by helping him to do his homework. By doing this I’ve got a better insight into the type of person he truly is.
But I think I’m most proud of how close I’ve come to my faith as I never had the proper time to explore Islam.
One good aspect of lockdown is that this year Ramadan, which is the month of fasting, takes place during this time which means I’ve been able to devote most of my day to learning more about Islam and I have got closer to God. I’ve also been able to fast for the first time ever which has truly been a blessing.
Like many others, I have found that thoughts and anxieties during the ‘lockdown’ have come between me and my sleep. It was often during the night that my own faith made me well.
As I watched the sunrise in my kitchen, waiting for Shay Byrne to start the day on RTE Radio 1 and guessing the exact spot where daylight would break in the course of a week, I very naturally prayed for all the people whose stories I had heard.
As Year Head, I spend a lot of time on the phone these days and, every house has a story. Whether Dad has lost his job, Granny has passed away, Amy is very down or the technology just isn’t working. The fact is everyone misses school.