‘The purpose of the Catholic school is the advancement of the human person; each individual in their material and spiritual needs is personally at the centre of Jesus’ teaching.’
Pope St John Paul II
A Catholic school is a very special kind of community, where pupils and staff are personally, and together, at the very heart of the teachings of Christ. St Bernadette’s is such a community, where everyone has a role to play.
As Lay Chaplain, Kevin Loud leads this, but everyone is involved in the successful implementation of our aims and vision.
The Chaplaincy and the chapel support the entire school community – pupils, teaching staff, support staff and their families alike. Although we are a Catholic school, pupils and staff from all faiths, or none, are welcome.
The chapel, in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, is available throughout the day and is situated at the very heart of the school. It provides a space where we can take time in the midst of a busy week to reflect upon our lives.
The Purpose and Nature of Chaplaincy
Although Catholic schools share much in common with their secular counterparts, there are several features of a school like St Bernadette’s which mark it out as having a distinctive Christian quality.
The ethos of a Catholic school should shine out in everything that we do;
- In the curriculum
- In the appearance of the buildings
- In the presence of loving relationships
All of this helps to animate the ethos of the school in a way which is faithful to the Gospel, and which says to the pupils;
- they were made by God
- they are loved by God
- they have an important role to play in building up the Kingdom of God.
Chaplaincy is a central and integral part of the life and work of our school. For our young people this is not just places in which to learn and acquire skills, it is a place where young people grow in faith and in belonging to the Church.
A key feature of St Bernadette’s is that each student is offered the chance to take part in a time of prayer and reflection each day.
We achieve this through the weekly prayers and reflections that are prepared and delivered each day.
Each week we have a different theme, that may be based on the Gospel readings of the time or will factor in important national events or dates in the churches calendar.
Examples of themes include: honesty, friendship and hope.
There will also be themes connected with Advent, Lent and Easter, at the appropriate times of the year.
This enables us to focus each week on a different aspect of what it means to believe in God and live a Christian life.
The prayers that are provided invite the pupils to reflect on the theme in the light of the reflection provided, to draw strength and to spend some quiet time communicating with God and considering their reaction or response.
As well as the prayers and reflections based on the weekly themes, it is also important to be familiar with, and comfortable using the traditional prayers of the church. These are:
- The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father)
- Glory be
- Hail Mary
In order for these prayers to be familiar, one of them is included for use with each daily prayer and reflection.
Our chapel lies at the heart of St Bernadette’s.
It is a great resource that has been beautifully created and we seek to use it as much as we can whilst remembering it is a sacred space.
The chapel is available throughout the day and anyone is welcome to visit at any time.
The chapel is used for a variety of services such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Chapel is also used for Prayer Stations at various times of the year. Usually in Advent and Lent. These are occasions when RE classes visit the chapel to spend some time reflecting on a specific theme. It also usually involves some creative activities to help pupils express their faith through action and prayer.
Mass is celebrated in school on a Thursday, during morning registration and is one of the most visible events in Chaplaincy and one of the most important events that happens in school each week.
The Liturgy is prepared by a Key Stage 3 RE class, who then attend the Mass and provide readers and members of the offertory procession. This is a voluntary Mass where everyone is welcome to attend should they wish.
Our voluntary Masses cover the majority of our Masses, but there are others. Whenever a Holy Day of Obligation falls on a school day, we hold a whole school Mass.
There are various non Eucharistic liturgies during the year. These include our Advent Service and our Holy Week Service. We also end the year with a service of celebration.
SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION
During Lent we offer all pupils the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. We begin the day with reconciliation services that every pupil attends and they can then choose to meet a priest from our Deanery who has come into school. They can receive the sacrament or simply have a chat if they want to. The latter option is especially useful for non-Catholic pupils. We organise the day so that pupils are able to examine their consciences and reflect after receiving the sacrament or chat. We also offer the opportunity to staff should they wish.
Pupil Involvement in Chaplaincy
Chaplaincy is enriched by pupil involvement. They should not just ‘receive’ but should also be involved in shaping the work of Chaplaincy.
KEY STAGE 3
In Years 7, 8 and 9, we have a Chaplaincy Group called the Youth SVP. This group works in 2 ways. We undertake voluntary work in school and in the local community whilst developing our faith and spirituality.
This is a fun group, where the pupils get the chance to decide on the work that we do and the help that we offer.
KEY STAGE 4
Year 10 have a group called Young Volunteers. Pupils have an opportunity to work with other secondary schools in the Diocese, working with CAFOD, the Catholic Aid Agency, and other Catholic charities, who lead sessions and set challenges.
These challenges include fundraising and also raising awareness of key issues from around the world, helping the poorest people in the world.
Our Retreat Programme
Our retreat programme includes in school activities, whole day retreats and residential opportunities.
We hold a retreat day early in the new school year, where the pupils spend the day off-timetable engaged in a variety of activities aimed at exploring and reflecting on their spiritual growth. We have the theme of ‘Belonging’ guiding our day.
We offer pupils the opportunity for residential retreats throughout their time at St Bernadette’s. For Year 7 we hold an outdoor activity based retreat at Alton Castle and for Years 8 and 9 we use Viney Hill Christian Adventure Centre. Both combine outdoor pursuits such as mountain biking and archery with time for spiritual reflection.
For Year 11 we collaborate with other schools from the Diocese and hold a retreat weekend at Woodcroft Christian Centre. This is themed on Resilience as they begin their final year of school and provides a chance to reflect before exam preparation begins.