Catholic Worship: prayer and liturgy
Catholic worship is central to the operation of the school – each day begins with a prayer in the tutor base: This is largely led by the students themselves and reflects their concerns such that it is made relevant to their lives and experiences.
Whole-school assembly each Monday is a mixture of student-led, Senior Leadership Team, School Lay Chaplain and outside speakers. Students are eager to volunteer to participate and often volunteer or bring topics to the SLT they would like to present to the school (e.g. Black History). Often reflecting the liturgical year (Easter, Advent) the assemblies actively link world events to our common spiritual journey. Each assembly begins with the sign of the cross and involves a prayer and hymn; time is provided for reflection and the school actively seeks student and teacher evaluation in order to develop further.
Each form class has the opportunity of leading and contributing to the voluntary Mass on Friday lunchtime – this is facilitated by the RE teachers having an extra lesson “Mass Preparation” on their timetable so that students can be assisted in this preparation. Each voluntary Mass has about 32 students present and 10 staff.
Morning Prayer services in the Chapel are held for students by the Lay Chaplain and after school prayer services have been held for the staff. There is a prayer board in the blessed Sacrament Chapel to encourage greater use of this space for quiet prayer. Students can write their prayer intentions and leave them on the board. This has proved popular and serves the community well.
Whole school Masses take place on a number of occasions throughout the year – in addition to Holy Days of Obligation, we have Masses for St Michael’s Day, the end of term, Introductory Mass for Year 7 with parents, Key Stage Masses, Year 11 Leavers and Year 13 Leavers. These are held in the hall (except in the summer when St Alban’s Church is used). Liturgies involve a range of student input such as drama, orchestra, vocal groups, readings and dance. Although communion can be congested, student respect is excellent and staff actively encourage a prayerful atmosphere. We welcome a number of students of other faiths or none into our Sixth Form and they are inducted and attend our Masses in order to ensure the entire community celebrate together.
Year groups from Year 7 to Year 11 undertake a one-day retreat each year. In KS3 these are run by the RE staff (with input for Year 8 from the Dominican Sisters). In KS4 these are run by external organisations (such as the Walsingham House Team). Retreats are run off-site and students can wear their own clothes. A Sixth Form retreat was run two years ago and one is in the planning stage for next year. Evaluations of retreats are very positive and students appreciate the opportunity to spend time thinking about their spiritual journey.