Thanking Our Schools for All Their Achievements Throughout the Pandemic

Wednesday 14th July 2021

Last week Bishop John celebrated Mass for staff and pupils around our diocese to mark the end of the school term approaching and to thank them for all they have achieved throughout the pandemic. The Mass was streamed via the Cathedral’s livestream.

As we approach the end of another unusual academic year, where over the last 18 months five full school terms have been badly disrupted because of the pandemic. We give a very special thank you to all pupils, teachers, governors and ancillary staff who have made it possible for students to continue their education from home, and supported them through this difficult time.

Bishop John started by highlighting how homeschooling has allowed the school year to continue, and how despite the disruption, the schools have managed magnificently. Especially those pupils who have missed out on key events, like moving on from primary to secondary and secondary to college or university. There has been great sadness in that the pupils have not been able to celebrate the closing of school in an appropriate way.

He asked pupils and teachers to look to the future, seeing what we can learn, seeing what new challenges will emerge so we can make our world a better place. Remembering to recognise our personal vocation as missionary disciples and Ambassadors for Christ.

We are encouraged to look forward with that sense of optimism and challenge for the future.

Bishop John’s Homily for the End of School Year.

Well what a year, mind you its not just been a year has it? Its been five full school terms of being badly disrupted because of the pandemic, and I don’t know quite how I would’ve managed things, when I was at school if we would’ve had a pandemic, we didn’t have the internet then, so home schooling would’ve been pretty well impossible. But, despite the disruption the schools have managed, magnificently. And that’s a great credit to the pupils, to the teachers, the governors, the ancillary staff, you’ve made it work. And that’s a great tribute to all of you.

Yes, and there have been lots of difficulties, and I’m particularly sad for the pupils who in those five terms have been in the top class and left the school to move on. Whether from primary to secondary or secondary to college and university. That’s been a sadness that they’ve not been able to celebrate the closing of that school time in an appropriate way. But there’s much to be gained and much in terms of thanksgiving for the generosity of so many people. And I’m sorry that so many pupils have missed out on extracurricular activities as well, games, drama, all those societies that happen in the school. All that wonderful care for the environment that was growing so dramatically and wonderfully in our schools before lockdown and will continue afterwards. And then there just been the business of not being with our friends, spending time with our friends, and being made to stay at home in lockdown. So there is a great deal for which to give thanks and I’m sure we can draw from the experience.

When we look back in ten years’ time and think we had two years of pandemic, but we came through it and we didn’t lose out because of it. We can draw on all the good things that have happened in these last 18 months. And lets hope that when we come to the beginning of the new school year in September, that things will be quite different from what they are now. But let’s not talk about going back to what was normal, we’ve got an opportunity to change, to see that advantages of some of the things we’ve learned during the pandemic. And maybe to leave one or two things behind that weren’t working so well.

I think we need to look much more globally, not just at education, but at all Pope Francis asks us to consider in terms of care for our brothers and sisters, and for our common home. But one thing that I think we need to keep firmly in mind, as we consider our education, is that wonderful meditation from John Henry Newman. Which begins, God created me to do him some definite purpose, he’s committed some work to me that he’s not committed to another. I have my mission. And I think that every individual, but particularly all our pupils in schools need to keep in mind that each and every one of them has a God given mission and that our time in school is learning and discovering our skills and our gifts, so that we can fulfil the mission that God has given to us.

So, let’s give thanks, not because we’ve been in a pandemic, its been horrible, but giving thanks for all the good things that have emerged during that pandemic, in peoples care for one another, particularly in that sense of community where people have risen to the challenge of providing for home schooling where we’ve been patient with one another and encouraged one another to do the best we can in the circumstances in which we live in these times. And let’s look to the future seeing what we can learn, seeing what new challenges will emerge so that we can be all that God wants us to be. And we can make our world a better place.

That’s what Pope Francis keeps asking us to be. And to recognise our personal vocation as missionary disciples, ambassadors for Christ in all that we do. So we close the school year and we give thanks, but we look forward with that sense of optimism and challenge for the future. And we pray always, that diocesan prayer, just seven words but quite useful.

Stay with us lord on our journey.

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