Living through a pandemic with faith as the cornerstone
Mrs Mannix, the Head Teacher of our Catholic primary school writes:-
A year of Laudato Si : Working to improve our common home.
When we began this school year in September 2019 we had the Laudato Si theme as our focus. We could never have known how relevant this was going to be for the lockdown for our school, community, country and the whole world.
St Mary’s in Lockdown
The Government lock down abruptly ended the spring term. This was a time of huge adjustment and change. The focus for our whole community was to ensure that everyone felt able to make this adjustment. To achieve this there was much communication and action. Overnight school created a new system for those who should be in school and those who needed to stay at home and set priorities for our more vulnerable families and children.
Staff, parents and pupils responded calmly and positively and all have continued to work to achieve the very best for each other during this time.
Catholic Social Teaching at the Heart of Lockdown
Children are generally naturally able to be generous with their giving.
- Dignity of the human person
- Family and community
- Solidarity of the common good
- Rights and responsibilities
- Option for the poor and vulnerable
- The dignity of work
When the world went into lockdown the key message was stay at home. At the very same time schools were being asked to stay open for key worker’s children and for those children who may need to be in school to ensure that they could flourish. For me as a leader that was a challenging place to be; of course I wanted to reach out to be a support for our families and children but I also wanted staff to feel safe, for themselves and their families. It was a time when I drew greatly on my faith. So many of my favourite bible quotes that hold me strong in normal times flooded my head and in quiet moments I searched through my bank of go to quotes to ensure that I was able to try to be the face of Christ wherever possible. These included :
Philippians 4:6-7 :Never worry about anything; but tell God all your desires of every kind in prayer and petition shot through with gratitude,7 and the peace of God which is beyond our understanding will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
The enduring prayers of ‘ Our Father, who art in heaven’ and for me ‘because the Lord is my shepherd , I have everything I need.’ I say this prayer whenever I feel unsure, whenever I feel I don’t have what I need and it helps me to look around because it is there when I really look.
The words of Jesus, as he prepared to leave the disciples, working to reassure them that they were not alone. These hold me and remind me that the Lord is near but also strengthening me to take actions to model our Christian call to ‘love one another as I have loved you’. I say it to the children all of the time so it is only right that I work to live it.
Approaching and living through the pandemic with God at the centre has and is for me like a living meditation.
In preparing for Advent each year I enjoy making time to reflect on the richness of the events and the wonderful reflections that emerge during Advent. In Lent I do the same.
The pandemic is like being asked to put all of that reflection and learning into action. It is both challenging and wonderful; seeing and noticing the tiny acts of goodness all around, hearing about how communities have come together; the wave of goodness that enfolded Captain’s Toms journey as it captured the imaginations of the nation and resulted in him raising a staggering £32, 795, 065. It wasn’t the amount that he raised that filled me with hope, it was the way that his small act of goodness flowed into waves of action by others, resulting in a tsunami of goodness. Captain Tom’s story is very public but there are hundreds of thousands more that did not hit the national news yet are equally powerful.
One of the songs we had taken to playing at the start and end of some of our whole school assemblies is ‘ The Lord will be a stronghold ‘ by Edwin Fawcett , inspired by Psalm 94. A beautiful meditation, ‘ when I think I have lost my foothold Lord Your mercy holds me up…… my God will be the rock where I take refuge’.
I attach a link for anyone who does not know this beautiful modern hymn : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Pq4U9bvdis
I do hope that the message that community matters will be one of the positive take aways from this challenging time.
Where are we now and what is happening next ?
So it is now October. We successfully navigated the September full opening of St Mary’s. Children have been enjoying being back with their friends and from communications with lots of parents it does seem that school and its routines are an important part of supporting a sense of well being and normality.
We are working to adapt to the many necessary changes and at all times trying to be solution focussed and positive. Children keep to their class groups which means that we do not have whole school assemblies; something we all miss. Their collective voices are such a joy. First Communion has been halted. So much has been adapted ; we have to focus on what we have rather than what we don’t as we move forward in this ‘new normal’.
Every household, community , company and organisation across the UK and worldwide is journeying in the same way. This includes The Catholic Church; how to support , encourage and strengthen us when so many of the norms we have always taken for granted were stopped in their tracks.
I have very much been strengthened by the online resources that have become available. Nothing makes up for face to face Communion yet there are so many opportunities to enjoy mass, reflections, workshops, so many ways to connect in the name of Jesus and the Catholic faith.
As a school we have gone back to Mother Teresa words, who actually borrowed these words from Therese of Liseux as a reminder that however small an action if it done with love it is an action for God.
We all look forward to a time when we can resurrect our Gift Team work and once again can have face to face access to our church family.
In the meantime on behalf of all at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School I send you our warmest wishes.