Stonyhurst's first whole-school Mission
Every pupil of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire has been involved in the first whole-school Mission, by attending talks and workshops, as well as engaging in charitable activities and volunteering in the local community. The Mission was an opportunity for the entire Stonyhurst community to focus on the 400 year-old Jesuit school's purpose and identity and for every pupil, aged 3 to 18, to consider their faith, their unique talents, and their vocation in life.
The normal school timetable at Stonyhurst was suspended for two and a half days to allow the students to take part and to hear talks from a variety of guest speakers. These talks addressed some of the world's urgent challenges, including religious persecution, the plight of refugees, homelessness and isolation. Among the speakers was Baroness Caroline Cox who spoke about her charity, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, which offers advocacy and aid to persecuted people who are 'off the radar'; while Professor Lord Alton, who is also a Governor and parent of Stonyhurst, raised awareness about the plight of persecuted people in Pakistan and Burma. The Mission was also addressed by six Jesuits who talked about making good decisions and discerning how we should lead our lives.
Joy and hope of our faith
The Mission provided an opportunity for pupils to put their faith into action as well. Younger children, from Stonyhurst St Mary's Hall, held a party for local senior citizens, while Sixth Form students volunteered their services at local special schools, care homes, hospices, charities for the homeless and foodbanks. Pupils raised over £2,000 for the Xavier Project, an African refugee charity, by taking part in a relay race and some got their hands dirty by clearing the local cemetery of brambles, leaves and dead-wood (pictured below).
Prayerfulness was also a key component of the Stonyhurst Mission. Each day concluded with the stillness and reflection of the Jesuit examen, at which everyone could consider everything they had encountered and experienced. And the Mission culminated with Mass celebrated by Fr Philip Endean SJ who is currently living and working Paris, on the day after the terrorist attacks in the French capital. “The terrible news shouldn't take away the joy and enthusiasm with which we celebrate our faith,” he told the congregation, “but it can serve to remind us that the faith we celebrate will always be something of a challenge, a provocation, an expression of hope against the background of a world often tempted towards despair."
Reflecting on what really matters
The Mission was coordinated by Stonyhurst's lay chaplain, Sarah Young, who described it as “a celebration of our ordinary, everyday endeavour”. She said that the Chaplaincy team hopes that these days would reach out to every member of the community “so that they might consider how their story fits in to the story of Stonyhurst but, even more crucially, how it relates to the story of Jesus who calls them to the fullness of life. We might not witness the effects of this whilst they are still here in the school but we may well hear about it in the years to come."
Headmaster Andrew Johnson said that the Mission was a unique event at the College. “This vital time-out from routine has allowed our pupils to grow in self-esteem and to discern how they can make a difference in the world by using their unique gifts and talents,” he said. “It has given us all time to reflect on what really matters."