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Golden Jubilee Mass - 6 July 2013

It was clear from the start of the planning for the School’s Jubilee celebrations that the thanksgiving Mass would be a central part of the day. Much preparation and planning took place, particularly over the build-up in the last few weeks, to make the Mass a fitting celebration of the school’s 50 years.

A number of priests who have connections to the school were invited to concelebrate the Mass, from former students and chaplains to local Parish Priests. On the day we were blessed with the presence of no fewer than ten priests led by the Vicar General and former Tommy's student, (1981 - 1986), Monsignor Timothy Menezes. The other Priests present were Fr. Jan Nowotnik, our School Chaplain and Parish Priest of St Brigid's; Fr. George Grynowski, Parish Priest of St John Fisher; Fr. David Barry, Parish Priest of St Joseph's and St Paul's; Fr. Seamus Hetherton, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Fatima; former chaplain, Fr Stefan Laszczyk; former students, Fr. Eamonn Corduff and Fr. Gerry Lennon; and former Aquinas teachers, Fr. Frank Smith and Fr. Bill Wilton. During the Mass Monsignor Tim delivered a wonderful homily, that was greatly appreciated, full of profound insights but also much good humour about his experiences of attending ‘Tommies’.

Before Mass began there was an introduction, read by former staff, Isabel O’Connell and Marie Lovatt, This was followed by a procession, symbolising the light of faith in the school, read by long serving teacher, Mary Samuel. In the procession 3 experienced past and present staff, Paul Toal, Marion Yates and Don Deneny processed with candles symbolising the light of faith, accompanying them was head boy, Sam Allen, carrying the statue of St Thomas Aquinas. 3 members of staff, Jude Devlin, James Ingram and Sarah Lattimer, who had attended St Thomas Aquinas school as students, then processed and lit their candles from the experienced staff candles. They in turned passed on their light to 3 students from year 7, 8 and 9, John Hardy, Hannah Kenny and Charlotte Behan.

 

During the procession former staff, students, governors and Chaplains that had served the school and have now passed away were remembered, with the school's Book of Remembrance being brought forward by John Houston, head of PE and former student, and placed at the foot of the Altar along with a large crucifix, carried by former Assistant Head, Wendy Tinsley, and accompanied by a candle carried by student, Hershey Abrina. It was a moving start to a memorable and beautiful Mass.

Other past and present staff and students took part in the Mass. The servers were students Gemma Baker, Sam O’Neill and Annmerlin Johnson, Other participants included former Deputy Head, Bernard O’Connell who read the first reading, Liz James, head of year 13, who read the Responsorial Psalm and Tara Carter, former student and now maths teacher, Sarah Lay, assistant head and Haydn Cadogan, student, read the Bidding Prayers.

It would not be right if the choir did not get a special mention. A 40 strong student choir led the singing in the Mass and had worked very hard to learn new pieces and the Mass setting, which was the Mass of St. Bernadette, written by the late Mike Stanley. The Choir was very ably led by Martina Moran, RE teacher and the piano was played by former student and music teacher Emma Bentley, who had very generously agreed to give up her own time to rehearse and play the piano, despite being on maternity leave at the time. Other musicians were Assistant Head, Richard Smith, on guitar and Haydn Cadogan, student, on violin.

Following Communion there was a very moving moment when the choir sang a Communion reflection, called ‘Christ, our Lord forever’, written especially for the jubilee celebrations by former student, Hugh Tibbits.

The Mass really was the most wonderful celebration full of joy and thanks for the many blessings bestowed on St Thomas Aquinas School over the past 50 years.

Following the Mass Mr Foley had the opportunity to welcome the many guests – both current and former staff and students that he knew; and former staff, students and friends of our school that were at the school before his time. Mr Foley said it was a privilege to particularly welcome John Beard, teacher and past students from the Foundation Year of the school all of whom received a warm ovation.

Mr Foley then introduced a special message from founding headteacher, Paul Olsen, recorded on 14 May on his 90th Birthday. Naturally, Paul was at the centre of the photograph showing the Foundation Year and alongside him sat a young English teacher, John Bartlett who took over from Paul as headteacher in 1974 and served the school for 30 years until his retirement in 1993. John too had recorded a message which was warmly appreciated by everyone but it was particularly pleasing that, despite poor health in recent years, John was able to attend for the Mass and the meal afterwards. Monsignor Tim presented John with a commemorative plaque, taken from an Altar, made by Wyn Richards, former technology teacher at the school. The Altar was made especially for the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Coventry Airport on 30th May 1982. A plaque had also been made for Paul Olsen, which would be delivered personally to Mr Olsen by James Ingram and Jim Foley during the summer holidays.

Mr Foley finished his speech by thanking James Ingram, Sharon Williamson and Pete Roberts, author of Tommy's Volumes 1 and 2, for everything they had done in the planning and preparation of the jubilee celebrations and they were presented with a token of the school’s appreciation

Mr Foley was then surprised by Marina Kelly, former deputy head of our school, now head teacher of Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Coventry, as she got up to speak about his long tenure as headteacher at the school. Marina spoke eloquently about Jim’s contribution to the school over the years and thanked him for his service. Marina then presented Jim with his own commemorative plaque also made
from the special, Blessed Pope John Paul, Altar.

It was a truly lovely and fitting end to the more formal proceedings that were part of the celebrations of our Golden Jubilee.

Anne-Marie Tibbits
Lay Chaplain

Saturday 6 July 2013 - What an Incredible Day!

It is nearly three years ago when we began to think about the fact that St Thomas Aquinas School would be 50 years old in 2013. We began to map out a series of events to take place throughout the calendar year 2013 and, as we know, it all began with our School Mission beginning appropriately on our Feast Day, Monday 28 January. It was an incredible week that none of us will ever forget and we will continue to be blessed by the experience for many years to come. The Mission was wonderful but it was only one amongst several events to mark our special year.

We identified Saturday 6 July 2013 to celebrate our Birthday. We checked the weather forecast so we were confident the sun would shine and the sporting Gods would be with us too. A win for the British and Irish (Welsh) Lions was confidently predicted and we knew that Andy Murray would win his first Wimbledon. The day was right so then the hard work began. Numerous people were involved in the planning over countless meetings but special thanks must go to our Marketing and Website Manager, James Ingram who promoted our big day superbly and liaised with a huge number of past staff and students. And thank you too to Sharon Williamson, our Business Manager who masterminded the whole event from beginning to end taking care of every little detail. In the final few weeks staff and students responded magnificently to ensure the school looked sparkling for our visitors and all 10 faculties prepared the theme of 50 years however it applied to them. The day before the Marquee arrived and thanks to a huge team effort and the great work of the site team led by June Simms we were ready for the big day.

From early in the morning staff began to arrive, the final preparations were complete and now all that was needed were some guests! The Lions match contributed to a slow start but from 12.30pm the crowd began to build. For some it was all fairly familiar but for others it was a journey through time. It was a real pleasure to welcome John Beard who joined the school as a young Geography and History teacher in September 1963 and stayed until 1966 before joining Humphrey Middlemore School in Harborne and subsequently moved to Kent where he became a Headteacher. And also arriving in the Hall were several members of the Foundation Year - Ed Baines, John Conway, Tom Hopkins, James Kelly, Maurice Kerins, Richard Niemyski, Tom O'Connor, John O'Quigley, Alfred Vella amongst others. Following much hand shaking, back slapping and general hilarity as many who had not seen each other for many years caught up again, most people made their way to the Sports Hall for a Mass of Thanksgiving.

We were blessed with the presence of no fewer than ten priests led by the Vicar General and former Tommy's student, (1981 - 1986), Monsignor Timothy Menezes. Monsignor Tim delivered a wonderful homily full of profound insights but also much good humour that was greatly appreciated. He introduced his brother priests - Fr Jan, our School Chaplain and Parish Priest of St Brigid's; Fr George, Parish Priest of St John Fisher; Fr David, Parish Priest of St Joseph's and St Paul's; Fr Seamus, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Fatima; former students, Fr Eamonn Corduff and Fr Gerry Lennon; and former Aquinas teachers, Fr Frank Smith and Fr Bill Wilton. It really was the most wonderful celebration full of joy and thanks for the many blessings bestowed on St Thomas Aquinas School over the past 50 years.

Following the Mass I had the opportunity to welcome our many guests - current staff and students; former staff and students that I knew; and former staff, students and friends of our school that were here before my time. It was a privilege to particularly welcome John Beard and the Foundation Year of the school both of whom received a warm ovation. And then I was delighted to introduce a special message from our founding headteacher, Mr Paul Olsen recorded on 14 May on his 90th Birthday. Naturally, Paul was at the centre of the photograph showing the Foundation Year and alongside him sat a young English teacher, John Bartlett who took over from Paul as headteacher in 1974 and served the school for 30 years until his retirement in 1993. John too had recorded a message which was warmly appreciated by everyone but it was particularly pleasing that, despite poor health in recent years, John was able to join us for the Mass and the meal afterwards. We also remembered the late, great Pat Manion. And finally it was a pleasure to present James Ingram, Sharon Williamson and Pete Roberts, author of Tommy's Volumes 1 and 2, with a token of our appreciation.

Following the Mass there were tours of the school, a wonderful meal in the Marquee and an excellent concert in the Sports Hall. Everyone had a wonderful time the final revellers leaving just before midnight following a day we will never forget. I understand some hardy characters continued the celebrations at The Camp long into the early hours - an awesome achievement! Do check the website www.stacs.org for further details and look out for future developments regarding our St Thomas Aquinas Alumni Association.

Jim Foley
Headteacher