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Mission Week 2013
What An Incredible Experience!

After many months of planning, countless meetings and lots of prayer the great day arrived on Monday morning with our Feast Day and the Opening Service. Mr Smith led us through a wonderful occasion introducing us to a range of visitors including Fr Sebastian and the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, Youth for Christ (Rock Band), Guvna B (Christian Rapper), Steve Murray (Mime Artist) and many more. A great start and the scene was set for an incredible week.

Our Visitors

Throughout the week we had over 100 visitors who came to lead our Mission. Some of them were with us for four whole days, others for a shorter time but each and every one made an impact. Guvna B, the Christian Rapper from London was a big hit with hundreds of students as was Steve Murray, the amazing Mime Artist who had not changed a bit in the 7 years since the last Mission. Youth for Christ the Christian Rock Band were also very popular with numerous students. Remarkably though and most memorably, it was Fr Sebastian and the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal who probably made the greatest impact of all. Dressed in their full habit it was inspirational to see their joy in living out their vocation to the full. It was clear that they enjoyed the week as much as the students and their infectious enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone. The sight of nuns giving hundreds of students the high fives on their way into Mass will live long in the memory!

Our Students

We have 1247 students at St Thomas Aquinas and not every single one was perfect on every single occasion but, as Fr Sebastian reminded us on Monday morning, that is what makes us human. The overwhelming majority of our students were fantastic and embraced the amazing opportunities available to them to the full. Archbishop Bernard and countless providers told us time and time again how impressed they were with the response of our students, their enthusiasm and their generosity. I am nearly always proud of our students especially when they are representing our school in countless different ways. Over the past week I was immensely proud of them. I know that they will never forget Mission Week 2013 for the rest of their lives.

Our Staff

A huge thank you to 150 staff who entered into the spirit of Mission Week in a truly wonderful way. From Pauline who kept all our visitors fed, watered and entertained to the RE Faculty who were a beacon throughout the week and all those who prepared long and hard for the Mission a huge thank you. Of course, as in all these things particular responsibility falls to certain key people. Well done to our Lay Chaplain, Anne Marie Tibbitts who worked tirelessly for months before and throughout the week to make it such a success. And of course, the man himself, Mr Richard Smith, our Head of RE and Assistant Headteacher responsible for our Catholic Life. He inspired the whole school community to achieve what sometimes appeared to be an impossible task.

Our Local Parishioners

We were not sure how many adults from our local parishes would join us when we planned the Mission programme. Tuesday night was bleak and miserable but we need not have worried. We were delighted to welcome 150 visitors who chose to join Steve Murray or Fr Sebastian and the Franciscan Sisters or listen to David McGloughlin from Newman University College. In the event it did not matter because the feedback from all three was superb. And the following night there were even more as about 180 local parishioners joined us. Once again the Franciscans and Steve Murray were available as was a prayer session Taize style and the incredible life story of Fr Michael Ho and his escape from Vietnam and vocation to the priesthood. If anything, Wednesday was even more successful than Tuesday and we were left with countless people asking for more in the future. Watch this space!

Our Archbishop and Our School Chaplain

What a privilege it was to welcome His Grace Archbishop Bernard for the final Mass. It was clear that he loved being with us and afterwards he had time for absolutely everyone he met. We are truly blessed that he is the Shepherd of our Flock. And a huge thank you too to Fr Jan, our School Chaplain who played such a key role throughout the Mission. We thank him for all he does for us day in and day out. Thank you Father.

Jim Foley