A Fabulous Feast Day - novices at the chalkface

Novices and staff at St Francis of Assisi Technology College
Novices and staff at St Francis of Assisi Technology College

On Tuesday 4th October, St Francis of Assisi Technology College, Walsall, welcomed all 13 Jesuit Novices into their wonderful school. This was to celebrate the Feast Day of their patron saint with a series of lessons, given by Jesuit Novices, on the topics of vocations, the Society of Jesus and how to pray the Examen and other Ignatian prayers. With all novices teaching four or five lessons each, we managed to teach every child in the school in a single day, with well over 1000 students between the ages of 11 and 18 hopefully benefitting from the experience.

From our perspective as novices, we were hugely impressed by the school throughout the day – from being greeted so warmly by staff and students to seeing the strong Catholic ethos present around the school, not only on classroom displays but also, most importantly, in the remarkable young people and the dedicated teachers whom we met. The school’s ‘faith comes first’ attitude impressed us all greatly and it was clear why the school has been blessed in providing four vocations in the last six years to the local diocesan seminary. To come and talk to the young people here about our own journeys into religious life was a real privilege, as well as a good test of our own vocations.

Our lessons all reflected our own individual styles, some preferring spontaneous Question and Answer sessions, others exciting students by drawing the comparisons between Jesuits and Jedi Knights! In my own lessons I was personally struck by how receptive students were to the Examen prayer and the way in which it enabled them to interpret the manifold ways in which God is guiding them and communicating to them in their daily lives. I hope that by sharing this great prayer we will have made it easier for the students of St Francis to sense and pursue their own vocations, the pathways that God is calling them down in their own lives.

The learning was by no means ‘one-way’ however. This experience was a real stepping stone on the vocation path for many of our own novices. Some were pushed out of their comfort zone into an unfamiliar working environment. Others were challenged to answer searching questions about their own faith and vocation. Personally, as someone who has already worked in the secondary school environment, I took great pleasure from seeing the ‘buzz’ amongst our group as my brother novices realised the excitement and adrenaline of working alongside dedicated professionals and enthusiastic students.

At the end of the day there was a wonderful sense of community among our novice group – and the conversations on the way home (and well into the rest of the evening) were heart-warming, hearing everyone excitedly trade great stories and experiences from their classrooms. The day had clearly not only impacted strongly on the students but on us as well. For this we must finish by thanking the school staff who made this day possible, and all the students who were so receptive to our message. Finally, we must thank God, who was clearly present very closely throughout this wonderful day in all the people we met, in the great staff and students we worked with and in the faith-filled atmosphere that was provided at St Francis of Assisi school.

From this visit I, personally, have learned more about the true importance of prayer and reflection and believe that this experience with the Jesuits has helped me to find ways to grow as a member of Christ’s family. (Jonathan, Year12)

I found this experience really enjoyable and useful. I learnt a lot of new information from their experience which I didn’t know before, such as learning a new style of prayer that allows me to reflect on my life and realise how blessed I am by focusing on what I have rather than what I need. The Jesuits were passionate and inspired with their enthusiasm for God which was inspiring as true faith is often lost in present day society. (Apollonia Year 12)

Through the Year of Mercy we are encouraged to think widely about the people around us and meditational prayer is a great method of doing just that. (Sharday, Year 12)

My favourite part was the Examen prayer as it shows how you can reflect on your day and form a clearer relationship with God. (Lucy, Year 10)

The Jesuits came to visit our school and they spoke to us about how faith is at the centre of their lives. Since their visit I have been seeing God in everything and finding the good even in difficult days. (Lucy, Year 10)

Christopher Brolly nSJ