Pupils from St Thomas More Catholic primary in Havant commemorated the Year of Mercy earlier this month by going on a special pilgrimage from their school to the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Portsmouth.
Education Volunteers, Patrick and Isobel Flynn told us,
“The pilgrimage started at school where we recounted the Corporal Works of Mercy about which we had spoken in an assembly a few weeks previously.
“Once in the Cathedral, we stopped in front of the Tabernacle and thought about the importance of bread in our lives. Jesus, the Bread of Life present in the Tabernacle, nourishes our soul. It is so important for us to receive the Blessed Sacrament regularly to sustain our spiritual life. Likewise, we need bread in our daily lives to nourish our human body.
“The children then prayed for everyone who is hungry around the world and for people who have had to leave their homes because of climate change.
“At the Sacred Heart Chapel, we talked about passports and our national identity. Our passport allows us to travel and to be welcomed because we have an identity. We have our school uniform which identifies us as pupils of St Thomas More’s community.
“Yet millions of people have lost their identity because they have been forced out of their homes and country through fighting and conflict or natural disaster. They flee their country.
“The pupils then reflected on all places where people are attacked for their beliefs or their colour or their nationality. They prayed that everyone will live in harmony with each other and realise that they are all God’s children.
“As we moved to our next stop we passed the Baptismal Font. We reflected that this is another source of identity as we become Catholic Christians when we are baptised in the waters of the font.
“Our next stop was at Our Lady’s Altar. Mary is the Mother of Jesus and our eternal Mother. At this stop, we saw the sadness in a family photograph where there was an empty chair. The picture is of a refugee family and the chair symbolises someone who the family has lost on the journey (see below). The children then thought about all the families and friends who have been separated by conflict and migration and prayed that they would soon be reunited.“Father Gerard then led us in prayer, which included singing the “Kyrie Eleison” as we prepared to enter through the Holy Door. He urged us to leave behind all of our troubles, resentments, and any anger or anxiety that we may have been harbouring.
“Father Gerard encouraged us to begin a new life in friendship and harmony and to live new lives by caring for each other and by putting the Corporal Works of Mercy into action as we continue to walk in solidarity with refugees.”
“We entered through The Holy Door in quiet, reverent contemplation and took up pews at the back of the Cathedral. Father Gerard led us in a short prayer, after which, we were invited to write our personal messages to a refugee inspired by the Lampedusa Cross (pictured below).
“On the 3rd October 2013, a boat carrying 500 refugees from Eritrea and Somalia, sank off the little island of Lampedusa between Tunisia and Sicily. Only 151 people survived. The local carpenter on Lampedusa met some of the survivors and then went and collected some of the wreckage of the boat. He made crosses for the survivors as a symbol of hope for the future.
“We invited the children to write or draw a message of hope for refugees. The children then laid these on the altar and we finished with a special prayer.
Here are some of the messages the pupils shared with us:
“Please don’t lose hope. Put trust in God and God will reveal an answer to your problems.”
“I hope that you are happy and that you feel welcome and that you feel safer.”
“I hope you find peace and love… May you one day be free from fear and enjoy your new-found life. You are forever in our prayers.”
“Though you are away from home, you are not away from God’s loving care.”
CAFOD will dedicate their messages at a special Mass at the end of the Year of Mercy, and make sure they are shared with refugees through CAFOD’s and other networks.
“It was a privilege to have the Cathedral’s newly acquired Lampedusa Cross with us to bring the stark reality of the perils encountered in the rough sea crossings into focus. The cross really helped us to focus on the messages of hope that the original crosses brought to surviving refugees. It was also poignant that very soon on 10 July it will be Sea Sunday when we pray for ‘those in peril on the sea’.
“Having presented the messages by laying them individually upon the altar, we gathered in a circle for our final prayer and concluded the pilgrimage by singing the ‘Year of Mercy chant’; ‘Be merciful, be merciful, As your Heavenly Father is merciful. Misericordes, Sicut Pater, Misericordes, Sicut Pater”.
“Back at school, the children continued thinking of caring for others and made their own crosses from local materials inspired by the Lampedusa Cross they had seen at the Cathedral (see photos above).”
Thank you so much to everyone at St Thomas More primary for your continued support and our special thanks to Father Gerard Flynn for all his help with this too. Thank you too to our great volunteers Patrick and Isobel for organising this and sending these superb photos too. We really appreciate all you do.