Year 6 pupils from St Thomas More’s Catholic primary in Havant commemorated the Year of Mercy this week 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,
“We started the pilgrimage with a classroom presentation by reminding everyone that we are continuing in The Jubilee Year of Mercy and recalled the actions that have already been addressed this year such as ‘giving drink to the thirsty’ and ‘giving clothes to those who need them’.
“We told the children that the Corporal Work of Mercy we would focus on today was to ‘Welcome the Outsider’. We then talked about what is meant the word ‘outsider’ and what circumstances might cause people to leave their homes to seek refuge elsewhere.
“We watched a special video (see below) and discussed the aspirations of some of the children in the video. Father Gerard Flynn also told a story about a 12 year old boy whom he had met in Syria ten years ago. He said he was very concerned for his safety because of the war now raging in that country.
“We then looked at some of the countries around the world where people have been forced from their homes. We used a large map of the world and children stuck the names of the countries on the map.
“Father Gerard then led us in prayer and gave us a blessing as we left the school on our way to the Cathedral.
“There, we had a lovely welcome and the children were all given a cup of squash. As we entered, Father Gerard told us about some of the history of St John’s and pointed out Bishop Philip’s official chair, The Cathedra.
“The Pilgrimage continued in class groups with one class starting at the Sacred Heart Chapel where they talked about the importance of a passport. 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 have to flee their country.
“We also reflected on all places where people are attacked for their beliefs or their colour or their nationality and prayed that everyone will live in harmony with each other and realise that they are all God’s children.
“At the same time, another class started by the Blessed Sacrament Altar where we talked about the importance of bread in our lives. We thought about how we all need bread in our daily lives to nourish us and how important the bread of life, The Blessed Sacrament, is for our spiritual health. We then took a moment to reflect on the many refugees and people throughout the world who do not have enough to eat and go to bed hungry at night.
“At the statue of St Peter, the first Pope, who was appointed by Jesus to whom he bestowed ‘the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven’, we thought about those who have to leave their homes and leave their possessions behind, taking little more than the clothes they are wearing.
“Our next stop was at Our Lady’s Altar where we looked at a photo of a refugee family and and empty chair. The chair symbolises someone whom the family has lost on their 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 through the Year of Mercy Holy Door, which was appointed by Pope Francis and opened by Bishop Philip last year. Having passed through the Holy Door, we were told about the origin of 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. We then walked in procession behind the Lampedusa Cross to place their messages of hope on the altar and offered a prayer to God our Father. We sang the Year of Mercy chant, ‘Be Merciful, as your Heavenly Father is Merciful’.
“CAFOD will dedicate these 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.
“Upon return to school, the children discussed their experience and a display was made with messages and photographs from the pilgrimage (pictured above).”
Deputy Headteacher Mr Sendall told us,
“It was fantastic, The children told us how much they got from it. I had the privilege of reading some of their messages and they are really quite moving. The pilgrimage obviously had an impact on them and touched their hearts.”
We also heard from one of our volunteers whose son took part in the pilgrimage that he really enjoyed it!
Thank you so much to everyone at St Thomas More’s Catholic primary for your continued support and our special thanks to Father Gerard Flynn for all his encouragement and help. Thank you too to our great volunteers Patrick and Isobel for organising this and thank you to Mr Sendall for sending us these great photos. We really appreciate all you do.