Many thanks to St Mary’s Primary Gosport for welcoming our fantastic school volunteers Patrick and Isobel to school last week to help you reflect on the plight of refugees.
Patrick told us about the pilgrimage. ” On the longest day that recorded some of the highest temperatures of the year, St Mary’s RC Primary School Year Six pupils embarked upon a pilgrimage to St Mary’s RC Church in solidarity with refugees worldwide in this “World Refugee Week”. There was a lively air of anticipation in the classroom as we started our pilgrimage in prayer considering who refugees are and from which countries they originate. We watched a short video clip of some refugees making a boat trip across the Mediterranean and located, on a large map of the world, the top ten countries from which refugees leave. It is reported that 12 million Syrians have fled their homes, that is half the country’s population. 3.3 million South Sudanese have been forced from their homes in the world’s fastest growing displacement crisis. According to UN figures, an estimated 65.6 million people are now refugees or seeking asylum or displaced in their own country. That is about the same as the population of the UK. Of those, 2.3 million refugees are in Europe and all the others are hosted by developing countries.
Miss Bonwick assembled everyone at the boundary of the school grounds where we stopped to think about what we had for the journey:- our clothes, water, and any other essentials. Refugees often have nothing other that the clothes they are wearing. Mrs Dight and three of the children set a brisk pace as we set off along the designated walking path. Finding a shady spot, we stopped to consider identity and the importance of passports to people travelling from country to country.
Brother Raphael welcomed us to the beautiful Church of St Mary’s. We stopped in front of the altar and acknowledged Jesus’ presence in the tabernacle. Jesus is “The Bread of Life” and when we receive him we are nourished spiritually. We talked about the importance of bread in our physical lives, too, and reminded the children that refugees do not have enough to eat and that they rely upon the generosity of strangers, people like us, to give them food.
In front of the Lady Altar, we showed the children a photograph of a family in a refugee camp. It shows them with sad faces and there is an empty chair, indicating that at least one member of their family has not been able to complete the journey so far. Miss Bonwick, together with Mrs Elliott and Mrs Britton, led us in our final Reflections as we prayed that those still travelling would reach a safe place to be able to fulfil their dreams of a better and safe future.
We told the story of the Lampedusa Cross and then invited the children to write their own messages of support, love or a prayer to a refugee. When they had finished writing their messages, our Lampedusa Cross was passed around so that some children could touch and feel the cross, made from the wood of a wrecked boat, by the same carpenter in Lampedusa, Francesco Tuccio. We placed all of our messages at the altar and offered them in prayer to Jesus for the well-being of refugees. Brother Raphael led us as we sang the “Kyrie Eleison”. Afterwards, he said our final prayer, gave us his blessing and wished us a safe journey back to school
We would like to thank everyone for a really memorable, prayerful and joyful pilgrimage where we felt that all the children and the teaching staff reached out in Mercy and compassion to “Welcome the Outsider” in response to the plea of Pope Francis, in the name of Jesus”.