WELCOME BACK

Another Summer draws to a close and we get prepared to return for a new Academic Year under a new kind of normality. I wish you God’s Blessings as you prepare to take up the task of leading our School Communities as they seek a way forward. I am attaching some resources that may help you in preparing and will add to these in the coming weeks.

RESOURCES:

HOLY WEEK + EASTER 2021

Easter Hope – joint statement by the Archbishops of Armagh

One of the words which we associate most strongly with Easter is “hope”.  It is a word that has become a bit debased in the way we use it nowadays.  “I hope so” very often means “I would like to think this or that might happen, but I doubt if it will”. Nothing could be further from the victorious and positive nature of our Easter hope.

Easter falls at a season of the year that is full of hopefulness. Longer evenings, Spring flowers, birdsong, and the sap rising in the trees.  The whole creation (at least in the Northern hemisphere) is bursting with hope and the promise of new life. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead brings that hope to a new level of reality. Far from the resurrection being simply a metaphor that religious people use for natural renewal, as some believe, it is the yearly renewal of the Earth in Spring which is an anticipation of the resurrection; a sign pointing to something greater than itself.  A shadow in search of a substance.  Transience moving towards permanence.

That is how the creator God has imprinted something of Himself into the fabric of the world.  He has made if full of intimations of eternity, for instance in beauty and in music which are where many of us find the strongest suggestions of intense joy and infinity.  These created things won’t fulfil our yearning for eternal fellowship with God, but they will arouse it, and prepare us to find it unexpectedly, in the servant life and death of Jesus Christ.

Even today there are other signs all around us, not this time in nature or in music, but in the human lives which our eyes have been opened to value, often for the first time.

It has been a tough year since last Easter, and many people, Christians and others, have found ways of making the best of a bad job by helping one another in ways that we haven’t been used to doing before. We’ve also found ways to show our appreciation and admiration for people who we don’t usually think about.  They aren’t sports people, or billionaires or even politicians.  They are nurses and delivery drivers and people toiling in cavernous warehouses and food factories for very low wages.  People who serve the fundamental needs of God’s world.  And, in its own way their hidden service is a shadow of the resurrection life; the life of heaven, God’s place.  Our sure and certain hope.

  • Archbishop Eamon Martin is Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Archbishop John McDowell is Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh

St JOSEPH & YEAR FOR FAMILIES – WEEK OF PRAYER

Pope Francis has been encouraging us to remember the role and witness of St Joseph during this year. On 19 March 2021, Pope Francis will launch a year dedicated to the family which will conclude on 26 June 2022 on the occasion of the Tenth World Meeting of Families in Rome. This date also marks five years since the publication of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) on the beauty and joy of love in the family.

Attached is a resource prepared by the Council for Marriage and the Family of the Irish Bishops’ Conference which offers a page per day guide to the Week of Prayer (13-19 March) and which can be easily followed in school and home.

Each day has a theme reflecting on family life through the lens of Saint Joseph. At its centre is the prayer from Pope Francis which he wrote for the Year of Saint Joseph and some inspiring reflections from The Joy of Love.

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you God entrusted his only Son; in you Mary placed her trust; with you Christ became man. Blessed Joseph, to us too,show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil.

St PATRICK

SOME RESOURCES TO USE IN CLASS OR ONLINE

LENT 2021

Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent are approaching. This will provide renewed opportunities for reflection and conversion. Sadly with Covid lockdown, this will have to be family-based and subject to the usual safety restrictions we have in place now.

Trocaire have some great resources in place already. You can download some from their selction here.

Development Education Resources 2021 are available to download here. Resources are available for Early childhood, Primary, Post Primary and Youth. These resources will help you explore the themes of conflict and peace with students and young people through the lens of SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Learn about the Sustainable Development goals, South Sudan and Trócaire’s work through interactive lesson plans, photos, videos and our latest Development education board game “Pathways to peace”.   Please feel free to share the resources with anyone else you think might find them useful.  

Also of interest might be our Parish Resources which this year include a Lectio Divina workshop for parishes, stations of the cross and an exploration of the Gospels for children. The Parish Resources can be found in the link below.  https://www.trocaire.org/our-work/working-in-ireland/parishes/

https://www.trocaire.org/news/themes/lent-2021/

A LETTER TO PARISHES ABOUT THE TROCAIRE 2021 CAMPAIGN

“Here are my hands, hold them. Please don’t leave South Sudan alone. We need your prayers. We need your support. We need your love.” Fr. James Oyet Latansio, South Sudan Council of Churches.

Trócaire’s Lenten campaign for 2021 tells the stories of two families in South Sudan whose lives have been impacted by conflict. Awut and Ajak are shining examples of resilience, friendship and solidarity. This Lent we hear not only about the enormous challenges they have faced, but also about how they support each other through these challenges.  
Due to the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, Trócaire has developed a variety of resources for use in your parish and that will support you in raising awareness about the Lent 2021 campaign: 

1. Resources 
The below resources focus on the stories and voices of families and communities with whom Trócaire works, and looks at how our faith calls us to act for justice. We also hear from one of Trócaire’s partners, the South Sudan Council of Churches, and learn about the role that the Christian churches are playing in working for peace in South Sudan. We encourage you to use these resources during Mass, at your Parish Council meeting, Liturgy Group or with any other active parish group. All resources are available on the Trócaire website. The below are available in English and Irish: 

You will also find the following resources on the website that you can use during mass to inform your congregation about the Lent campaign: 

To provide ongoing support to you throughout Lent, you will also receive a short email from Trócaire on three occasions during Lent, containing prayers and reflections which can be used during Mass. 
3. Box distribution 
You will also have received information recently about your Trócaire boxes. We want to support you as much as possible during the ongoing challenges of Covid-19. We have compiled some simple ideas about ways in which your parishioners could collect their boxes, mindful of safety and well-being being of the utmost importance as well as compliance with current government guidelines. 
4. UK Aid Match
This year, the Lent campaign is part of UK Aid Match, meaning public donations* given between 17 February 2021 and 16 May 2021 will be doubled by the UK government, up to £2m. Furthermore, if a donor signs up for a monthly gift, or increases their monthly gift, before the 16th of May 2021, up to three of their instalments will be matched! We will be able to support thousands of people in South Sudan to grow enough food to feed their families. Don’t’ forget that donations will only be matched up until the 16th May.
5. Lent online workshops 
Finally, we want to make you aware of a series of online workshops that Trócaire will be delivering during Lent. These workshops are open to all, and you can find out more and sign up here.

Some other resources:

CAFOD RESOURCES 2021

Encountering Jesus with St Benedict – On-line Retreat from Glenstal Abbey … a series of Lenten Talks which will be webcast from the Abbey will take place from Glenstal Abbey on Saturdays at 2.00pm, beginning on February 20. Details below

Feast of St Brigid

Some resources you may like to use.

Saint Brigid    February 1 

St Brigid’s Day coincides with the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the first day of Spring.  Though meteorologists always dispute this assertion, there is no denying the lengthening days and the early signs of new life are the harbingers of Spring.  (Dr Ger Conden kindly sent me these short notes)

            Brigid was reputedly born in 450AD, at Faughart, County Louth, the daughter of a petty chieftain called, Dubhthach.  Her mother, Brocca, was said to have been baptised by St Patrick.  She was a generous child, giving away her father’s supply of butter to the poor, much to his annoyance.  But the Lord duly compensated the family by miraculously increasing the milk-yield of their cows.  
            She went on to evangelise (bring the Gospel) to the central plain of Ireland, especially Kildare, which became home to her most important foundation, a “double monastery” made up of both nuns and monks.  She is said to have passed from this life on February 1, 525.  Her fame spread throughout Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries.  There are nineteen ancient English churches named after our secondary patron, including St Bride’s in London. 

Her mantle (cloak) is preserved at Bruges in Belgium.    

A local faith /folk custom:        
Brat Bhríde / Brigid’s mantle:  Leave a piece of cloth on a nearby hedge on the eve (January 31) of St Brigid’s day.  Take it inside the next morning and use the cloth as an aid to prayer whenever there is an illness in your house, 

Faoi choimirce Bhríde go mbeidh tú  
– may you be under Brigid’s protection

CHRISTIAN UNITY WEEK 2021

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place from 18 -25 January. The resources for this year have been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme that was chosen, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.  

A link to the booklet for the Week follows below.  It has an opening reflection on the effects of the pandemic and then a daily meditation and prayer (pages 10ff), which can be used privately.  https://ctbi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/WPCU-2021-English-pamphlet-Final.pdf.pagespeed.ce.SnR5lgw9dp.pdf

MARK 10 MISSION

The Mark 10 Mission is a new project providing FREE virtual Gospel liturgies for primary schools. The idea had small beginnings, in June I felt the Lord calling me to help children in the school where I teach hear the Gospel during these challenging times. However, since the start of the academic year it seems the Lord has driven things forward incredibly and schools across England and Wales have been using The Mark 10 Mission in their classrooms. We have had brilliant feedback from Headteachers, Priests and Bishops, who have given us great encouragement. We would now love for schools in Ireland to join us too.

The Mark 10 Mission partnered with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to produce Gospel liturgies to be shared on classroom screens. We knew that whole school worship would be impossible and wanted to create episodes to help teachers easily share the Gospel. As the crisis has intensified, schools have been able to share the weekly episodes with children as part of their home learning.

Each episode includes the Sunday Gospel, a reflection, guided prayer and a live worship song from Fr Gabriel CFR. It would be so appreciated if you could view our latest episode (Series 3 Episode 1) which has been watched in hundreds of schools in the UK this week!

http://www.themark10mission.co.uk/theepisodes/seriesthree<http://www.themark10mission.co.uk/theepisodes/seriesthree>

https://www.themark10mission.co.uk/theepisodes

NEW RESOURCES FOR CSW 2021

https://www.catholicbishops.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CSW2021-web-visual-for-ICBC.png

Most schools are in ON-LINE LEARNING MODE presently due to COVID Lockdown. Some teachers may be able to use these attached resources to share with students online or perhaps with those students with special provision attending school at present.

Catholic Schools Week 2021 will be celebrated from Sunday 24 January to Sunday 31 January 2021 on the theme ‘Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith and Resilience’.

As we live through an unprecedented time of challenge and uncertainty, our faith and our resilience can be tested. We can ask questions like ‘Will things ever be the same again?’, ‘When can we get back to normality?’, ‘Where is God in all of this?’ In response to this, we reflect upon how Catholic schools are communities of faith and resilience. In Catholic schools, we are called to support each other and to have faith in the promise of the Good News. Catholic schools are inspired by the belief that God has created each one of us with a capacity to give love and receive love. This love is bound in faith and is more resilient than any virus. While each Catholic school is such a community, every Catholic school fosters the holistic development of its students, promotes their wellbeing and offers them cultivation of a deeper, loving relationship with God. Jesus teaches us to love one another as he has loved us. During Catholic Schools Week we celebrate the gifts and talents we have in following Jesus’ teaching.

NATIONAL RESOURCES

This year we celebrate how we are called to be communities of faith and resilience, through our thoughts, words and actions. In doing so, we live out the meaning of the beautiful hymn ‘Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est’ – ‘Where charity and love are, God is there.’

These are the National Resources from the IEC website. Irish language versions can be download there

https://www.catholicbishops.ie/2021/01/12/resources-for-catholic-schools-week-2021/

DIOCESAN RESOURCES:

Susan and I have developed a short Prayer Service for use by our two Dioceses. You may be able to adapt to work with students in a bubble setting if you have students attending school or by an on-line prayer service or assmbly.

Home use is another possibility using your current outreach to students. Perhaps they would have a family celebration using the prayers and their completed artwork. Hang the pieces as a family mobile or use a small tree at home as suggested in the prayer service below.

The following video contains a personal message and blessing from Archbishop Eamon to young people in the Dioceses of Armagh and Dromore.

SOME MORE RESOURCES BASED UPON THE ABOVE

Thanks to Paula McShane from St Mark’s High School in Warrenpoint for sharing these.

Pope Francis Proclaims ……… a ” Year of St Joseph “

Pope Francis proclaims a ‘Year of St Joseph’ In a new Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde  (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows. The Letter marks the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To celebrate the anniversary, Pope Francis has proclaimed a special “Year of St Joseph,” beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2020 and extending to the same feast in 2021.

Read more

Full Apostolic Letter can be read here.