“What is it you do?” asked a year 7 pupil.
“Everything and nothing – the chaplain is just here with us”, was the reply of a year 13 student.
Chaplaincy is about people not structures, programmes, responsibilities or tasks. The Chaplain in Carmel College should be seen as a faith presence, committed to the values of Christ on behalf of the Church, accompanying each person on his or her journey through Carmel College. The chaplain needs to be open to, and show concern for, each member of the college community – no-one is to be excluded. The chaplain has the privilege of walking part of life’s journey with each individual.
“Every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth” – Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Catholic Educators, Washington D.C., April 2008.
Given this mandate, the role of the chaplain, in collaboration with others is of prime importance to the whole of the College community. Acting in a supportive way, celebrating the faith, deepening faith commitment, explaining the values of Christ as held in the Church community, and having a caring and spiritual presence, through relationships.
INTRODUCTION TO THE CHAPLAINCY
A lay chaplain staffs the chaplaincy.
There is a well-appointed Chapel. The Chapel is seen as a place of reflection, of peace and quiet, refuge and security. It is a place conducive to prayer, where spirituality is enhanced and where the sacraments may be celebrated. The priests of the Deanery celebrate Mass every Wednesday lunch time. The Chapel is as informal as possible, but adaptable so that it can be easily arranged for formal times. It encourages participation. The chaplain has easy access to the chapel and it is open at all times for the use of everybody in the college. The college also possesses a large movable altar, which is used for Mass in the Hall or Sports Hall when larger congregations are present e.g. on Holy Days of Obligation or the Patronal Feast Day.
The chaplain works from the chaplaincy office, which acts as a confidential room for chats and counselling as well as for meetings and resources.
Chaplaincy Support Group
The chaplain is assisted by the local parish priests and many members of the College Community. The Chaplaincy Support Group consists of the Head of R.E. and all members of the department, the Head of Music, a media designer and members of the English and Art Departments complete the team. Other members of other year groups enjoy working with the Liturgy Group and are involved in issues of social justice and charity work. Some staff assist in the Retreat Programme. Without this collaboration, the chaplain would not be able to offer such a wide service to the staff and pupils in the College.
A retreat will fulfil a different function depending on what stage the group is at. It is a good way of helping a group to bond. A retreat can also provide a deepening of faith and a sense of spiritual renewal, refocus, reinvigoration and even healing – From Revealed: A Catholic Youth Formation Ministry Resource by Karen North, Rebecca Barber, David O’Connell and John Toryusen, Redemptorist Publications, 2008, p78.
The retreat programme is arranged throughout the year to take into account the needs of each year group. In year 7, pupils have already spent one day of Induction in school during their year 6 and we build on the theme begun on that day. Each year we choose a theme that concentrates on Community Building. It is important to generate a community spirit in year 7 both for their own year group and for the College. During September the whole year group, together with the Head of Year, Tutors, the Co-ordinator of Special Education Needs and Chaplain go away for the day, either to Minsteracres or the Youth Village. All staff involved are briefed about the programme, and are encouraged to own it. The activities centre round the theme, culminating in a final liturgy.
Students in years 8, 9 and 10 have visited the Youth Village at different times for one-day retreats. The Diocesan Youth Ministry Team, in collaboration with the Chaplain, co-ordinate and lead the day. The Chaplain co-ordinates a team of staff to accompany students.
Students from the Sixth Form are invited to take part in a two-day retreat at an off-site venue. Ampleforth College was used for a 6th form retreat in March 2009. Members of staff and the chaplain comprise the team, and plan and deliver the programme.
“The person of Christ must be at the centre of our Catholic schools. The vision of education that inspires a Catholic school is always centred on the person. In a Catholic school, the true development of the person, pupils and staff, takes precedence over all other things” – Archbishop Vincent Nichols, March 2009
The ministry of the chaplaincy is threefold: affirming, strengthening and healing, offering pastoral care to staff and pupils alike. The chaplain is ready to listen to and advise, if necessary, those pupils or staff who need a sympathetic ear. In some cases contact with an outside agency will be recommended. In this case, consultation with the pastoral deputy head takes place.
The chaplain strives to improve the self esteem and self worth of pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties by offering a constructive, confidence-building environment where pupils can share their frustrations and problems and come to terms with the reasons for their difficulties. These pupils may be referred to the chaplain by a pastoral learning manager, tutor or special educational needs personnel. In some cases, pupils have deeper problems brought on by self-harm, substance-abuse, eating disorders, trauma experience and negative feelings brought on by their life experience. These pupils may need to be referred to specialist people for further help.