BY Peter Diamond | March 8 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Call for Lent Confession drive in Catholic schools

Sacrament is a ‘divine opportunity’ to reach young people, bishop says

Lent provides a great opportunity to help pupils rediscover the Sacrament of Confession, the chaplain to one of Europe’s biggest schools has said.

The comments by Fr John Carroll, parish priest of St Mary Immaculate, Glasgow and chaplain to Holyrood Secondary, have been backed by Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell Diocese, who said every school should have a ‘core staff that can take the Faith into every part of the school.’

Speaking in the first week of Lent, Fr Carroll said that if young people don’t encounter the Sacraments in their home life then ‘the Church needs to be visible in schools and take them to the pupils.’

Fr Carroll, who has been a school chaplain for 22 years, said: “Most young people might not be found at Mass at the weekend or take part in prayer or reconciliation services so it’s important in that case we bring that to them and be visible and approachable in their environment.”


Positive reaction

 The school chaplain added: “At one of our recent penitential services, I was blown over by the response of our young people and their desire to experience God’s mercy.

“We had Confessions in the school oratory and presented the opportunity to the youngsters and for some of them I think they thought ‘this might do me some good.’ Generally I find that the young people are very positive about the experience after they have rediscovered the Sacrament and that’s because they experience God’s love.”

Fr Carroll, who celebrates Mass in the school at least four times per week, believes that there are opportunities during Lent to ‘accompany young Catholics.’

“During Lent we try and bring every class in the school down to the oratory to take part in a service over and above the usual daily Mass,” Fr Carroll said.

“Usually two classes fit into the oratory, which holds about 50 children and from there we have either exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Stations of the Cross, Guided Meditation or a reconciliation service with Confessions.

“I think it’s our duty to make sure that we ensure our young people have the best exposure to everything that is great about the Faith.”


God’s presence

Holyrood is the largest school in Scotland and one of the biggest in Europe with a school roll of more than 2,000 pupils.

Fr Carroll added: “Lots of the children have said that quiet time in God’s presence takes away from constant learning and allows them to reflect on their journey in life, which they are grateful for.

“When school is over the journey of Faith continues and we need to make sure that our children and young people have the best practices and opportunities to take that Faith into adult life and flourish.”

Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell Diocese also backed the case for taking the Sacrament of Confession into Scotland’s Catholic schools.

Bishop Toal said: “Some schools already offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation and I’ve heard it can be a positive alternative to Mass, which isn’t the only way to display our Faith in our schools.

“Lent provides a time to explore the Faith deeper and perhaps be inspired by the Sacrament of Confession and I think more often than not people are prepared to make the extra effort during Lent.”

“Some pupils might not want to make a Confession about themselves and rather just have a private discussion with the priest but by creating a space for them to talk about themselves in private can be great. It allows an opportunity to reach out to people and show the youth that the Church cares about them as individuals.

“I feel it’s quite a good thing and realise it can be a big effort to organise but it’s a divine opportunity to correspond to people of that age, when often it can be difficult.

“You just need a dedicated chaplaincy team and Catholic staff to make it happen—you don’t need a priest to always be present for guided prayer or the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

“Every school should have a core staff that can take the Faith into every part of the school to permeate the Catholic Faith.

“Offering other things like Confessions, Stations of the Cross or Eucharistic Adoration can be great alternatives or additions to the weekly Mass in our schools, because it’s important to give our young people a variety.

“It’s important to encourage the youth to see value in their Faith and not just dip in and out of it within the school so that they realise it’s something which they can perhaps take into their adult life when they leave.

“It can be a difficult age for our young people too but we can only hope and pray that they’ll be inspired by the Faith.”


Spiritual tools

Two senior Catholic primary school teachers from Paisley Diocese have also revealed some of the spiritual tools they use to help their children encounter Christ during Lent.

Lindsay Kelly, principal teacher at St Mark’s Primary School, Barrhead said: “We take part in ‘Walking Wednesday’ where some staff and pupils attend 8am Mass in St John’s Church and then have a ‘walking bus’ back to school.

“Each Tuesday during Lent we have our Rosary club and the pastoral pupil council are dressing our school for the Lenten period with the Stations of the Cross and purple cloths.

“We’ll be attending St John’s for ashes this week and Fr Joe, our chaplain, will be celebrating a Holy Week Service, an Easter Mass and a special Mass for the Feast of St Mark where we’ll unveil a new icon to St Mark created by our children.”

Geraldine Ogilby, depute headteacher at St Patrick’s Primary School, Greenock, said: “Lent provides a great deal of opportunities to support children in their Faith.

“We have individual class penitential services which focus on God’s compassion and love, there are additional opportunities for Confessions and focus within class on God’s forgiveness and of course P4 continue to prepare and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“This year we are introducing an opportunity for Lenten Reflection each Friday morning before school. The joy of having a late Easter this year is that pupils will be here with us during Holy Week and our senior pupils will guide other classes through the Stations of the Cross too.”

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