Religious Life

Although we are avowedly Catholic we embrace children from all faiths who, once at St Joseph’s, will share our spiritual … Continue reading

OUR RELIGIOUS CHARACTER

Although we are avowedly Catholic we embrace children from all faiths who, once at St Joseph’s, will share our spiritual life throughout their days at the college. Our faith is celebrated in Religious Education lessons, masses, chaplaincy groups and by students actively engaging in community service and going on retreats.

We understand completely the importance of supporting our young people in the transition from one school to another and indeed throughout their school life.

We therefore place great emphasis on the pastoral system that underpins every child’s progress and the sense of belonging and togetherness that comes from the college House system.

We endeavour to create a sense of belonging and mutual respect for every student; a culture where taking part and celebrating success is endemic , whatever the area of skill.

Pupils’ thoughts and reflections

 

CAFOD Romero Mass – Y9

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A fantastic day for 6 year 9 students in Birmingham at St Chad’s Cathedral – The students had sessions run by CAFOD in which they learnt about Bishop Romero, his life and where he worked. They were then given the Dragon’s Den style task of coming up with a development project to help combat some of the problems faced in El Salvador.

 

Amongst some tough competition on a bid to win votes and money for their project, they were promised a McFlurry to encourage them to fight for their project. This proved exceedingly when they came joint second, obtaining 75% of the start up cost for the project.

 

They designed a “Multicycle” – this could be used for various activities, such as transport, meaning access to education, healthcare and employment were improved. Attached to some wires, it could become a generator to provide basic electricity to the mud houses. It had a basket on in order to make collection of water and shopping a less difficult, and being a mountain bike it could cope with the terrain. The bikes would come from families in the UK who are getting rid of their old bikes, and books would be provided by Oxfam and their second hand book scheme. Once delivered to households in El Salvador, they would be taught how to maintain and repair their bikes from damage making the project sustainable.

 

The morning activities were followed by a public mass celebrating the life of Oscar Romero.

 

Miss C McKenna

 

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We spent a lovely week on retreat at Castlerigg Manor in sunny Keswick during the second week of February. Spirts were high on the coach, as Year 8 were looking forward to spending time with friends, old and new, in the Lake District. Almost straight away, we got involved in team-building activities: Magic Carpet, Play Your Cards Right, Pictionary, Human Knot, Hoops of Fun and many more. Later on in the day, after a rousing rendition of ‘We Will Praise You’ for grace and some lovely food for tea, we watched an inspiring film – ‘The Butterfly Circus’. We learnt to really believe in ourselves, use our talents and to never give up. We also spent time making clay tiles that represented all of our talents, attributes and favourite things – from rugby pitches to celebrities.

The second day of our stay was spent walking around the Lakes and some free time in Keswick. Although we saw lots of beautiful scenery and stunning landscapes, the chilli jelly sweets were definitely not a very good idea. We also spent some of our time preparing for mass, which allowed us to work in groups to put a personal and modern spin on mass time. The highlight being an interesting take on the Gospel – where Jesus used Instagram and everyone has mobile phones.

Fun and games and the disco closed our final evening – where many wonderful dance styles and interpretations were seen. Strictly Come Dancing should be calling some of us soon to be on their next series.

We left the following day, on a long journey back to Stoke. Everyone had a great time and it was great to hear the many reasons why the trip was a success (even if one person’s highlight was KFC).

We’d like to say a massive thank you to all of the staff that came with us and to all of the students for their brilliant behaviour and positive attitude throughout the retreat.

Here’s to Castlerigg 2016.

Mr B Weaver and Miss C McKenna

 

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Alton Castle was a brilliant religious experience. There were prayers and religious songs. It brought us closer together as friends and brought us closer to Jesus.

There was fun and games which involved us working together and using our heads; like they say: Two heads are better than one.

First we had to sit down and got to find out each other’s names. Then we played a game where the objective was to transfer one ball from one bucket to another. After we went to a small room where we were able to be put into different groups and relived a Bible story and then went into prayer.

At the end of the day we went into the church where we sat through a service and we got to talk to God so altogether it was a pretty successful day.

By Luke Pierce-Powell (7SB)

Soli House- Year 11 Retreat

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On Wed 11th November 2015, 22 of us ventured to Soli house in Alton for a residential retreat. This was a fantastic experience for us to get to know people in our year who we wouldn’t normally be friends with. It really helped us to take a step back from school life and get away from revision and the stress of mock examinations. We really enjoyed having fun in the teamwork games; these were really successful even though we were in groups with people who weren’t necessarily our friends. The theme of the retreat was ‘Inspired’, we spoke about how others inspire us and how we can inspire others, the leaders at the centre were all really enthusiastic and they definitely highlighted what the theme meant.

Rachel Humphreys 11 SG

 

Diocesan Combined Schools Mass 2015

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At the beginning of the September we took 15 of our Chaplaincy Reps to Birmingham Cathedral to join with other schools within the diocese to celebrate the beginning of the new school year. At this Special Mass all Chaplaincy teams were commissioned with a special Blessing from the Bishop.This was a wonderful celebration and a great day to network and share faith with our fellow schools.

Savio House – Y10 Retreat, 27th-29th November 2013

28 of our year group went to Savio House on retreat at the end of November. A lot of us were worried that it wouldn’t be as good as our year 9 to retreat to Conway. Savio House was the best week of my life! I enjoyed everything about it so much. I wish that it lasted longer because I honestly loved the 3 days there, I am hoping I can go back on the return days in the Summer. My real dream is to work there once I have completed my A level’s, taking a gap year hopefully impacting on students as much as the team there had an impact on me.

Maisy Chawner-Bowers

 

St Cassians

St Cassian’s – October 2013

A small group of us went to St Cassian’s in November for four days. This was the most amazing experience of my life. what made it so special was that we got to share the retreat with another school. and so made lots of new friends. This retreat really helped me to think about and reflect on my faith. The opportunity to retreat away from life in year 11 was very welcome, and since my return I feel fully ready to take on the challenge of GCSES. Since our return lots of us have become more involved in the Catholic life of the school. I have been so inspired by this retreat that I am really keen to take my gap year as a volunteer there. Thank you for organising this opportunity.

Y11 Student

Encounter

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I have spent three days in a conference centre with a group of teenagers, surrounded by snowy scenes straight from Christmas cards, wearing pyjamas, sitting on oversized pillows; talking, laughing and crying. It has beenharrowing and heartwarming, inspirational and humbling, exhaustive and refreshing.

I have been Encountered.

 

Encounter is a retreat programme which was set up by the Christian Brothers and which can hardly be described:it has to be experienced.

I’ve been involved in a lot of youth work, much of it within a Christian setting, but this is one of the mostpowerful and potentially life changing projects I have had the privilege to be involved with.

With our title themes being Peace, Love, Hope, Freedom and Faith, it is, or it can be, an Encounter with God, but that isn’t necessarily brought about through liturgy or worship or ritual. The basis of this retreat is truth. Pure, simple, emotional truth.

 

Our lives are so busy. There is little opportunity to just be. In moments where there is nothing to do, where we can rest and reflect, where there is a pause, we have started to use technology to fill the gaps. We rarely value  the silence, instead we stream the latest hits on spotify. We rush from one thing to the next, hardly ever stopping. We repeatedly ask how people are but do we ever answer? Or do we just respond with the social convention of ‘fine, thanks’ or ‘I’m good, how are you?’.

Encounter is a chance to stop, to switch off our phones and focus on faces rather than facebook. To really retreat from all that hustle and bustle and just remind ourselves what is actually important. Our daily stresses often revolve around our to-do lists and our deadlines, society seems to tell us that to be successful we need to be busy, to get a good, well-paid job, to have the latest, most advanced, most expensive item of cool. But when we take a step back are those really the things that we hold dear?

 

For me, one of the clearest messages in the Church is that we don’t have to follow all the social conventions or live up to society’s often unattainable expectations. At a retreat I attended last autumn we were called to beCounter Cultural Christians. To stand up and stand out. That might be through following the example of Jesus and working in those ‘unfashionable’ places, reaching out to those on the outskirts of our society who need to hear our message the most, or it might be in a more simple way: asking someone how they are and actually giving them the chance to answer. Listen to their story. It may only take a few minutes of your time to learn that the person who has said ‘I’m fine, thanks’ for the past three years has defined ‘fine’ as ‘still functioning, still getting through the day even though I don’t want to, still keeping my head above water even though I constantly feel like I’m drowning in a sea of pressures, grief, loneliness, depression or fear’ but those few minutes could make the world of difference. Just one moment of understanding is enough to change a perception, and one changed attitude is enough to change the way a person lives, and action is the only way we can challenge a culture that seems to dismiss emotion and experience in favour of popularity and possessions.

Miss B Barnett

 

Donation to Sanctus

A Stoke based project that supports asylum seekers and refugees opened its doors to our donation of clothes and food today.  From the collection that we did for the asylum seekers and refugees one bus-load was taken to the Salford project and a second to our local centre based at St Mark’s Church in Shelton.

Rev Sally Smith was incredibly delighted by the delivery and offered a huge thank you to everyone in the school community that has helped in some way.  These donations are much needed as the weather becomes increasingly colder.

For more information about how you might be able to help this incredibly worthwhile project then have a look at the following website:

http://www.sanctusstmarks.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

Year 12 RE symposium day

Our first General RE symposium day, ‘Faith in Action’,  provided us with the opportunity to develop our understanding of the challenges faced by asylum seekers and contribute positively towards the work of the UN’s World Refugee Day. As well as allowing us to speak to Asylum seekers and hear their stories in person, the day also gave us the opportunity to participate in the ‘Nine is Mine’ letter writing campaign. The ‘Nine is Mine’ charity works to increase the budget spent on education and health in India to 9% of the country’s GDP. The day allowed us to fully comprehend the importance of the work of ‘Nine is Mine’, before going on to encourage us to write to the government in order to ask for their support for the campaign.  We each therefore wrote a letter addressed to William Hague informing him about the aims of the campaign, as well as reiterating how deprived manychildren in India are. In writing these letters we are hoping to encourage the British government to back the campaign, and therefore contribute positively to the lives of other children.

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Following on from this part of the day, we were then able to be able to meet with refuges and learn more about their experiences. At the start of the session Brother Ger O’Connell briefly introduced three refugees from the Salford refugee center; these individuals had kindly volunteered themselves to talk to us. They each told us a bit about themselves such as their name, age, where they came from and how long they have been in the UK.  They then individually told us their story of the struggles and hardships they faced being in a place where their freedom was limited and what it was like coming to England and living here. For example, the traumatic experience of feeling forced out of your country because your life is at risk, the journey here which was often dangerous and distressing, the lack of food or communication with anyone, the arrival into a new country, the risk that they could have been rejected and sent away at the border and the potential discrimination of feeling of not being accepted by our country. It was inspiring to hear their experiences and how much strength and hope they must have had to cope with such trauma. Hearing these stories was highly eye opening for us students and showed us that contrary to the views often presented in the media, refugees do not come here to take our jobs, money and change British culture. When talking to fellow students, it became clear that talking to these amazing people gave us an entirely new perspective on the challenges faced by refugees and made us appreciate the freedom that we receive as British citizens.

Here are some quotes from year 12 students when evaluating their first General RE symposium day:

‘Today has made me see past the headlines and hear individual experiences’.

‘I understand who asylum seekers are now and will in future be more wary when reading news stories about asylum seekers and refugees’.

‘I now see how their lives and journeys demonstrate how human rights are significant and should be given to all.’

‘I feel as though I may in the future volunteer to help.’

‘I realise how privileged I am.’

Jessica Dell, year 12

 

Y12 Encounter Retreat January 29th – January 31st 2014

The Year 12 Encounter Retreat lead by 7 Y13 students exceeded all of my expectations. I loved listening to everyone’s stories and been able to share your own story in small groups. There were 50 of us overall and it felt like such a close family. None of us wanted to go home on the Friday! And our only complaint was that the retreat wasn’t long enough. Everything was fabulous-even the bacon at breakfast.

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This retreat sold out within 2 hours, and none of us were really sure what to expect but we were so keen to sign up because it’s all we heard about from the year above. I’m so glad I was lucky enough to go on Encounter. It’s taught me what Love, hope, Peace, Faith and Freedom really means in my life. What was brilliant was that I could be absolutely myself. I would recommend this retreat to everyone…it is so worth it! It is life changing, and so difficult to sum up in words. You need to go on it to fully appreciate what it does for people.

York Goodwin, Y12 Student.

 

 

Reflection on Waterford and Callan

12 Senior Prefects, 4 Staff & 2 Christian Brothers went to Dublin, Waterford & Callan, and walked the footsteps of Blessed Edmund Rice at the beginning of October. When we arrived in Dublin we began our ‘Emmaus journey’ and were encouraged to open our hearts, minds and eyes to all of the messages in the days to follow. We arrived in Waterford, a busy city where Edmund grew up and had a tour. We walked around the city and saw first-hand the impact that Blessed Edmund had on this beautiful place. We were shown all of the points that significant events in Edmund’s life happened, We learned about the calling he felt from God to respond to the needs of the poor children in the city. As we walked around city we felt closer to Blessed Edmund.

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Hearing about the impact that Blessed Edmund had on the children he helped in the city was awe- inspiring. We then enjoied a tour around the museum and learned more about who Edmund was, what he did and how he devoted his life to helping children on the fringes of society. He used his wealth for the good of others.

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The last leg of our journey was to the birth place of Blessed Edmund, Callan. We went to the house where he was born and it was there that he came alive for me. Along the way the Christian brothers were so welcoming and hospitable. They were a real inspiration to us, they are living day saints reaching out to those in need and we saw this first hand. Before I went to Waterford I didn’t realise the impact that the Christian Brothers have around the world globally. I was amazed to learn of all of the corners of the earth in which they are living out the message of Edmund Rice. It is truly an honour to be part of that network. Walking the footsteps of Edmund Rice has been one of the most worth-while, beneficial things I have done, and it has given me a new renewed outlook on life.”

Declan McHugh, Y13, Senior Prefect.