I am a past pupil of Thornhill, but for the past 35 years I have lived in the South of England. I teach at Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Hove, Sussex. It is one of the largest Catholic comprehensive schools in Europe; a diverse, inclusive community, vibrant with people from all cultures and social backgrounds, and rich in tradition. There has been a school on our site for almost 150 years, and our current school has just celebrated its Golden Jubilee.
Our values are Caritas, excellence and togetherness, and we have adopted part of St John Henry Newman’s Meditation on Trust as our school prayer.
God has committed me to do Him some definite service,
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission.
I may never know of it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connections between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good. I shall do his work.
We work collectively to discern the “definite service” that God has committed for us, with Jesus at the centre of all that we do. This has guided us to enrich the pastoral care we offer and helped us form “bonds of connection” with other schools, colleges, universities, religious and community groups to come together as Brighton & Hove Citizens. Collectively, we are campaigning for social change in our area: to improve mental health provision, affordable housing and transport, the real living wage and safe spaces for young people.
I was fortunate to attend the Million Minutes awards at the Houses of Parliament recently. These awards recognise and celebrate young people in support of Catholic Social Teaching; those who transform lives and lead change in the community. Hosted by Siobhan Mc Donagh MP, and in the presence of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, two of our young people active in the Brighton & Hove Citizens movement received awards.
Andrew received the Dorothy Day award for community service, for sharing his photographic account of local action over social media. Merit was highly commended for the Joseph Cardijin Award for protecting the dignity of labour, for her work on the Real Living Wage campaign.
A third member of our Newman community was also an award winner. Fr Paul Wilkinson was one of the first intake of students to join the newly formed Cardinal Newman Catholic School in 1971. It was wonderful to share the joy when he received the Rutilio Grande and Companions award for his work teaching university students how to campaign peacefully for social change.
All of this happened in the same building where earlier that day the British prime minister had resigned. It felt momentous! It was so incredibly energising to be in a room celebrating young people in all their diversity, filled with faith and hope and purpose, juxtaposed with the chaos and confusion outside. The warmth and welcome for all in the room surely gave us a glimpse at the treasure to come.
Grainne Byrd is Director of Faith & Ethos, Cardinal Newman Catholic School and a past pupil of Thornhill College, Derry (1978 – 85)