My name is Claire Franke and I have the privilege of being the Lay Chaplain at St Wilfrid’s, working with our excellent team of deanery clergy and with many others in the community to ensure that our students are given an opportunity to grow in their relationships with God during their time at the school and to help them to see the good in themselves. As Lay Chaplain I am very lucky to be supported by the “Spiritual Life Group” made up of volunteer students and staff who reflect and advise on the liturgical life of the school, keeping the message of the Gospels relevant to all within our community.
Here at St Wilfrid’s we do far more than simply give our students a secular education. It is also true to say that we see ourselves as more than just providing a service. Obviously our mission encompasses both those things very strongly, but as a Catholic school we believe in educating the “whole” person, seeing every single person in the way that God sees them: each with a unique and beautiful set of gifts and talents, a spiritual life, a place in the world and each called to communion with God and with one another. As such, we ensure that our school is a loving caring community, marked out by its strong and loving Gospel values and emphasising the Christian dimension in all that we do.
We take inspiration from these words often attributed to St Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”
Chaplaincy work in the school has many faces. There are the daily prayer resources that are used in classrooms, the weekly Mass, larger Masses for special occasions, events to mark the various seasons and feast days in the Church, charity and fund-raising events, as well as providing our Year Leaders with pastoral support and a whole host of other things. As Lay Chaplain it is also my job to run the school’s retreat programme; a programme which offers a retreat to each student in Years 7 to 11 every year. These provide students with a valuable opportunity to take a step back from their studies for a period of time to reflect and bond with one another in a different setting. Mass and prayer are central to these times.
Another important function of chaplaincy is to develop links with local parishes and primary schools. We recognise that we are by no means in it alone, so to speak. We are lucky to have such an amazing community in this deanery.
It’s also the job of the Lay Chaplain to provide spiritual support for staff, recognising as we do, that supporting those who do the work of the school is as important as the support we give to our students.