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The work undertaken by the Chaplaincy at Stonyhurst is a crucial part of school life. We caught up with Catherine Hanley, Lay Chaplain at Stonyhurst College to find out more about their work.
Q. What is the role of the Chaplaincy at Stonyhurst?
A. Our role is to support the spiritual development of students, staff and the wider Stonyhurst community.
Q. Who is in the team and what do they all do?
A. Fr. Tim Curtis SJ is the Chaplain, so he delivers our religious services and also provides spiritual guidance, comfort and counseling for the Stonyhurst community.
I am the Lay Chaplain – I co-ordinate Stonyhurst’s retreat programme and Ignation formation for staff, promote ways of putting faith into action and provide support for students, staff and parents in spiritual matters.
Paul Warrilow is the Assistant Lay Chaplain. He has been a religious studies teacher here for over 30 years and is Rhetoric Playroom Master. Outside of his teaching and pastoral duties, he assists Fr. Tim and me on a part-time basis.
We’re fortunate in that we have a team of about ten staff members throughout the school who are passionate about what we do. They voluntarily support the Chaplaincy around their work, and are very much part of our team.
Q. What is the most rewarding thing about working in the Chaplaincy?
A. It’s definitely when you get through to one of the students in a way that you know will shape who they become – that moment when you see firsthand that something you have said or done has inspired them and planted a seed that will continue to grow.
Q. What are the main challenges that the Chaplaincy faces?
A. One challenge we face is around perception. We try to ensure that absolutely everybody knows they are welcome here. Regardless of their faith or belief system, everyone can benefit from involvement with the Chaplaincy. Our work is very much about helping each individual to develop holistically and become ‘men and women for others’.
That is not something that is exclusive to people of faith or to one particular religion. Those who are non-religious can achieve the same result by asking the right questions inwardly of themselves instead of asking them of their God. Being a person for others is relevant to everyone and is very much part of the fabric of the Stonyhurst community.
Q. What are your main focuses?
A. The Chaplaincy marks the rhythm of the school year with religious celebrations and masses for the entire school – for example we have the Passion Service coming up on 21 March to mark the last day of term before students head home for the Easter break.
We undertake a lot of social justice work, from wheelchair dancing and environmental work to a project that’s currently underway in partnership with the local community to resettle a Syrian refugee family.
Retreats are always a focus for us, as their purpose is to engage the pupil with spiritual and personal experience and growth. We also plan trips to local youth masses and youth faith conferences too.
Q. When a pupil finishes their time at Stonyhurst and heads down the driveway, what do you deem ‘success’ looks like for the Chaplaincy?
A. That they have become men and women for others and have a sense of social justice instilled within them. No matter where their future career takes them, we hope that they carry that generosity and desire to do social justice with them forever.
Q. What are the most important considerations when planning the curriculum?
A. We have to be aware of what’s happening in the world and, to an extent, try and predict the skills and knowledge that are most likely to bring our students success in the world post-Stonyhurst. It’s important for us to think about what their next steps are likely to be and provide a rounded experience that furnishes them beyond exam results.
Q. What’s the future direction of the Chaplaincy?
A. We’re currently developing a five year retreat plan for College students that will see them develop their spiritual selves over a structured five year journey. Each retreat will be tailored specifically by age, so will be effective in isolation for those students who only join us for a year or two, but those who attend the complete series of retreats over the full five years will feel the benefit of a complete and considered journey of development.
We’re also shifting our focus to do more international work too through environmental work and by building links with other Jesuit schools around the world.