November is the month of the Holy Souls when we, as Catholics, remember those who have died; family and friends alike. It begins with All Saints on 1 November and continues with the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (All Souls) on the 2nd.
It is also a time, established after the end of World War One, 100 years ago, when those who have died as a result of war and conflict are remembered. At McAuley Catholic High School, Doncaster, this period marked a very special, significant and poignant time.
On 26 October, the very day the school and other Catholic schools celebrated Catholic Education in Doncaster, Fr John McNamee passed away. Fr Mc, as he was known to everyone in school, was a former diocesan Episcopal Vicar for Education, former Chair of Governors of St Joseph’s, Rossington and McAuley too. Fr Mc will be remembered affectionately for his uncompromising support for us and, more especially, for our children. This was recognised when over 1000 children and staff lined Cantley lane and stood in silence, many making the sign of the cross as Fr Mc’s cortege made its way to Rose Hill on 12 November. McAuley staff provided musical accompaniment, sixth form students read the intercessions and four sang beautifully during the Requiem Mass.
That same day we held two minutes silence at 11am, with a short service on both sites following the playing of the last post, completing our Armistice Commemorations during the week with services. At a special event on Friday all students experienced a presentation whilst sat in a remarkable poppy installation, featuring hundreds of paper poppies made by student and staff volunteers.
On 29 November a professional actor, Michael Mears, performed his challenging one man play, ‘This Evil Thing’, which tackled the question of conscience in war and addressing student questions afterwards.
The month of remembrance finished on the 30th with our annual Mass for Deceased Friends and Colleagues, which always includes the reading out of the names of those linked to our school community who have died.
The month of November was truly memorable and will be long remembered.
John Rooney, Headteacher, McAuley Catholic High School