The RE Subject Leaders from the primary schools in our diocese were welcomed to Rome by Fr Kevin McGinnell during the final weekend of October.
The pilgrimage involved many trips to significant churches across the city for example: San Giovanni in Laterano, the Pope’s Cathedral; San Luigi ei Francesci, which houses Caravaggio’s painting ‘The Calling of St Matthew’ and San Giorgio in Velabro - Newman’s title church as cardinal. Here, Fr Kevin led us in a reflection, praying that, with God’s help, we are guided in our own missions. Fr Kevin was relentless in his commitment to making the most of every moment, ensuring we visited every church on his list - walking in excess of 75km across the weekend.
We celebrated Mass in honour of St John Henry Newman in the College Church of the Venerable English College; a site steeped in history, starting life as a pilgrim Hospice before becoming a seminary. Forty-four former students have been martyred and above the altar in the church hangs the Martyrs’ Picture, painted in 1583 by Durante Alberti.
The group had the opportunity to visit the Vatican on several occasions, where we had the privilege of celebrating Mass at the tomb of Pope Saint John XXIII in St Peter’s Basilica. Dominique Smith, from The Good Shepherd, Northampton, delivered the prayers on behalf of the school communities of several of our schools to the Pope’s police force. We hope that these will have reached Pope Francis to include in his own prayers.
One of the highlights of the whole trip was attending the Angelus with Pope Francis on Sunday, at the end of the Pan-Amazonian Synod. He told us to listen to the voices of the poor and the young, asking us to be conscious of the needs of others before ourselves: a message we will bring back to our own schools to share with the children, staff and wider community.
This pilgrimage has not only been a spiritually uplifting experience for the Primary RE Subject Leaders, but has also been an opportunity to develop better links across our schools, which, in turn, will further opportunities to share good practice across our diocese.
We thank Fr Kevin for his determination in being an excellent guide when showing us the city where he studied and worked; Anne-Marie McIntosh, Primary RE Adviser, who masterminded the trip and the Sisters of Maestre Pie Filippini, who gave us a wonderful welcome to Rome and made our stay comfortable. We look forward to sharing all we have learned and experienced with the children, staff and communities in our schools.