Our first impression was of a nervous cohort, all of whom looked as if they should be in Year Three of Junior School. Despite their brand new uniforms and new title, they just did not seem big enough to be in secondary school!
School photographs were taken in the Chapel, under the kindly smile of St John Bosco, ahead of that day five years hence when they would be mature enough to leave us to go on to pastures new; hopefully, confident citizens willing to spread the Word of God.
Three were chosen to be our helpers and go round the forms giving out planners. Three smiling, confident faces who followed us and diligently counted out these important books. Three Year Sevens who chatted to us about holidays, getting up early, searching out uniforms and then travelling to their new school. Would they all prove to be so happy and mature?
Within an hour, one girl was tearfully explaining that she couldn’t cope with all these people who surrounded her. Another, green-grey around the gills, confessed to feeling quite sick. A boy complained there was too much information given to him too quickly for him to follow. Another half hour passed and twenty of them were wailing that they didn’t remember where their next class was and ten had completely lost their timetables.
Three spent their break in the Bosco Room being re-orientated or mopping up tears so that they could face the world once more.
All were learning their new motto: Don’t leave your planner behind!
At the end of the day, we allowed them to make their way home. Gone was the sparkle and enthusiasm: ninety small boys and girls trailed along the road, feet stumbling, eyes closing and backs bowed under the weight of schoolbags.
But they came back the next day: refreshed and raring to go.
Our jobs had begun.
Father Ruszniak and I toured the Year Seven forms with news of the Chaplaincy and Bosco Group. We told them where to find us and of the clubs we ran after school. We told them about Prayer and Pizza, and Bowling and Laser – trips we organise locally. We invited them to go on pilgrimage to Walsingham with us and we told them of our charity work. We told them of our celebration of Holy Mass.
Our responsibility is to coax and comfort them; to encourage them and tease out their potential; to mould and shape them so that they will all shine to the best of their ability; to help them seek out what God created them for as, lovingly, He guides them through their lives.
It is our job to ensure that, in five years, we release onto the world, mature and responsible citizens.
We pray that we will not fail them.
St John Bosco and Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us all, protect us and bless us!