On Thursday June 22nd, our community gathered at St. Columba’s Church, Wallsend to celebrate the Feast of St. Thomas More, our school’s patron. We had a joyous celebration of Mass to kick off the celebrations, with music from the school choir, dancing from our Year 7 dancers and readers from our school council. The Mass was celebrated by Fr Martin Stempczyk and concelebrated by the rest of our Partnership priests and deacon. Around 450 people were in attendance – a wide variety of students from across the school, members of staff, parents and families, and many, many parishioners – all of whom gathered to give thanks for the life and work of our school community and for all that has taken place this year.
Below are the thoughts of Colin Finlay, ex-assistant Head and current Governor of St Thomas More, who was instrumental in the organisation of this inaugural Feast Day, along with his grandson William McAndrew, current Year 8 student at St Thomas More.
We had a wonderful celebration of the feast of St. Thomas More this week. The students and staff of St. Thomas More Academy took over Our Lady’s and St. Columba’s church for the day to present displays and activities which reflect the community of the school and its families. The range of talents evident was amazing. The church was packed for the evening celebrations which began with concelebrated Mass, followed by an opportunity to see the displays and hear about life at our Academy. Plenty of fun was to be had, with free food and refreshment and even a bouncy castle for the little ones! Thank you to everyone at St. Thomas More for sharing their special day with us. Each are proud to be part of the community which makes up the family of St. Thomas More Academy. Echoes of the last hymn, ‘Oh Happy Day’, spilled out of the main doors across the car park and the street during rehearsals! Not only did it sound great, but it must have lifted the spirits of many a passer-by.
A Promise is a Promise
Back in the nineteen thirties, a group of parishioners approached the parish priest, Fr. Toner, to ask if they might erect a memorial to all those who had fallen in the Great War. Fr. Toner readily agreed and the tribute was to be placed in the Sacred Heart Chapel of the proposed new church. Fundraising began in earnest through the “penny a brick” campaign to replace the rickety ‘tin chapel’ with a fine new building. History, though, intervened: another world war brought conflict to the very doorsteps of the town, and there followed many other smaller wars. As a shipbuilding and coal mining town, many sacrifices were made by those on the home front as well as on the battlefield.
The new church was opened in 1957, a magnificent modern place of worship, but the idea of a memorial had been lost in the mists of time. Until now. Seeking a fitting way to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, another group of parishioners unearthed the scrappy, handwritten minutes of the war memorial proposal from all that time ago. An approach was made to the students of St. Thomas More Academy who eagerly agreed to create a piece of artwork to remember all those who had made sacrifices in war. Their work, a set of hexagonal ceramic panels, reflecting the architectural design of the church ceiling and stained glass, includes scenes of remembrance and honour for those who have fallen and the spirit of those left at home.
The work was presented to Fr. Anthony during the St. Thomas More Feast Day celebrations and will be installed and inaugurated on Remembrance Sunday this year. Eighty years late, but… a promise is a promise.
Father Anthony, parish priest of St Columba’s, writes:
“Thursday evening was a truly wonderful celebration. There was a most prayerful atmosphere in the Church and one of fun and laughter afterwards. The parishioners I have spoken to and who were present have commented on the lively faith of the students who took part in the celebration. I would add that their behaviour and enthusiasm both in the morning and evening was quite exemplary. Thank you to the members of staff and students who were instrumental in all of the preparations. Thank you also to all who though about and made the plaques for the Sacred Heart chapel – a fine piece of work. May the blessing of peace rest on all in the Academy.”
A former parent commented:
“What a lovely occasion, it was great to see so many young people and families all taking part in a joint event between school and church. It gave everybody the opportunity of taking part and meeting up with old friends. May God continue to Bless the school that we are lucky to have.”