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Catholic Life

Information about Catholic life within our trust.

At the heart of St Mary’s are the Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust values which recognise the unique contribution that every member of our community makes. The Catholic life and mission of the school is underpinned by actions and experiences that ensure that these values are lived out in all aspects of school life and so our pupils grow to know God, understand their vocation, and feel safe, nurtured, valued and aspirational.

Our vision recognises the uniqueness of each person.  Our children recognise the uniqueness of each person.  Our children themselves have captured the essence of our vision in their shared Vision Statement:

Each One of Us is God’s Masterpiece! (Ephesian’s 2:10)

At St Mary’s School we are one big happy family as:

‘We Love, We Learn, We Live as followers of Jesus’

Develop spirituality

We believe that a knowledge of and a personal relationship with Christ brings meaning and direction to life. 

Act with justice, respect and dignity 

We believe that every member of our diverse community is created in God’s image and therefore we act with respect and show dignity, ensuring that all are treated with fairness, justice and equity. We work fervently to dispel inequality and pay special attention to those most in need. 

Foster a sense of vocation

We believe that all members of our Trust should be supported to recognise their own purpose and to develop a sense of how they are called to contribute to society.

Promote educational excellence

We believe that each person should be equipped to excel through the highest quality learning opportunities and richest wider-school experiences. 

Form high aspirations

We believe that every member of our Trust community should have the highest expectations of themselves and others and should be equipped with the knowledge and skills to achieve greatly.

Celebrate community

We believe that our schools promote truth, honesty, reconciliation, resilience and integrity in their own context, but together create strength, optimism and excellence across the Trust.   

Support exceptional leadership

We believe that the best leadership in Catholic Schools raises the work of the staff and the attainment of young people to levels that exceed expectations through relentless focus, effective management skills, profound empathy, sustained energy and robust optimism, underpinned by wide professional knowledge founded on innovative research.  

Our Parish

St. Mary’s First School is part of the Parish of St. Mary’s and is fortunate to have St. Mary’s Catholic Church as our next door neighbour! St. Mary’s parish is a large, lively and welcoming community serving a wide geographic area in and around Hexham in Northumberland, England.

Mass Times:

Saturday (Vigil) -5:30pm

Sunday-10:30am

Sunday-6:00pm

Our Parishhttps://www.stmaryshexham.org.uk/ 
Parish Newsletterhttps://www.stmaryshexham.org.uk/weekly-newsletter/ 
Our Parish Priesthttps://www.stmaryshexham.org.uk/whos-who/ 
Heavenfield Partnership Mass Timeshttps://www.stmaryshexham.org.uk/mass-times/ 
Hexham & Newcastle Diocesehttps://diocesehn.org.uk/ 

RE Policies

RE PolicyView
Catholic Life & Mission PolicyView
Prayer & Liturgy PolicyView
Collective Worship PolicyView

Prayer

Prayer forms a central part of the Catholic life of our school. Children learn our school prayers in Reception class, and the prayers are part of our daily routine in every class. 

As a school the children worked together in creating our own St. Mary’s school acrostic prayer that incorporates our mission statement: 

In addition to our school prayers, the children will learn formal prayers throughout school, including

· The sign of the cross 

· Hail Mary 

· Our Father 

· Responses to greet the Gospel 

· Prayers at Mass, (including: I Confess, Holy Holy, Lamb of God)

· The Act of Contrition 

· Eternal Rest  

Year Group Prayer Booklets 

As pupils progress through school they progress from learning their school prayers to learn more formal prayers. These are outlined in the prayer booklets for each year group:

Reception Prayer BookletView
Year 1 Prayer BookletView
Year 2 Prayer BookletView
Year 3 Prayer BookletView
Year 4 Prayer BookletView

Children enjoy praying in our Prayer Garden:

Meditation 

When the children come back into school after their lunchtime break, the first thing every class does, from Reception class to Year 4, is engage in a period of meditation. The children listen to a familiar piece of quiet, soothing music, which includes the refrain, “Maranatha”, meaning, “Come, Lord Jesus.” After this they enjoy a short period of silence, culminating in a final piece of music, asking Jesus to, “Open our ears to hear your voice, open our eyes to see your smile, open our mouths to speak your words, open our hearts to your love.” 

Meditation is always a very prayerful experience, and is an opportunity for the children to talk to God in the silence of their hearts. Often the children will be given something to focus on, such as the statement of the week or an image designed to promote and inspire reflection. 

Maranatha meditationView

Our meditation is also a great way for the children to prepare for their learning in the afternoon. 

Laudato Si’ Week 16th-20th October 2023

Pop Francis has written a letter addressed to every person on this planet, asking us all to protect the Earth ‘Our Common Home’. In Pope Francis’ letter he reminds us that the Earth is God’s gift to us, it is full of beauty & wonder and that the human family needs to work together to care for our Earth. During the week beginning 16 October we are celebrating ‘Laudato Si‘ Week‘ across our Trust.

On Monday 16 October, students from Cardinal Hume School and on Tuesday 17 October, pupils from St Joseph’s School, Gilesgate, lead Trust prayers online. Pupils at St. Mary’s joined in online.

Finally, on Friday 20 October, Fr Colm Hayden celebrated Mass for us at BWCET HQ. the children of St. Mary’s participated with this Mass online.

Five Minute Prayers 
Here is a 5 minute “Examen for children” which could be a wonderful resource to use before bedtime. 
   
https://soundcloud.com/pray-as-you-go/examen-for-children 

Catholic Social Teaching & St. Mary’s

At St. Mary’s Catholic First School we live out our Mission statement:

‘We Live, We Love, We Learn as followers of Jesus’

Encouraged to do so via our vision & values that focus on: Aspiration, Well-being & Global Citizenship as we endeavor to live out the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching in our everyday lives.

Collective Worship

In school, prayer and liturgy are central to our daily routine.  Sometimes, this can take the form of a simple meditation or sometimes we invite parents and parishioners into school to share in the breaking open of the gospels.  Visits to our beautiful parish church for Mass and visits from our parish priests, Father Jeff & Fr. Luke are a constant feature in our everyday life at St. Mary’s.   

Foyer Focus 

Each month each class is given the responsibility of organising fun and creative crafts to display in our school foyer to help celebrate the church year. We refer to this as ‘living liturgically’ or ‘living the liturgical year’: 

Month Class Foyer Focus 
September Year 4 Exaltation of the Holy Cross
October Year 3 St. Francis of Assisi
November Year 2 Feast Day of Christ the King 
December Whole SchoolDedicate a Star for friends/loved ones  
January Reception Holy Spirit Handprint Dove
February Year 1 Celebrating Candlemas 
March Year 4St. Katharine Drexel 
April Year 3 St. George 
May Year 2Dedication to Mary
June Year 1 St. Juliana-foundress of Servite nuns
July ReceptionSt. Thomas 

Mass 

During the start of each academic year, we hold a ‘Welcome Mass’ to celebrate the arrival of our Reception children into school. At the end of the summer term, we also hold a ‘Leaver’s Mass’ to say farewell to our year 4 pupils as they continue their journey onto middle school. The children are all involved in selecting appropriate hymns and preparing bidding prayers, and at the Mass the children will give the readings and the offertory procession. 

Each class also attends Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church every term and on special days in the Catholic calendar. 

Weekly Pupil-led Celebration of the Word

At the start of every half term each class is split into small groups, with each group being responsible for planning a pupil-led Celebration of the Word for one of the weeks in that half term. Outlined below are the key themes the children follow, that link into our ‘Significant Events Calendar’ for the academic year. Pupils focus on the 4 key areas when planning: We Gather, We Listen, We Respond, Go Forth.

Spring 2023View
Summer 2023View
Autumn 2023View
Spring 2024View
Summer 2024View

R.E. Topic-Class based Celebration of the Word

At the end of each of the nine RE units each class covers throughout the year, the children will prepare and share a Celebration of the Word with their class. This usually takes place in the classroom, but can also take place outside in our prayer garden, or elsewhere in a quiet, prayerful space. 

This Celebration of the Word is a chance to reflect on and respond to what the children have been learning in RE, and to celebrate as a class community. Parents are invited to attend one of class Celebration of the Word each term. 

Whole school Celebration of the Word 

Our classes regularly prepare a special celebrations of the Word to share in the hall with all the other children in school. Parents and families are welcome to come into school to share in these special celebrations, and it is always lovely to see the fantastic support the children enjoy from the adults in their lives. 

Here are some photographs of whole school Celebration of the Words that the children of St. Mary’s have been involved in recently.

We started our new academic year with a whole school liturgical prayer about ‘fresh starts‘. At the end of the liturgical prayer each class we took a candle back to their classrooms to act as reminder that we are entrusted to keep the light of Jesus shining brightly as we make a fresh start.

International day of Peace-21st September 2023

Thank you to all the families who joined us in school on Tuesday to take part in the Year 4 whole school Class Liturgical Prayer, celebrating International Day of Peace. The children all spoke wonderfully and took part in praying for peace in our world. On Thursday, years 3 and 4 also took part in the Hexham Abbey Joint Schools Project at Hexham Abbey as part of our celebration of International Day of Peace. The children joined with other local schools, singing and performing in front of parents and members of the public who were invited to attend the performance. The children were a credit to St. Mary’s and sang beautifully!

Mini Vinnies

Our Mini Vinnies group is made up from children in our Key Stage 2 classes, and is led by Miss. Baird. Mini Vinnies come together to form a part of the St. Vincent de Paul Society England and Wales, a voluntary organisation dedicated to tackling poverty in all its forms. Our Mini Vinnies group meets regularly to pray, discuss and support however they can to help make a difference in our school and parish communities. Mini Vinnies truly turn concern into action as they use the simple formula of ‘see, think, do’ to find people in need and help them. 

This term Mini Vinnies have decided to continue to support ‘The People’s Kitchen’ to help them provide more Christmas dinners to people on Christmas day. Click here to look at some of the things Mini Vinnies have accomplished recently.

Every year, our KS2 Mini Vinnies visit and sing for the elderly in our local care homes, our Mini Vinnies are proactive in supporting lots of charitable causes.  This year, they have coordinated the school’s combat against loneliness in creating and distributing Christmas and Easter cards as well as prayer intention cards for the people of the parish.

Charitable Causes & Social Justice Projects

Pope Francis has written a letter to everyone (Frutelli Tutti), asking us to reach out to our sisters and brothers in need, whoever they are, wherever they may come from. We are all challenged to think of ourselves as a single global family living in a common home, and neighbours to all. In St. Mary’s, we strive to live out our mission statement by implementing our vision and values, by being good global citizens and looking after the wellbeing of others.

St. Mary’s are committed to supporting charitable causes and social justice projects, both within our local community and further afield.   

Over the last year, our school community has generously supported the emerging refugee crisis in Eastern Europe and during Lent we participated in CAFOD’s ‘Big Lent Walk’ fundraiser to support overseas development.  Closer to home, we have ongoing foodbank collections and we work closely with partners in the Hexham community on a range of charitable and goodwill projects.   

The People’s Kitchen

At the start of this academic year we have been supporting ‘The People’s kitchen’ in Newcastle, the children brought in food

The People’s Kitchen support vulnerable people who might be at risk of homelessness,
unemployed, lonely or living in poverty. Thanks to the generosity of the families and children of St. Mary’s during Harvest Festival time, the warehouse at The People’s Kitchen was replenished with essential food items and the team can keep cooking hearty meals for people in need throughout the year.

MacMillan Cancer Care

We raised £162.28 for MacMillan cancer Care during our annual coffee afternoon this year.

Operation Christmas Child

A simple shoebox gift packed with love and fueled by prayer can have a huge impact! Operation Christmas Child brings great joy and the Good News of Jesus Christ to children around the world. This term, St. Mary’s have been collecting and contributing to shoeboxes for this fantastic charity. It is not just a gift for Christmas it is also the gift of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although we are a Catholic school, we have strong links with other Christian faith groups and organisations in the local area.  We welcome the ‘Open the Book’ team into school on a weekly basis.  Visits to other world faith centers also form part of a rounded education.  In recent times, our children have visited Newcastle’s central synagogue and mosque. 

CAFOD Live Simply Award

Within our school we understand that God has entrusted us with our beautiful earth, and that we have a responsibility to look after it and make sure that it survives for many more generations to come.  We learn about environmental issues though our Geography and science curriculum, and we also have a Regenerators Club. 

The Regenerators explore ways of making our school as sustainable as it can be, while also promoting this important message around school and encouraging everyone to take the message home too. Alongside this, we have our Gardening Club, helping children look at other ways of caring for our environment, including planting and growing their own vegetables! 

This year our school is working towards the CAFOD Live Simply Award. The Live Simply award is an opportunity for Catholic communities – parishes, schools, religious orders and chaplaincies – to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si’ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”. 

The children are learning and sharing with others about the important work CAFOD do. How CAFOD can spend funds that are raised including, buying crops, medical services, providing meals and even radios. 

We have a lot of ideas for topics and discussion. These include; showing films and documentaries on climate change and it’s impact, presentations on climate change and effects on the poor and disadvantaged, looking at overseas aid programmes and economic development including sustainable agriculture and food production. 

Year of Prayer 2024

In preparation for the 2025 Jubilee Year ‘Pilgrims of Hope’, 2024 has been designated a Year of Prayer by Pope Francis.

There is a particular focus on the Our Father, which presents us with a great opportunity to go back to the very basics of prayer. This year, we are invited as Catholics to have a deeper, prayerful encounter with Jesus; to go deeper in our commitment to pray, and to consider how we might share this with others. 

We aim to explore prayer opportunities and develop children’s understanding and faith. Over the coming year, we have dedicated each month to a specific theme/prayer which can be used to develop opportunities for the children to pray using material which may be unfamiliar to them:

Month
Prayer Focus
JanOur Father
FebGrace Before Meals
MarMagnificat
AprThe Creed
MayHail Mary
JunMake Me a Channel of your Peace-St. Francis
JulGlory Be To The Father
AugPromote ‘Our Father’ during Holiday Period
SeptThe Examen
OctImaginative Prayer/Meditation
NovPrayers for those who have died
DecMaranatha

Evidence of ‘Year of Prayer’ focus in St. Mary’s:

Jan 2024As we start this new year, and the focus on the ‘Year of Prayer’ we are spending time this month focusing on our spirituality and becoming witnesses to God in renewing our commitment to prayer with a particular focus on the ‘Our Father’ as the very basics of prayer. The children are participating in prayer stations to break down the prayer and establish greater meaning from it.
Feb 2024During February we are focusing on saying grace before meals as a way of offering thanksgiving.  
The term “grace” comes from the Latin ‘gratiarum actio’, which means “act of thanks”.  
 
Saying grace is a way of remembering that it was God who provided the meal and thanking Him for it. When we come to a meal hungry or appreciative of what it is, and that (often) it has been prepared by others for our benefit and that (ultimately) it is a blessing (a grace) from God-how proper it is that we should want to give thanks for the meal, for the giver and for those who have prepared it.  

Pausing for a moment of prayer before we eat – whether this is something we do as individuals or as a community – alerts us to this and helps our eating and drinking to be a more fully human action.  
Mar 2024During March we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation, marking the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he told her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is celebrated on 25 March each year. 
More importantly, since it occurs 9 months before the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, the Annunciation marks the actual incarnation of Jesus Christ – the moment that Jesus was conceived and that the Son of God became the son of the Virgin. 
The festival has been celebrated since the 5th century AD. 
The Magnificat is the song of Mary sung after the Annunciation, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth. The story is told in Luke’s Gospel. 

Year of Mary 2022-2023

 Throughout this liturgical year, we are celebrating our Year of Mary.  Commencing in December 2022, each month leading up to Advent 2023, will be a celebration of one of the graces we ask God for in our daily prayer.  Each month we have a theme dedicated to prayer throughout the school in forms of art, music, dance and scripture. Our prayer groups offered to both children and staff will also cover monthly themes. 

April 2023Image previewAs part of our ‘Year of Mary’ each class has visited our Annunciation Prayer station in the foyer. We discussed how Mary had the courage to say ‘yes’ to God and how sometimes when we are asked to do something difficult we make excuses. At the prayer station each child had the opportunity to think and pray about any challenges or difficulties that may be worrying them where they need some courage. 
June
2023

As we continue in our Year of Mary we are focusing on Mary’s love for us all, especially those who are in trouble or persecuted in some way. As part of Refugee Week we are asked the children and their families to pray for people who in trouble, in war zones or those who are refugees because they are escaping persecution.
We invited children and their families to write a short message on the heart below to hang on our Prayer Tree in school.
Sept
2023
To celebrate International day of Peace the children visited our Year of Mary Prayer station for September and carried out the following acts:


Nov 2023
To mark Armistice Day and remembering those who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Year 3 read beautifully, and the children showed great composure and respect during our two-minute silence.

Sacramental Preparation

The children in our Year 4 class have a very special year in their Catholic lives as they prepare to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion for the first time. 

Throughout the year, the children will learn about what it means to be sorry and to ask for forgiveness in their RE lessons on Reconciliation, and then learn about the Eucharist and the structure of the Mass in their unit preparing for their First Holy Communion. 

In addition, the children take part in a programme of preparation delivered by catechists from St Mary’s Catholic Church. 

Once the children have completed their preparation, they celebrate the Sacraments in church with their families and the parish community, before coming together with the whole school community for a special celebration Mass. 

RE & Catholic Life Survey

Useful Links

Wednesday Word:
The Wednesday Word, sharing Sunday’s Gospel, connecting Home, School & Parish with the Sunday Gospel to pray for the best for our children.
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Updated | 9th April, 2024 |

Latest News

Celebration of the Word

Reception were fantastic during their Celebration of the Word to celebrate International Day of Dance this morning. We are so proud of how the children danced and spoke on the microphone. It was fantastic to see how much they have developed in confidence during this academic year!

Economic Wellbeing

In PSHE, year 3 have been learning about ‘Economic Wellbeing’ our lesson this week was all about budgeting. The children were set a task of planning a class party with a budget of £20, they had to decide which items to buy as they did not have enough money to buy them all. This lesson […]

Year of Prayer-‘Our father’ Prayer Station

The children have been learning that 2024 has been designated a ‘Year of Prayer’ by Pope Francis, in preparation for the 2025 Jubilee Year ‘Pilgrims of Hope’. This month, the children are having the opportunity to go back to the very basics of prayer in focusing on the ‘Our Father’, taking part in some creative […]

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