Catholic Life at BGN
BGN is a Catholic School which seeks to appreciate and develop the talents and skills of each individual.
Inspired by the life of Christ and his teaching BGN School, in active partnership with home, parish and the wider community, endeavours to prepare our members to face the future with confidence and take up the challenge of the Gospel.
Catholic Life and Religious Education are central to the life of BGN. Our Catholic faith influences all the work of the school which strives to follow the gospel values of compassion, respect, truth, service and forgiveness.
Prayer runs through daily school life for both staff and pupils. Staff briefing and all staff meetings begin with A prayer and form time at the start of every day begins with a prayer of choice. Form tutors can refer to the staff handbook, the planner, Bible Alive, the weekly reflection newsletter or the 'praying.each.day.org' website.
A BGN Prayer Book containing a mixture of traditional and pupils' own prayers has been produced and form tutors and pupils use this regularly in their morning prayer.
All assemblies (whole school and year group) begin with the sign of the cross and follow the Liturgical Year. Form groups take turns to lead year group assemblies and all form tutors and their forms are given 'A Dummies Guide to Preparing a Year Group Assembly', a handbook designed by staff based on best practice and giving clear guidance about the expectations for an assembly.
Our Sixth Form regularly lead worship, particularly the Pupil Leadership Team during Advent and Lent when they lead out whole school assemblies.
All RE lessons begin with prayer and the Angelus is said in all lessons in Period 3.
Many acts of worship revolve around our chapel which is at the centre of the school, but it is always there for anyone to take a few minutes to reflect and pray informally and personally. Lunchtime prayer and discussion groups take place in the chapel from time to time, our parish priest leads the Rosary with form groups once a week and Sixth Form or Year 11 Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist lead Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament once a week.
Once a year, we hold a Day of Prayer for Vocations. Traditionally we have held it at the end of January (Feast of Don Bosco) or in February (around the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple). Each class goes into the chapel during the day for a period of prayer and contemplation in front of the Blessed Sacrament, with prayer cards and an activity to focus their prayer. Additionally, we hold a Vocations Weeks once a year to focus on vocation, exploring the concept through form time, assemblies and the different subject areas.
Pupils worship together prayerfully, respectfully, actively and with sincerity. They understand that the Catholic Christian ethos lies at the heart of the school that we are a practising faith community. Whilst there are clear expectations set by the school regarding collective worship, pupils respond positively and participate fully not simply because they are told to but because they are engaged, inspired and want to make their personal contribution.
Pupils regularly prepare and lead worship with confidence and skill. For example, in whole school mass and the weekly lunchtime mass pupils provide the music, write/lead the bidding prayers, bring the offertory gifts and distribute communion. Altar servers from all the parishes serve during whole school masses, on a rotation organised by the most senior altar server, usually a member of the Sixth Form or Yr 11. All pupils contribute to the singing and responses; several visiting priests and bishops have commented on the quality of the singing, both of individual soloists and of the whole school. Hymn practices are excellent!
The Celebration of Mass
Pupils from all year groups contribute to the celebration of whole school mass. Each form is also asked to prepare one lunchtime mass though pupils from other years and form groups are welcome and do attend regularly even when it is not their mass. When the mass is for a particular intention, it is especially well-supported. Pupils have designed both the Hymn Book and Order of Service that we use in this weekly mass. Additionally, form tutors and pupils are supported by 'A Beginners' Guide to Form Mass' which has been developed following feedback from staff in Catholic Life Meetings and includes the necessary information useful to know when preparing a form for mass.
In school, mass is celebrated one lunchtime a week, usually at the beginning and end of terms and on special feast days e.g BGN Day and on Holy Days of Obligation, but pupils also lead the celebration of mass in the parishes e.g Youth Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King. On an ordinary Sunday many pupils are active in their own parishes as welcomers, bringing the offertory gifts, altar servers, readers, musicians and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.
The celebration of mass is an essential part of the Year 6/7 Induction Programme - there is a Year 6 New Intake Mass in July for pupils and their primary school teachers and Year 7 Welcome Mass in October for pupils, parents, guardians and staff. Pupils leaving the school (in Years 11, 12 and 13) also celebrate a mass together with their parents and staff, taking a lead role in preparing the readings, music and bidding prayers.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation
The Services of Reconciliation for each year group during Advent and Lent are led with confidence and enthusiasm by each year group. Different forms have had the opportunity to prepare the drama, the prayers and readings. Every year, Year 8 produces videos about Lent and Reconciliation which are shown in the services across the school; they are always creative, thoughtful and demonstrate the understanding of their faith. Several Sixth Form pupils have produced icons and artwork for use in the services as a focus for prayer. Pupil behaviour during the hour-long service is always prayerful and respectful. Visiting priests from the deanery and the Oratory in Oxford have commented on how well pupils respond in the Services of Reconciliation and how positive the experience of hearing confessions is.
During Lent once every two years, pupils from Years 8-10 rehearse and perform Born for This, a dramatic and musical representation of the Stations of the Cross. The cast is very inclusive and involved up to 60 students either as narrators, actors or singers. The production is performed for the whole school, our partnership primaries and also for local Catholic and Anglican parishes; it is warmly received and well-supported, as well as being a powerful experience for those involved. The School Carol Service always takes place at St Johns' Church in Banbury every Advent, always to a packed church, and involves staff and pupils in a choir which is over one hundred strong.
John Paul II Award
We are also pleased that the John Paul II Award is now established in the school, benefitting our school and parish throughout the hours of service and projects our students commit to. It is a faith achievement award for young people between the age of 16 and 18 which is non-competitive, inclusive, flexible and voluntary. It enables our students to take an active part in the life of their Church - in the life of their community and society - becoming mare aware of the teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world and engaging at a deeper level with Christ. There are three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold which our students can take, depending on the number of hours they wish to dedicate to the award.
Every pupil in the school is encouraged to participate in the spiritual life of the school, but specific pupils are House Captains, and it is their responsibility to develop the Catholic Christian ethos and spirituality of the school through house council meetings. Fundraising takes place in many different ways e.g cake sales, non-uniform days, sports and music events, and house festivals to help a variety of charities, including Fr. Hudson Society, CAFOD and Breast Cancer Research.
Pupils have a clear sense of right and wrong and understand that their faith should influence their behaviour and moral choices.
The Live Simply Award
Most recently the school has signed up to and begun to develop an action plan for the Live Simply Award.
Pilgrimages and Retreats
One of the highlights of school life is the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes in Yr 12. Students are introduced gradually to the idea of being away from home and thinking about their faith through retreats with the Kenelm Youth Trust, first in Year 7 and then later in Yr 10 at the Diocesan Retreat Centre in Staffordshire. The experience of pilgrimage really comes to fruition in Year 12 when they work with the sick and elderly in the beautiful setting of the Pyrenees. The first pilgrimage from BGN took place in 1991 and we have been going ever since.