Fr. Paul Zammit, SJ, Secondary School Chaplain from St. Aloysius College, shares how the school is nourishing and supporting the Christian life in their students and staff during the Pandemic.
St Aloysius College is a Jesuit schools in Malta that offers a vast spectrum of activities aimed at nourishing and supporting the Christian life in our students and staff. The pandemic has affected the delivery of our spiritual services, and in order to keep providing spiritual accompaniment we have put in place many actions which we would like to share in this article..
Students and staff members who join the Eucharists, are offered the opportunity of celebrating Mass every week. On special occasions the school also organises a school Mass which is well prepared. Of course, all this came to an end when school closed down last March. Yet on 21 June, feast of St Aloysius the school patron saint, we celebrated a Mass which was transmitted online. Representatives of parents, staff and students from the three schools (Primary, Secondary and Sixth Form) were invited to contribute to the celebration. More than 350 families followed it on screen. The feedback received was encouraging.
Some of the services that we were not able to provide due to Covid – 19 were the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Normally, students have a penitential service once month which is well prepared by teachers. Also, summer experiences during Voluntary work were not possible. Another service was the Retreats, this year 9 classes missed this experience when school was suspended. These are provided once a year for each class (25 of them). During the summer months, the school offers a three-day retreat to students in Forms 2,3,4 and 5. Since this was not possible this year, the chaplaincy offered a mini-retreat on line. The experience was well received, with students asking for more.
Usually, the chaplaincy, with the help of teachers, organises hikes and live-ins. The students like them a lot. Besides a time for prayer, we also practise the Examen – by the sea side! For the chaplain and the leaders, this gives us opportunity to be close to students who share a lot about their life and concerns in an informal setting. Till now no such activities are possible.
The chaplains are always available for teachers, students and parents who come to ask for advice or share about their life. This was carried online for a number of members of the school community. Everyday, the chaplain tried to get in contact, on telephone or through messenger with about 4 people.
Throughout the pandemic, the chaplaincy sent a message of encouragement, a prayer or a reflection on aspects of Christian life to the school community. Themes such as the sick, refugees (we had a crisis when a boat with 50 refugees was not allowed to land its passengers in Malta – 5 people on board died till the boat was pushed back to Libya).
Moreover, when it was no longer possible to hold the weekly meetings at school, we had recourse to messages and, later on, to virtual meetings. The number of participants dropped; but the quality of the meetings improved considerably! The EYM Day was organised on 19 June, where members from the three schools joined in for 2 hours of praying, sharing and playing. It was a grand finale in its own way.
One trend which was also evident in the case of the school online was the fact that those who were doing well before the outbreak did even better, during the crises. Some members disappeared and could not be reached. It reminds me of Luke 8:18!…