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Bishop of East Anglia joins Mary Ward Day celebrations

Bishop of East Anglia joins Mary Ward Day celebrations

In January each year we celebrate Mary Ward Day – marking the birthday of our school’s foundress Mary Ward (1585-1645). On Tuesday 23 January the Rt Rev Alan Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia, joined us for this year’s celebrations.

The Bishop spent time with the school’s Mary Ward scholars and CAFOD Young Leaders, visited students in lessons at the Junior School and Senior School, and presided over a special feast day Mass for the Senior School and Sixth Form community in which he called for students to “be counter cultural” like Mary Ward.

Bishop Alan explained how Mary Ward was born in a time of transition and instability, a national church having been established with the monarch, instead of the Pope, as its head. Catholics remaining loyal to the Pope risked being fined or persecuted and the Bishop highlighted how it would have been much easier to go “the way of the many, to accept the changes and live peaceful and comfortable lives”. He praised therefore those Catholics who, like Mary Ward, were “counter cultural” and remained steadfast in their faith.

The Bishop recalled how Mary Ward set up a community of religious women whose vocation soon became clear to them: they were to educate young girls and, as always with something new, Mary Ward’s vision attracted much opposition. Her vision and community lived on, however, and Bishop Alan reflected that “your own school is a living testimony to her vision – opened 120 years ago by the spiritual descendants of Mary Ward”.

He continued, encouraging students: “In a society which tells us that the only things that matter are wealth and power and fame – be counter cultural! In spite of all the challenges and difficulties that will come our way, your vision is worth pursuing to transform a world which has lost its way in many areas – be counter cultural! Make a difference to people’s lives in your choice of vocation, especially to the poor, the homeless, trafficked men and women, migrants and refugees – be counter cultural!”

As a school we honour Mary Ward throughout the year, not only on her birthday, and so the Bishop’s message to be counter cultural is something we strive to live out every day, for the greater benefit of the wider community.

Most within our school community will be familiar with our focus on a number of ‘characteristics’ associated with Mary Ward, which we nurture in our students – such as ‘Encouraging hard work and excellence’, ‘Respecting self’ and ‘Valuing women’s role and spirituality’.

On Tuesday afternoon students celebrated Mary Ward’s birthday, and her legacy, through ‘birthday parties’ held in form groups. Students and staff bring in a range of sweet and savoury treats – from Hawaiian themed party food to tortillas and more traditional cakes – and play games together. Additionally, students from Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 performed a number of sketches in House groups, which they had been rehearsing for since last term, as part of the biannual Witty and Wonderful Mary Ward Show. Each sketch focused on one of the 12 Characteristics of a Mary Ward School, including ‘Embracing diversity’, ‘Valuing friendship’, ‘Eliminating injustice’, and ‘Coping effectively with failure’, and there were prizes (very similar to Oscars!) to be won for Best Actress; Best Play; Best Director; Best Visual Play; and Best Mary Ward Message.

Congratulations to Emma G. for winning ‘Best Actress’ for her portrayal of a very ‘Trump-like’ character in the Cavendish House sketch, which emphasised ‘Coping effectively with failure’ incredibly effectively and also earnt the accolade of ‘Best Visual Play’. Congratulations also to Emily W. for winning ‘Best Director’ for the Paston House sketch, which emphasised ‘Valuing friendship’. The winner of ‘Best Play’ was Brookside House for an entertaining portrayal of ‘Eliminating injustice’, and the winner of ‘Best Mary Ward Message’, focused on ‘Embracing diversity’, was a small group of just four students from Elms House. Well done to everyone for putting on such a fun finale to the day’s events.