News and blog

From our Director of Christian Life

From our Director of Christian Life

Shortly before sitting down to write this, we have seen the cancellation of some of the notable fixtures of our annual Lourdes Fundraising Fortnight, which supports children travelling with the Glanfield Children’s Group on their holiday-pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Sixth Formers reflect on their Lourdes experience

Like so much of our public life in the spring of 2020, it is the first time in living memory (since wartime perhaps?!) that the St Mary’s Dog Show and the Staff Netball Match have not taken place.

We did enjoy bake sales and a teachers’ talent competition earlier this year, before restrictions and ultimately school closure intervened. All money raised was hurriedly gathered up and put in the safe. Undoubtedly, the amount raised by our various events and appeals will be reduced this year - not just for Lourdes - highlighting the challenges for the charity sector in these exceptional times. 

On the positive side, our fundraising endeavours have raised a little over £10,600 at the time our doors closed, but this compares with £14,500 in the previous academic year.

Mary Ward Secondary School - Mbizo, Zimbabwe

Pupils in the new Mary Ward Secondary SchoolThe highlight at the start of 2020 was news from Mbizo, Zimbabwe. When we started fundraising to support the building of the new Mary Ward Secondary School, as part of the Fun Run efforts three years ago, we were able to share with students a photograph of an empty field which was the site where the school was to be constructed. 

Since then, we have received updates from the Zimbabwe Province of the C.J. (Congregation of Jesus) regarding progress, along with photographs as first foundations, and then buildings and classrooms began to take shape. It was very encouraging to see the results of the support given by St Mary’s School, Cambridge and many other donors to realise this long-held ambition of the C.J. in Zimbabwe, even with occasional setbacks and struggles, with further political problems arising at the end of the Mugabe presidency.

In autumn 2019, the first phase of the building was completed, and the first students (two year groups) joined at the start of their academic year in January 2020. The school was opened officially in February; Sr Frances Orchard C.J., our Provincial Superior and one of our school governors, and Sr Jane Livesey, the General Superior based in Rome but formerly ‘of this parish’, were both in attendance. 

It was wonderful to see the new students smiling and enthusiastic in photographs of the school on its first day, and to read about their excitement in pieces some of them had written for the school’s first newsletter

What gave a sense of greater pleasure, investment and involvement for us at St Mary’s was knowing, from previous correspondence and photographs, that the chairs on which the new students sat and the desks at which they worked had all been produced by local industry and purchased using the funds we had raised with our final non-uniform day and the collection at Prize Giving in July 2019.   

Although we talk of ‘fundraising’ and ‘charitable activities’, it is important that we try to engage mindfully with these efforts and not fall into the routine of just focusing on raising money.

It is good when we know what contribution our efforts have made specifically, as with the desks and chairs in the Mbizo school, or when the certificates complete with GPS coordinates of the toilets we had funded through last year’s Toilet Twinning campaign were fixed in our own toilets. It is good when causes are suggested by students or staff who are invested in both supporting them and raising awareness, as with Well Child and Women’s Aid this year.

It is as much about solidarity as charity (in the sense of giving money). So, we continue to try to develop projects which are charitable in outlook but not fundraising focused: collecting items for the Cambridge City Foodbank, Christmas cards to hospices, orphanages in Zimbabwe and the Holy Land, homeless shelters and those supported by the Jesuit Refugee Service, the links and activities between Mary Ward House and the residents of the adjacent almshouses, the collection of items at Christmas to support women and children seeking sanctuary from domestic violence with Women’s Aid. 

That we raise somewhere around £13,500 to £14,500 in charitable donations most years is very impressive, but our charitable fundraising should provoke us to engage more closely, with compassion and understanding, with the struggles of our brothers and sisters, rather than absolve us to look away feeling we have thrown our contribution into the tin and done our bit.  

Mr Daniel Bennett

Director of Christian Life

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