In December, Sue McDonald, the Youth Director, was asked to organise a conference for 150 Year 12 students at St Mary’s Chesterfield. The four-day conference was held at The Hayes, Swanwick, where students were able to choose from a variety of workshops.
National and local organisations such as SVP, Pax Christi, Columban Justice & Peace, fcJ’ Sisters, CAFOD and Million Minutes took part. Workshop leaders presented topics such as discernment, scripture meditation, grief, art, yoga, going to university, welcoming the stranger and more. Each session offered 16 workshops for students to explore.
The title, “Social Justice: A Focus on Dignity & Compassion,” urged students to see themselves not merely as learners, but as key players in societal change. Million Minutes worked with nearly all of the students, helping them generate ideas for social change and put their beliefs into action. Columban Justice & Peace was delighted with the young people who wrote Christmas cards to people in immigration removal (detention) centres. Josh, a student and parishioner of St. Vincent’s Crookes, shared his experiences at university. Teachers from St Mary’s provided much entertainment during the evenings and built relationships with the young people as they started out on their journey through the Sixth form.
Both the school and its students found immense value in the initiative as it helped them navigate the transition to adulthood. The workshop leaders were impressed by the focus and engagement of the students and were very pleased to have the opportunity to challenge, listen to and walk alongside St Mary’s young people.