Chaplaincy thoughts for the week: 07 June

Chaplaincy thoughts for the week: 07 June
Chaplain's Reflections - 7th June 2024

At the end of Term 5 I was honoured to finally be able to accompany a group of students on pilgrimage to Krakow, walking in the footsteps of one of our House saints, Edith Stein, and the Jewish people who lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis. 

For many years I’ve wanted to give students the opportunity to experience visiting Auschwitz, so that the emotion of the place can find a connection with the next generation and encourage our young people to speak out against evil.  Our pilgrimage took in the harrowing former concentration camp, but also the former ghetto of Krakow, Divine Mercy Sanctuary (home to Sr Faustina), the awe inspiring modern artwork of Wyspianki in the 13th century Basilica of St Francis, Wieliczka salt mines and so much more.  I was told repeatedly by year 10’s that we were walking too much, but in my defence we were only averaging 20-23,000 steps a day (Mr Bird’s Rome trip averages 30 – 35,000 a day) and I was ensuring they got to see and experience the breadth, beauty and historical struggles of the city in our 5 days there. 

Our first full day in the city was devoted to Auschwitz, and I’ll allow one of our students, Hoi Lo, to recount her experience of the day:

"On my trip to Krakow, Poland last  month, I was very lucky to have the chance to visit Auschwitz, the biggest concentration camp in Poland.  I got to learn about the Shoah (the holocaust) since it was a part of the history GCSE curriculum, so I thought already had a rough idea of what I would be seeing before actually going.  But what I actually saw was so much more than what I expected.  What I have been seeing and reading in textbooks and hearing from my teacher was right in front of my eyes.  I was walking through the hallways and paths where many innocent people also walked as they were on their way to gas chambers or to forced labour.  The feeling was indescribable; as much as I wanted to take pictures to capture my visit, I couldn't help but stop myself as I thought it was wrong to take pictures of the places where many had been unfairly tortured and murdered.

What really struck me was the women’s hair, it was cut off after they were murdered by the Nazis, then weighed and sold to German companies as haircloth and felt.  I found this incredibly disgusting as they were not treated as humans but as objects and material, it really showed me how they dehumanised the Jewish people and other victims.

What I actually saw was so much more than what I expected.  What I have been seeing and reading in textbooks and hearing from my teacher was right in front of my eyes.

As I was walking out of those doors, I felt guilty, knowing that day I was going to go back to my hotel, to have a full delicious meal, to sleep in a comfortable bed, and to go on and continue my normal daily life.  Millions of people walked in those doors and never had a chance to walk back out.

Going to Auschwitz was really a life changing experience, I have learnt so much and have learnt so much more than I could just in a classroom.   One thing our tour guide said has been really stuck in my mind – it was how the numbers we know of about the holocaust are all reports from the Nazis, this means that what we don't and might never know all the victims that were killed there and might never be able to pay our respect to all of those who were victims."

There were so many more highlights throughout the week, but we can’t forego mentioning the final evening when students and staff dressed up in their best glad rags (most of us did), so that we could celebrate Jewish culture and people.  We caught the tram back into the former Jewish district and ate a scrumptious meal together in a Jewish restaurant which consisted of an onion soup, beef dish and Passover cheese curd desert.  Alongside our meal we were entertained by a Jewish Klezmer band capturing Jewish culture in music for us – the majority of us even got up and danced along!   It seemed an apt way to end our time together in Krakow, remembering that every person and culture was lovingly created by God and our pilgrimage would conclude by celebrating the inherent dignity and identity of Jews. 

Whilst in Krakow we ran a photography competition challenging the pupils to capture some of the incredible places we were visiting.  There were so many worthy entries, but in the end we gave the winner’s prize to this shot from Benjy who managed to perfectly capture this symmetrical masterpiece of a cyclist riding along the wet ground and flanked by buildings.

Benjy Photpgraphy Comp WInner 


Upcoming Retreats

Year 8 Glastonbury day retreats

Mon 17th June (8R & 8S, plus the 4 x 8Y students who do MEP to avoid your exam)

Tues 18th June (8E & 8O)

Weds 19th June (8G & 8Y) 

This is the second  of our day retreats (1st was at Sulis Manor in year 7) that we anticipate taking all of the year group on as a vital part of the spiritual and human formation of our young people.  If you haven’t yet signed your child up to attend, please see the letter sent out via email and on ClassCharts.  Payment can be made via the school gateway app. 


Year 11 (Current 10s) weekend retreat in Lynton, Devon

An optional residential retreat from Fri 4th to Sunday 6th Oct, bringing together students from 3 Catholic secondary schools in the Diocese at The Beacon’s Activity Centre near Lynton, Devon.  The retreat will be themed on resilience, confidence building and preparing for exam stress as students go into their GCSE year.  We will combine some outdoor activities, workshops on the theme, exploring the awe dropping North Devon countryside and have a go on the famous Funicular in Lynton & Lynmouth.  Please see the letter sent out via ClassCharts and email in recent weeks. 


Matt Robinson

Mr Robinson

Lay Chaplain