...going back to your old school to present prizes.
I have actually been back a good many times over the years, but it's still something very special...today I found myself in the beautiful school chapel, a place of many memories, and the girls were filing in, holding lighted candles, and the prizegiving began with a short carol service.
What can we tell them, the school-leavers of 2012, facing the world of the 21st century? In so many ways, things among the pupils are much the same as in my schooldays, and in so many ways they aren't. Like them, my generation was obsessed with silly attempts to find secret places in which to smoke, and with complaints about the school uniform ( I remember girls making desperate attempts to turn up the hems of their skirts with Sellotape to make them into crucially-neccesary micro-miniskirts)...and yet we were proud to belong to St Philomena's, and so are today's Philomenians...
What was the most important message that I picked up at school? That there is a God, that we can know him and that he came to share in our human life and has a name and a face: Jesus Christ. And that St Philomena's School was connected with this great reality of God.
We are born for greatness. Life isn't about sex and shopping. We are here to know and love and serve God, who loved us first. And this love involves caring for other people , not putting ourselves first, and not being content with plastic slogans about "being all I can be" or "reaching for the stars" or other cliches of the current educational sloganisers.
Through a Catholic group, I was able to give these school leavers copies of the excellent YOUCAT, the Youth Catechism that Papa Benedict has produced for this generation. We didn't have anything like that, we didn't have World Youth Days or the grand example of John Paul, or the new style that he gave to the Church's message and ministry to youth.
I hope some of them read YOUCAT...oh, and I do hope that they listened when their head teacher told them that they will always be in the prayers of the school community, and that they were always welcome to come back if they wanted friendship or advice. I hope that they find, as I have done, that it is a beautiful thing to have spent years in a happy school where the Faith really means something and where you learn values that are lasting...