Celebrating Major Events in Catholic Schools


One of the difficult tasks that Catholic schools face regularly is organising those larger, more public celebrations that are part of school life.
Getting the basics in order from the start will help shape a form of celebration that is appropriate for the group and the occasion and which is within the liturgical tradition of the Church.
When deciding on a suitable way of celebrating, it is important to ask the right questions at the planning stage. These might include: When is the celebration? What will happen? Who will be there? Where will it take place? What form will it take? Who will be responsible for the preparation and organisation?
The answer to any one of these questions could well influence the response to others. For example, if it is decided to celebrate eucharist on a particular occasion, then
the choice of venue will be limited. It must be one that allows for the full and active participation of all present and does not force them into the role of being mere spectators at a performance.
On the other hand, the venue may be a 'given'. For example, a decision to use the local community centre might already have been made because it is the only place capable of accommodating the number of people expected to attend. The implication could well be that eucharist is inappropriate and another form of celebration, such as a performance of religious music or drama, is preferable.
Having answered these basic questions, the next task is to organise the structure of the celebration. Without an overall pattern and well-defined structure, the celebration will appear to be just a series of elements with no connection or purpose. It is important that there be a sense of proportion and balance among the different parts of the celebration and that there is a sense of their building to a climax.
Probably the most difficult occasions to do well are those which have both secular and liturgical elements, such as the opening of a new school building where the Archbishop will bless the building and the Minister for Education will make a speech and unveil a plaque.
In this case, it is best to separate the religious and civic aspects of the event. Community leaders will feel uncomfortable sitting up on a stage during worship, and the religious celebration is compromised if it is 'slotted in' as just another element in a community/ political gathering.
A good solution in this case is to begin with worship, which might include song, intercessions, scripture readings, homily, prayer of blessing, sprinkling with water, and final blessing. After this the dignitaries, who have been sitting in the front row during the liturgy, are escorted to the podium where the Archbishop, no longer wearing liturgical vestments, joins them. The civic formalities then take place.
A similar structure may be found most suitable for events such as investing prefects and presenting prizes which do not sit comfortably within the rhythm of the liturgy.


Elizabeth Harrington