By Cian Molloy - 02 September, 2020
"This Liturgy for the Opening of the School Year has been written with the restrictions around Covid19 in mind," says Derry Diocesan Liturgical Centre.
To help schools organise appropriate liturgical ‘Opening of the School Year’ ceremonies at a time when whole school assemblies are not possible, Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre had published a ‘classroom liturgy’ featuring a ‘Tree of Hope’.
The liturgies based on the theme ‘Friends of Jesus’ are teacher-led. It is suggested that each class in a school or college would pray the liturgy at the same time. Contrary to the ‘no singing’ rule in place in many primary schools in Ireland, this Derry liturgy for schools will feature hymns.
The final hymn in the liturgy is: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, an African-American spiritual song best known in Ireland, perhaps, for being sung before Saint Pope John Paul II at the papal youth Mass in Galway in 1979. As a final hymn, it is a useful choice for pupils in classrooms to be able to hear those in other classrooms singing and/or clapping along, united as a school, united in faith.
It is envisaged that the liturgical celebration would take place after the children settled down in their new classrooms. Indeed, the centre suggests that in advance of the celebration the children would be given an opportunity to create ‘A Tree of Life’ that would be part of their classroom’s ‘Sacred Space’.
The tree is constructed by children drawing the outline of their hand, written on paper and then cut out and decorated. These paper representations would be with the children during their classroom-based liturgical ceremony, during which their teacher inviting them to ‘look carefully at the hands you have made’.
The teacher would then say: “In the quiet of your heart tell Jesus what it is that you are really thankful for… Talk to Jesus about what you hope will happen this year… If you are feeling a little bit nervous ask Jesus to hold your hand in his… Ask Jesus to bless your hands so that you may show his care and love to everyone in the school this year.”
Afterwards, decorated hands would contribute to a wall display, where the paper cut-outs form the leaves of a branch or a tree.
The liturgy, and a PowerPoint resource, can be downloaded here.