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The entire school community gathered in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Bunclody, for our annual Christmas Eucharistic Celebration, on Wednesday, the 21st of December—the day of the Winter Solstice.   The theme of the Mass was “The Light That Shined in Darkness”.   It was a joyful occasion, enriched by very appropriate readings, prayers and Christmas music …  O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Love Shone Down, The First Nowell & the recessional, Joy to the World / Merry Christmas Everyone.    Three Soloists sang When a Child is Born, Believe and Hallelujah.


Following Mass, the principal, Ms. Frances Threadgold, addressed the congregation and especially welcomed the students and staff for whom this was their first Christmas Mass with the school

Speaking on the theme of the Mass, she said, “When we think of a light shining in darkness we think of finding HOPE even in the most difficult of situations. The weeks leading up to Christmas are called Advent which is a time of Hope – Hope and expectation in the Joy of the birth of Christ. The glow of the candles from the Advent Wreath in our front hall reminds us of the Light that is on its way.

But real life has a tendency of twisting that.   It’s hard to see where the light is for the Davis family this Christmas season. Darkness descended for Pippa, Olivia, and their parents Debbie and Andrew and then also for FCJ when Andrew rang us with the news that Caitlin had passed away suddenly on Thursday morning October 27th last. For that family and for Caitlin’s many FCJ friends the light may still be a long way off and the darkness has to be acknowledged if ever the light of acceptance is to shine through.

I also want to mention Nicole Dunne (B4) who lost her mother the following morning, Friday 28th   and our two Lambert families from Knockananna whose uncle died tragically. Indeed all of you, both staff and students, who have lost family members over the term will be remembering them in a special way this Christmastime.

While we are on the topic of loss I cannot let the opportunity pass without mentioning the events that you may or may not have seen in Syria, in Aleppo, during the last week. Those images are so striking. In many ways words fail me.

At times like these, when events like this are unfolding before our eyes, it is always critical to remember and reflect on what is most important in life. Firstly, to take the time to be aware of what exactly is happening, even if the brevity of a TV news headline makes human tragedy easy to ignore. And I am the first to admit I ignore it….. because it seems too horrific and painful to take in…..  but that’s just not good enough of me. I must, and so must each of you, recognise what is a human tragedy.

To recognise that these people, bloodstained, covered in the dust of what was once their home, mothers mourning their daughters, brothers left as the only living members of entire families, children gone so beyond fear that they cannot even cry any more, unsure whether or not they have been orphaned, toddling traumatised through the bedlam of a hospital ward full of casualties, wondering if they will be the next to be bombed, simply for the crime of existing … these people are not so different from you or I. The distance and difference between us should never lead us to forget that we are united by so much – most of all, a common need for, and a common right to, dignity, security, peace and freedom.

Think of those children of Aleppo, and the many refugees crossing the Mediterranean sea in flimsy boats, all the homeless on our own city streets, all seeking refuge, looking for the basic right of a safe place to lay their head and you know what – that mirrors the story of that first Christmas when Joseph and Mary were forced to find refuge in a stable to give birth to their little baby – Jesus. We would do well to remember those children in the midst of all the madness of a cash-rich Christmas experience.

It’s not that I am trying to put a damper on your Christmas excitement but I do have a responsibility as your principal to pose the difficult questions and to make you feel for, and identify with those suffering souls. And you need to realise that now, RIGHT NOW, while we all sit in comfort and warmth in the Church here in Bunclody, those children are starving, suffering and literally dying on their feet – a sobering thought.     It’s not our fault – but it is our responsibility to be mindful and remember. That’s what the Advent Wreath is asking of you.

And finally, maybe most importantly, we can take time to do something. Even if there are no words we can provide to comfort the speechless, nothing that can heal the physical and mental scars that will last a lifetime – if nothing else, we have to do what we can, even if that only means filling our days in our little part of the world with the Hope and Light from the values we know to be good and true…. FCJ values of TRUTH RESPECT AND JUSTICE.

And what more positive and inspiring attitude have we seen than that shown by our very own Laura O Brien in Aidan II who, although she has Cystic Fibrosis, is NOT defined by the disease and has a fantastic CAN-DO attitude.  She recently raised €2,560 for research to fight the disease, with the help of Mr. Daly and Ms. McIvor. Well done Laura!!

Team Hope Christmas Shoebox appeal too brings light into the lives of so many…..1704 this year to be precise compared to 1349 last year…….gathered from many primary schools, Bunclody Vocational  College & our own FCJ students. The light is represented in the happiness each little child encounters as they push open the lid of the shoebox and peep in at the gifts inside, sent all the way from Ireland. What’s included in those boxes might not be viewed as gifts or presents by many of you sitting here in front of me but to the child who has nothing each box is like a treasure trove – positively glowing with wonderful surprises. 

I would like to thank you for your response to the Bunclody Lions Club Christmas Appeal. Our school are Carol singing in the Library and outside Supervalu following Mass this evening, and tomorrow will see the start of bag packing in Supervalu which will continue right up until Christmas Eve – all for the Lions Club Christmas Food Appeal. I would like to thank Ms. O Neill for coordinating the collection in school which raised €1,185, Mr. Daly for coordinating the events and Mr. Hennessy for accompanying the students.

Our Student Council Christmas raffle coordinated by Ms. McIvor will bring more good news to St. Vincent de Paul tomorrow with €400 being raised so thank you to all concerned in fundraising for these worthy causes.

In our school there have been many reasons to celebrate for our students, past and present –  Congratulations to Ms. Doherty on the birth of her second boy, Rory, a brother for Liam.   Well done to the Ladies Under 16 Footballers who are through to a Leinster Final while our Senior and U 16 boys will hopefully progress in the New Year.  Some of our past students too have been awarded scholarships for their excellent Leaving Cert results:  NUI Maynooth – Noel Mulhall, Tinahely;  Trinity College – Cathal Lee, Ballygarret  & Ciara Kinsella,  Clonegal;  UCD –  Ciaran Doran, Camolin;   DCU – Diarmaid Crean, Kilmyshall  & Shane Byrne, Ballyhogue;  Carlow IT – Dylan Murphy, Ferns.   So congratulations to those students who continue to fly the flag for FCJ and be wonderful ambassadors for our school.”

Ms. Threadgold thanked the Meitheal Leaders for all they have done to help our 1st years settle in.    She also thanked the teachers, supervisors, SNAs, secretarial and accounts staff, caretaker and gardener, the tuck shop team and the women who clean the school for all their hard work and dedication.

For the day’s celebration she thanked:  FR. O’CONNOR who celebrated the Mass;  the R.E. TEACHERS, Ms O’Neill and Ms. L. Nolan who assisted in the preparation of the mass ;  MR. HENNESSY & Mr. Pat O’Gorman and all those who sang;  MR KEVIN McEVOY for the sound into the back room;  THE STUDENTS and staff who participated in the preparation of the Mass and who read or were involved in the offertory procession;   Ms. Nicola CARR& Ms. Eileen MARTIN who produced the Mass sheets;  all the STAFF especially Mr. Daly who worked so hard this afternoon and George and David Raleigh and the students and teachers who helped them set up the Church.

Finally, she wished, “you and your families every blessing for Christmas. I ask you to recognise within yourselves the gift of Light. I invite you to welcome the Christ child into your hearts and homes so that your Christmas glows with love and gratitude.”

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FCJ Secondary School,
Co. Wexford
Tel: (+353)53-9377308
App: FCJ Bunclody