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Following the school’s annual Christmas Eucharistic Celebration on Thursday, the 21st of December, the Principal, Ms. Frances Threadgold, addressed the entire school community.

You are all very welcome here today to the Church of the Most Holy Trinity to join in the celebration of our school Christmas Mass. In a special way I welcome the students and staff for whom this is a first Christmas Mass and I hope you have found it to be an enriching, enjoyable experience. In particular here I want to welcome back Fr. Power from Kilrush parish. You are a brave man to come back to us a second time. Thank you so much for doing us the honour of celebrating our Christmas Mass. As always it was a joy and I can tell the students really warm to you and enjoy your sense of fun and positivity.

Welcome too to Mr Dean Farrell who is replacing Mr. Flynn for the rest of the year. It can get a bit confusing with two Mr. Farrells so this is the man from Room 71 whom some students call the new Mr. Flynn…… I’m not sure if FCJ is ready for 2 Mr. Flynns but however …. You are very welcome!!

The theme of today’s Mass is “Jesus the Light of the World”. That all sounds very worthy and something we know in an abstract way ……… but what does that really mean?


Well let’s look at that again. This is always a favourite Mass for me even though it is at the darkest time of the year. This Christmas Mass and the lovely Christmas carols brighten the way as we count down to Christmas morning. That is Jesus being a light in the darkness. A lovely happy atmosphere creeps into our school as we approach Christmas holidays. That happiness and good humour is like a little ray of sunlight that can brighten the darkest day.

Let me give you an example here. Always in these last days of school I can be driven absolutely mad when a few students who become silly and light-headed don’t want to go to class or when I have been asked for the 10th time “do you want any jobs done??” …. And indeed I could name a number of culprits here …… So the other day as I marched down through the school during a wet lunchtime with a football under my arm that I had taken from students along the way I was stopped in my tracks outside the staffroom. The look on my face must have said how I was feeling and out of nowhere a young man from 3rd year called to me – ” Hey Miss, Do you want to talk about it??” He proceeded to tell me I looked sad. Our message that “it’s ok not to feel ok and it’s absolutely ok to ask for help” came to mind and while I passed up on the offer for a chat on this occasion on the grounds that my budding Counsellor would talk all day I did walk away with a smile on my face and a tad less rattled – so thank you Adam Quinn for that.

But I have to admit it is what makes a hard day at school a little easier to bear – for the teachers as well as the pupils!!  It is based on our FCJ ethos of Companionship and like I told you at Choir practice it is The FCJ Way, which is based on Jesus being the Light of our World.

You have had beautiful readings and reflections today and I hope you listened carefully. When Tom read about the Christmas lights in the Introduction I immediately thought of the lovely tree of books that is all lit up outside my office. It is a joy to all who enter our school and we have had lots of lovely comments about it with some people even asking to take a photo of it. Thank you to Ms. Emily-Anne Doyle for that creation that has allowed us to see books in a whole new light.

The story of the three candles, Peace, Love and Hope, mirrors the story we tell with our Advent wreath in the front hall of the school. The weeks leading up to Christmas are called Advent and at the heart of Advent is Hope.

If we had nothing to hope for there would be no point to the season. The original hope was for a child to be born who would bring light to the world. That larger hope is filled with smaller hopes – everyday hopes that can shape us as people, hopes that see the good in others, that is patient with others and always looks to the good in each one of us. Hope can help us to be more positive and cheerful, to be less angry. Hope can drive us on and keep us going, even when the going gets tough. I have seen that in some of our own students in recent times. Some of you have faced illness, others loss and sadness. You all have shown great courage in the face of real adversity and I admire each of you for it.

All our lives seem to be very busy and that is all the more reason to have our Advent wreath in the front hall ….. all the more reason why you need all the reminders you can get to stop – just pause – and be mindful of all the light that IS shining in all our lives. Being secure, fed, warm and cared for, safe and happy in school, and feeling positive about life in general is to be valued and appreciated. It is VERY VERY easy to slip into the zone of negativity – the darkness that was mentioned in our Mass introduction – and to moan and complain, rather than to see what we have right under our noses.

Imagine for one moment if you and your brothers and sisters were to lose your home and have to spend every night in temporary accommodation or worse still on the street. I’m not sure I can imagine that. We really have no idea of the misery it would be like and I hope we never will.

As I always say we are not responsible for the Homelessness crisis but it is important for us to take responsibility to help people less well off in any way we can. That is why we look for a VERY small donation of €1 from you for each of three different causes. Firstly we always support our local Lions Club who look after the needy in our own community. Secondly the St Vincent de Paul will be helping out Bunclody families in need this Christmas so your donation of €1 to them will go a long way towards that work. Thirdly this year we are supporting the work of the FCJ Sisters who are on Missionary work in South Sudan. I am delighted to say that over €1,000 will go to Sr. Margaret Sheehan, an Irish FCJ sister, who is currently working in very dangerous conditions in the war torn South Sudan. Right now as we sit here safe and sound, the Sisters are all under armed guard in an enclosed compound with very little freedom and no guarantee of safety as they try to help the people there. I want to thank Ms. Simone O’Neill and our St. Vincent de Paul school chapter for co-ordinating the collection of the money. Thanks to Ms. Íde O’Shaughnessy and her team of Senior Prefects and Meitheal Leaders for the Table Quizzes they ran with 1st and 2nd years to fundraise and also to Ms. Mary McIvor and the Student Council who donated the prizes and who always raise money at Christmas for people in need. One Student Council member needs special mention here – he singlehandedly raised €108 and did not want to be mentioned or thanked publicly for it. What a generous thing to do. 

And we are not finished yet – after Mass this evening I will join Mr. Dale Hennessy, Mr. Brendan Daly and other staff and students Carol Singing at SuperValu and also there will be bag packing right up to Christmas Eve. Thank you to all the students involved in this worthy project and thanks, as always, to Mr. Daly for coordinating it all.

Coming back to our theme for Mass Jesus the Light of the World, and in particular our opening hymn where we sang that “Love Shone Down over the hills, over the valleys, over the world” Every time I hear those lines I associate them with our Shoebox appeal which we do every year for Team Hope. Just imagine our shoeboxes, all 1464 of them floating in the air, off to the four corners of the globe. Ms. Una Osborne and our TY students are to be once again commended for all their hard work in collecting them from 22 schools, checking them and then sending them on as little boxes of love, light and joy to children who would otherwise get NO gift nor even KNOW it was Christmas.   

We take time today to remember the loss experienced by some of our school community. Mr. Tom Quilter’s father passed away in early November and a past teacher and dear friend of FCJ, Mr. John Slevin, passed away in October. In more recent weeks our Chairman of the Board of Management, Mr. Fran Stephenson, lost his mother, aged 87. Today we remember all of you who have lost loved ones since our September Mass. While they may not all have been close family members, to lose a cousin, an aunt, an uncle or a granny can be very upsetting.

Thankfully we also have much to celebrate over the term as we have had many successes among our students, past and present.

Some of our past students have been awarded scholarships and entrance awards for their excellent Leaving Cert results.

Patrick Sinnott from Ballygarret – Entrance Exhibition to Trinity College

Martin O’Connor from Bunclody – UCD Entrance Award

Rachael Dreelan from Ardattin – €1,200 Entrance Scholarship to Carlow IT

Also Shane Ryan from Ballon was awarded for the exceptional standard reached by him in his Leaving Certificate H.L. Technology project and Matthew Crawte for the exceptional standard reached by him in his Leaving Cert H.L. Engineering project.

It is so rewarding to see those students continue to proudly represent FCJ Bunclody so well on the national stage and be wonderful ambassadors for our school.

We cannot forget the outstanding success last October of the FCJ production of INTO THE WOODS. It was a brave show to take on but Mr. Tomás Earls was adamant that it could be done, Mr. Hennessy came on board and together they did an outstanding job. The show was a credit to the students and staff who were involved at every level. So thank you to all involved, especially Mr. Earls and Mr. Hennessy.

I want to make a special mention today of the 15 students who have signed up for the Pope John Paul II Awards. It’s the first time for our school to be involved and I wish all the students from eight different parishes the very best in their parish work and social work in the coming months.

On the Sports Field …….. well now that’s another story. When I checked with Mr. Daly if there were success stories to be celebrated suffice to say the text I received in reply cannot be repeated on the altar!! I was nearly sorry I asked!! In summary let’s just say it was a definite NO. Let us hope that 2018 will tell a brighter tale, eh Mr. Daly.

We have had success again this year when four Business Studies students were selected for their excellent Junior Cert results in the subject and were awarded by WIT.

And while we are on the topic of excellent Junior Certificate results two young ladies who achieved 4 As in their Junior Cert but who have since been upgraded to 5As – that means they deserve to be recognised for Academic Excellence in Junior Cert 2017. The two girls involved are not expecting this but I am delighted to call Aoife Clauson, Bunclody from last year’s Bríd III and Elizabeth O’Leary, Clohamon, from last year’s Colm III to come forward to receive their awards.

Formally, I would like to thank the Meitheal Leaders for all they have done to help our first years settle in. You have done a great job in being faithful companions.    As always I would like to thank the teachers, SNAs, supervisors, 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 today’s celebration I would like to thank

-FR. POWER who celebrated the Mass for us here today

– the R.E. TEACHERS, Ms. Simone O Neill, Ms. Leanne Nolan and Mr. Dermot Leacy who assisted in the preparation of the Mass     

– MR. HENNESSY, & Mr. Pat O’Gorman and all those who sang especially the soloists who performed after Communion.

-THE STUDENTS and staff who

.. participated in the preparation of the Mass and

.. who read or were involved in the offertory procession

– Ms. EILEEN MARTIN who produced the Mass booklets and Ms. NICOLA CARR who printed them.

– all the STAFF especially Mr. Daly  who worked hard this afternoon.

– to GEORGE & DAVID RALEIGH and the students and teachers who helped them set up the Church

Finally I want to share with you a Christmas card message I received just this morning. Last September at Mass I asked for your prayers for a past student, Gearoid Doyle, who had taken a bad fall off a horse and had broken vertebrae in his neck. I opened a card from him this morning that certainly brought LIGHT into my day. it read:

 To Mrs Threadgold and Staff,

Thank you very much for your prayers and good wishes at the time of my accident. I am doing well now.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and love, laughter and lots of luck for 2018.  Gearoid

May I now echo Gearoid’s words for each one of you here today. God Bless and HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

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