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UNION OF SISTERS OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

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Creative Prayer Stations - England

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06/07/2017

A surprising request from THE challenging Year in any secondary school

Mention of Year 9 in any secondary school in England often brings an intake of breathe! Here they are “in the middle” – no longer the ‘newbies’ to the school, but not quite the senior students of Years 10 and 11. Added to this – Year 9 are the teens – and of course the only thing that is consistent about adolescence is their inconsistency – and this sometimes starts with a vengeance in Year 9! You can guess my surprise then, on hearing the request via the school council – from Year 9. They would like more time in the chapel!

Last year, as a school, we made a decision to consciously develop the prayer life of both staff and students. We did this via Creative Prayer experiences.

We piloted a way of providing prayer experiences that were communal but at the same time, allowed each individual to engage at where they are. We set up a series of “stations”. Using various everyday items, the students (and staff) were invited to reflect on the item and how it related to their life and their relationship with others and God. Approximately twenty-five stations were set up in the chapel.  After about 15 minutes of quiet time, the students are invited to visit the various stations – at their own pace, their own choice. Each student has a prayer journal – and at the end of each reflection, they are invited to record in their journal – what they felt; what they wanted to remember and perhaps a prayer. What is important is the students option to move and reflect at their own pace and make their own choice as well as being able to touch and feel, to see and hear, and sometimes to taste the stimulus.  Towards the end of the hour and half – the students are brought back together for some reflection time and sharing with each other – which stations did they like the best and why; what touched them particularly; what they learnt about themselves and God. Invariably, the one aspect that is always mentioned is the silence, the peace and quiet.

At each station, there were some directions
as to what to do e.g. pick up one of the stretchy
people, pull an arm, pull a leg etc…and then
asking– when do you feel stretched?  What can
you do when you feel stretched? How can you
help others when you see them stretched?
In your own words,talk to God about how you
feel when you are stretched and how you can
deal with it.  In your journal, finish the sentence –
“I felt…/it made me feel…; my prayer is…

In the autumn term in 2016, we decided to set up about 25 prayer stations on the theme of our wonderful creation and how we engage with it – so we looked at the wonder of creation and how we endanger our earth. We began by using a video showing pictures of our beautiful global world. The students then moved to the prayer stations. It made them think about what happens with rubbish; that some have to drink dirty water and the variety of fruits that our earth provides us. I was astounded at the number of children who had never tasted a pear!

In Advent, the prayer stations were based on the characters that are part of the Christmas story. On this occasion, we also invited everyone in school to contribute to colouring a huge poster of Bethlehem town with the various people, buildings, angels and stars.  It was more difficult to “move the staff on” than the children. 

In the spring – we celebrated Lent – and we did
this by using the Stations of the Cross. One set
of the Stations are in the chapel but we also have
a set outside. We were creative in how we used
these and how we engaged with the students in
 looking at the message of the stations. 

After Easter, we looked at the rosary. In the past, parishioners had come into school to prayer the rosary with classes of Year 7 and 8.  Year 7 and 8 prayed the rosary again this year but in a different way.  We used candles on the floor of the chapel – and as each hail Mary was said, a candle was extinguished and we watched the smoke, like our prayer, rising to heaven. We prayed either one or two decades. 

This term, we have introduced Eucharist Adoration and each class has the opportunity to come for 45 minutes.  This includes an explanation of what we are going to do, quietening preparation, lighting candles, taking time to be still and silent; having a piece of scripture and using it as a prayer stimulus.

What is next?  In September 2017, we are looking at creating a set of stations around who God is - what are the images we have of God; what image does God have of me. However, more importantly – it is responding to the request of having more time in the chapel.

Susan Richert PBVM

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