Teachers and staff become Catholics after new programme in schools

An innovative evangelisation programme in the Archdiocese of Southwark has led to four staff members in Catholic schools being received into the Catholic Church.

The project, called “Come and see”, invites non-Catholic staff in schools to join a bespoke Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) programme, where they are supported within school to be received into the Church. It began in 2023 and four staff completed RCIA in April this year. 

The “Come and see” initiative is taking place under the vision of Archbishop John Wilson, who has a bold and ambitious plan for parishes and schools in the South London and Kent area to meet people where they are and lead them to Christ. This approach is working, with a decade high number of people being received into the Church this year – a 164% increase compared to last year.

A special Mass was held at St Philomena's Catholic High School for Girls in Carshalton, where staff members from St Ursuline’s High School, Wimbledon and St Philomena’s were received into the Church. This included Emma, who was baptised, and Aideen and Owen who had their confirmations. Another staff member who went through the programme was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil in his parish.

The Mass was led by Canon Victor Darlington, the Archdiocese of Southwark’s Episcopal Vicar for Education, who said:

“It is not enough to say we do not have enough Catholics, we do not have enough Catholic teachers or enough Catholic headteachers. We have to evangelise, invite people in and encourage them to say yes to the Lord. 

“It is the power of this invitation that we now have four staff members in schools in our Archdiocese who courageously came forward and said yes to Christ. This is history being made in our Archdiocese and is going to be the roadmap for promoting our faith in our schools and in our communities. I give God all the glory.”

Emma, a staff member at St Philomena’s, was baptised at the Mass spoke about how much it means to her and her daughter – a pupil at a local Catholic school. Emma said:

“It means we can both receive communion together, I know it means so much to her as well.” 

Owen, a science teacher at Ursuline High School was confirmed into the Catholic Church at the Mass. He said it has had a positive impact on his relationship with his pupils, who have seen him at Mass and questioned why as a science teacher he is a Catholic. Owen said:

“We’ve had some really good discussions about science and faith, how they are not incompatible at all. So that’s been quite a good journey for our students as well and their enlightenment too.”

Deacon Errol Quagraine who is supporting staff members on the programme said:

“When this programme first started, we were worried we would not get anybody. But when we sent the invitation out for people to come and see what the Lord has got for you, they resoundly said ‘yes’ because of what they see happening around them.”

The Come and See project began inviting staff in June last year, with a pilot project at St Philomena’s and Ursuline High which saw Deacon Errol work closely with Headteachers of both schools and the Chaplain of Ursuline High to make the vision a reality. Canon Victor Darlington is aiming to push the pilot out wider across the Archdiocese in a hope to get more teachers and school staff received into the Church.

Owen added words of encouragement to other staff members who are thinking about joining the programme: “Just do it. You do not need to ponder on it too much, by going through the course you will find out whether it’s right for you and it’s done in such an open way that it is easy to do.”

This was echoed by Canon Victor who said: “If you are a teacher and you feel called, it’s never too late. God’s time is the best. Say yes now, we need more people to say yes to the Lord!”

Aideen, who has worked in St Philomena’s for 14 years, felt being fully received into the Church was the next step in her journey. She said “in a Catholic school you have to take part in the Catholic ethos anyway, so don’t be afraid – just go for it”.

Teachers or staff members interested in joining the programme can get in contact with the Archdiocese of Southwark’s Education Service via their website rcaoseducation.org.uk/  or email on ecenquiries@rcaos.org.uk.

The increasing Rite of Election numbers are part of a broader trend of hopeful growth for the Archdiocese. Mass count statistics have increased this year by over 10% too.

Photos from the service