Community Feast Day: Celebrating our Founder and the RCE

Community Feast Day: Celebrating our Founder and the RCE

It was with great joy that, on Tuesday 21 November 2023, our school community came together to celebrate Community Feast Day; a day dedicated to our founder, Abbé Louis Lafosse, and the Order that he established; Religious of Christian Education (RCE).  It was on this day in 1817 that four young women, led by Mother Marie-Anne Dutertre, took their vows to become Sisters of the RCE, beginning the annual Feast Day that we celebrate today.  It was their commitment to educating girls that led to the foundation of Farnborough Hill in 1889.

The day's events entailed the blessing of the graves, a thought-provoking Mass and entertainment centred around the life of Abbé Louis Lafosse.  We reflected on the Abbé's message to go about life joyfully and wholeheartedly and thought about the RCE Sisters who had worked at Farnborough Hill, several of whom left in the last few years who are now living in Ireland, England and America, and who, we all know, pray for us daily.

It is a tradition in the Catholic Church to remember our deceased in the month of November.  Catholic priests and communities visit various cemeteries blessing graves and praying for the souls of our faithful departed.  We are blessed here at Farnborough Hill to have buried on the School grounds, many of the RCE Sisters who founded and worked hard to make Farnborough Hill the wonderful girls’ school it is today. 

As a way to remember these women who dedicated themselves to God and to education, representatives from across the community walked down to the School's cemetery and laid roses on each of the Sister's graves.  These representatives came from each Form as well as our Junior and Senior Leadership Teams, our Chair of Governors, and our own Sister Elizabeth McCormack.  Fr Anthony Lobo SDB led us in prayer and Sr Elizabeth gave a moving talk about the strong women who came before her.

We were blessed to mark our honoured Community Feast Day with a Mass, which was nothing short of a spiritual and communal triumph.  Father Anthony Lobo SDB, currently the Parish Priest of Our Lady and St Dominic's Parish in Farnborough, led the Mass with his warmth and wisdom, reminding us of the importance of unity and love in our community.  He prompted a group discussion in his homily, asking for any four girls to stand up and ask him any question they wanted; the message being to never be afraid to ask questions, linking back to the Gospel where Jesus was questioned.

At the heart of Community Feast Day are the vows of lifelong commitment to God and the education of girls made by our Sisters of the RCE.  Their commitment of service and love is an inspiration to us all, a testament to the strength and resilience from which they built our community.  During Mass, Sister Elizabeth McCormack renewed her vows and our 10 new Altar Servers and new ushers came forward to receive a blessing from Fr Anthony.

The Mass ended with a delightful surprise from Sister Elizabeth.  Her generous gift of sweets brought smiles to the faces of all the pupils, reminding us that the simplest gestures often hold the greatest love. 

The entertainment following the Mass was a wonderful celebration of our community roots and spirit.  This year it was a documentary centred around the life of Abbé Louis Lafosse, the founder of the Religious of Christian Education (RCE).  We heard about the bravery shown in the face of adversity by the Abbé and the first four sisters to commit themselves to the education of young girls and women.  The girls sat and watched this, whilst eating their sweet treats from Sister Elizabeth McCormack and received bookmarks that outlined a timeline of the Abbé's life.  After this there was a short quiz on the documentary.  The documentary and quiz were both shared with the Sisters around the world to whom we wished a most happy Community Feast Day.

Sister Elizabeth assisted Mrs Winch-Johnson in the narration that follows the main story of Abbé Lafosse.  The documentary looks back at how he began the Order of the Religious of Christian Education.  It was his creation of the RCE that led all the RCE Sisters to teach girls Religious Education and the wider curriculum, and to do so with joy in their hearts.

Let us carry the spirit of the Community Feast Day Mass throughout the year, nurturing our resilience, embracing our differences, and living our lives to the full, cherishing each moment with joy and gratitude, no matter what comes our way.