The final year at school is a pressurised and seriously daunting one for sixth year pupils. They live with exams, points systems and are faced with making significant choices about their future. It is a difficult, uncertain and stressful time. They are preparing to part with what has been familiar in the school system for a number of years and moving into a competitive and less familiar world. They may part with some of their best friends and face having to make new friends.
It is understandable why stress becomes part of their lives. Support and friendship can be an invaluable gift to them at this point in their lives. The gift of prayer and solidarity given by many Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates is welcomed by them. For the past three years the Sisters of Mercy, South Central Province have been involved in an initiative of praying for Leaving Certificate students in a number of schools throughout the province. The project started off small but has grown over the three years.
This year over a thousand pupils are being remembered and prayed for by approximately 500 Sisters and Associates. The students are sent the names of the Sister/Associate who will be praying for them and the Sister/Associate is given the name of the student. Exam prayer cards are sent to each student and the Sisters/Associates also receive a prayer card for students.
Freedom to choose
Each September a letter of invitation is sent to the principal or RE teacher outlining the initiative and inviting the students to be part of the programme. The student’s freedom to participate is paramount and their choice is respected.
The response from the pupils and the teachers gets more encouraging by the year. Comments such as ‘the students are delighted to know that they will be prayed for’ or ‘I know that any student involved in the past has appreciated the prayers and thoughts of the Sisters, particularly in the pressure-laden Leaving Certificate year’. Letters from the students have been equally encouraging and reassuring.
This year each student from one school wrote a personal letter outlining their particular need for prayers and expressed their thanks for organising the prayer programme. It was a most moving experience to read their letters and to hear their stories and individual concerns. Another school sent a card at Christmas, signed by all the pupils, expressing their gratitude at being included in this prayer ministry. Some students send letters of appreciation to my office and some write directly to the Sister. The Sisters are invited to send an occasional card to the pupils but there is no pressure to do so. The pupils are not under any pressure to write. However, it is good when a student writes a note of appreciation.
A new way to be involved
The prayer partnership is a new way for us, as Sisters of Mercy, to be involved in the lives of young people. Perhaps our prayers and support are our greatest gift of all.
Phyllis Moynihan rsm
South Central Province