Handing on the Notre Dame Baton
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King
It was a gloomy day as we enterd the Cathedral, but I experienced the Cathedral as never before. It was not just a concrete structure, with beautiful stained glass windows. The Cathedral had become alive and vibrant, teeming with new life as the young people took their places in the benches that circled the altar. Somehow I felt enriched by just being there, sensing the vibrancy, the energy, the joie de vivre, even before the Celebration of Passing on the Baton began. The words from St Paul's letter to the Ephesians became a reality for me: 'You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundation and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit.'
Saint Julie's High School in Liverpool envisioned the idea of passing on the legacy that St Julie left us as the 'Passing on of the Baton'. Notre Dame Catholic College and St Julie's High School came to a joint decision on how to commemorate the passing on of Julie's legacy, and organised a baton relay around England and Scotland, visiting all Notre Dame Schools on the way!
The Baton was taken to the Cathedral on the 30th March to commemorate the anniversary of St Julie's death two hundred years ago on April 8th. This year was designated 'The Year of Saint Julie'. The special Baton was created to focus on Julie's message and her ideals so that her spirit could live on, and through all who were associated with Notre Dame schools. Like any good idea, the Passing on of the Baton had a life of its own! It could not be contained only in Liverpool. St Julie's school took a coachload of pupils and staff to Notre Dame, Sheffield, where they handed this Year of St Julie Baton on. Notre Dame Sheffield then went to Notre Dame Norwich who passed it on to Notre Dame Southwark. Then it was handed on to Notre Dame Plymouth who in turn passed it on to Notre Dame Glasgow before arriving at Our Lady and St Patrick, Dumbarton. The Baton left Liverpool in March 2016 and on Monday, 14 November 2016 the Baton arrived back in Liverpool to be passed on to Sister Margaret Walsh, the Coordinator of the Heritage Centre in Namur, Belgium, where it will remain.
Notre Dame Catholic College hosted the joyful event in the Cathedral which brought together dance, drama, music and prayers. The event was attended by representatives of ALL the Notre Dame Seconary schools in the country. Many of the Sisters from local Notre Dame communities and a Sister from Glasgow were there to appreciate how through the students, St Julie's spirit is alive and well today!
The celebration began with a lively, rousing version of 'Qu'il est bon' composed by Mike Anderson, (Lay Chaplain at St Julie's) to the tune of his 'Clapping Gloria'.The Cathedral resounded with joy as we sang 'Qu'il est bon. Qu'il est bon, Qu'il est bon le bon Dieu. Quil est bon, Qu'il est bon, Qu'il est bon le bon Dieu'. One of the verses expressed the motto that St Julie's school had chosen for 'The Year of Julie':
"We will follow her way - and her story tell!
With liberty of spirit we will serve the good God well".
We were welcomed to the Celebration by Mrs Frances Harrison, Executive Headteacher of Notre Dame Catholic College. The students from the College then gave a drama performance of the life of St Julie, accompanied by the College Orchestra.
After the Drama Performance we sang another hymn to St Julie , and this hymn was composed by John McHugh who teaches at Notre Dame Catholic College. Again the hymn echoed the words of St Julie:
'Ah, qu'il est bon le bon Dieu' and the school's motto for the Year of St Julie: 'Do small things with great love' .
The Parade of Flags representing all the countries in the world where Notre Dame Sisters minister today was a colourful and spectacular display.
A video message from Sister Teresita, the Leader of our Congregational Leadership Team was replayed on two large screens on either side of the Cathedral. Sister Teresita welcomed us to this joyful festivity and spoke of how St Julie was the first to pass on the Baton to her Sisters. Her vision and dream was that children especially girls, would be educated by the Sisters. Sister Teresita thanked us for passing on the Baton and said that now we are called to work, and through our lives, improve the lives of other people by Communication and Relationship.
After Sister Teresita's message each school brought up its own banner. Again. this was a very beautiful and colourful display.
The dance performance led by students from St Julie's and Notre Dame College portrayed the life of St Julie. It was an awesome moment to see the students who were balancing up high, supported by other students. In the close up photo you can see the joy on the faces of the youngsters.
The two big screens were used again as Sisters introduced themselves and told us the dates of when they took up the Baton and become Sisters of Notre Dame.
The Baton was then presented to Sister Margaret Walsh. It will now continue its journey to the Heritage Centre in Namur. Who knows where it will be passed on to next; Africa; America; Japan; - or any of the world wide places where Sisters of Notre Dame are working?
Sr Pat Ellen then invited us to make our responses to the following promises. It was impressive to hear the strength and power of the "I will" to each of the promises.
Will you open your heart as wide as the world? I will
Will you be an angel of peace? I will
Will you stand tall as sunflowers as an example to others? I will
Will you be a courageous soul and stand up against wrongdoing|? I will
Will you walk bravely on the path that has been marked out for you? I will
Will you serve the good God with much liberty of spirit? I will
Will you follow the example of the Sisters of Notre Dame? I will
Will you continue the legacy of St Julie? I will
The Celebration concluded with everyone joining in with the 'Community Song'. The very words of this jubilant song ~~ "It's me; It's you; It's us; it's Love; it's Christ that builds Community. Go out into the world and build Community." seemed to echoe St Julie's vision and dream, and Sister Teresita's words to us as we passed the Baton on to others. The actions were enthusiastically led by
Mrs Frances Harrison. I was fortunate to have a student right in front of me to keep up with all the actions. When I got mixed up, we both enjoyed it all the more!
Encouraged by the witness of these beautiful people, at the end of the Ceremony, I felt very in tune with the words from the Letter to the Hebrews. With so many witneses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too then should keep on running steadily in the race we have started. Chapter 12