Catholic Life at St Vincent’s
At St. Vincent’s prayer, worship and charity are essential for the Catholic life and mission of our school to thrive. We pride ourselves on placing Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church at the centre of our children’s lives to form and develop the inspiration to live their lives fully as Christians.
The ethos of St. Vincent’s originates from the rich historical and religious background of our school. In 1868, a nursery was established for the benefit of poor milk women to enable them to work and earn a living for their families. The school was part of a convent complex for the Daughters of Charity, a religious society devoted to serving the poor, which was founded in 1633 by Vincent de Paul. In July 2005, the Daughters of Charity sold the convent and the site was bought by Westminster council and is under the trusteeship of the Diocese of Westminster.
St. Vincent de Paul:
Our school is dedicated to St. Vincent de Paul and the compassion, humility, and generosity he demonstrated throughout his life. We strive to continue on the work of St. Vincent de Paul and the Daughters of Charity here each day. The virtues of St Vincent de Paul are qualities we strive to live and teach by at St Vincent’s.
As St Vincent de Paul dedicated his life to helping the poorest and most disadvantaged people in society, the importance of charity, spiritual and moral growth and care for all, is reflected throughout all aspects of our school, and is emphasised through our Mission and Vision Statements. St Vincent de Paul provides us with many examples of how to live our lives in God’s way, and is a fantastic role model for all staff and pupils.
The feast of St. Vincent de Paul is the first celebration of the school year and reminds us of our patron Saint and his dedication to God. This initial celebration begins the school year by focusing on the ways St Vincent followed the footsteps of Christ and by learning about his life, encourages our pupils and staff to do the same.
We support our pupils to consciously help those less fortunate than ourselves, and continuously act upon the great example set by St Vincent throughout the year in our charity fundraising events. All of this allows us form strong links with families, the local parish and the wider community.
Mission and Vision Statements:
Our mission statement is: Together through Christ we grow and learn. At St. Vincent’s we endeavour to educate children through the teachings of Christ, to develop their academic potential to the full and nurture their individual needs within an outstanding school.
The Catholic St. Vincent’s family will work together to develop academic, moral, social and spiritual growth for all within the local, national and global community (giving and receiving). We will do this by promoting an ethos of care, support, responsibility and awareness of self and others within a safe, healthy and friendly environment in which we can all inspire and be inspired.
Prayer and Worship:
Prayer and worship is central to the Catholic faith. We understand the importance of inviting God’s presence into our lives and glorifying, praising and honouring His name. Through prayer we aim to deepen our relationship with God and embody the teachings of Jesus Christ by living out the Gospel messages.
In order to fulfil our aims of this policy at St. Vincent’s we dedicate allocated time for both collective and separate acts of prayer and worship each day:
Both the children and adults at our school have an opportunity to lead and participate in daily worship sessions. We encourage all staff, including Support Staff and Learning Support assistants to take part in helping the children to plan and lead collective worship.
In addition to these, to celebrate the learning from our Religious Education curriculum throughout the term, a key stage celebratory ‘Come and See’ Assembly takes place to share our topics, work and prayer. These special, reflective assemblies are led by the Religious Education Co-ordinators.
We also promote the Catholic tradition of prayer throughout the school day. Each Key Stage learn and recite different prayers appropriate for their age group which progress as the children move through their time at St. Vincent’s:
EYFS: The school prayer, morning prayer, lunch time prayer, end of school prayer.
Key Stage 1: The school prayer, lunch time grace, end of school prayer, Our Father and Hail Mary.
Lower Key Stage 2: The school prayer, lunch time grace, end of school prayer, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and the Nicene Creed.
Upper Key Stage 2: The school prayer, lunch time grace, end of school prayer, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, the Nicene Creed and the Angelus.
Upon joining the school, each child receives their own school prayer book which form the basis of our daily prayer at school and provide additional prayers such as a prayer for an Act of Faith prayer, the Family Prayer and the Divine Praises.
Eucharistic Celebrations, Holy Days, Feast days and the Sacraments:
Collective worship is planned following the structure of the liturgical year, with reference to the Church’s seasons, Holy Days of Obligation and Feast days.
Mass is celebrated in the local parish Church of St. James’, Spanish Place with the whole school attending. Parents are also invited to celebrate Mass with their children. The partaking in Mass at St. James’ is an important home-school link, key to the ethos of our school. It involves our entire school family in the celebration of our faith and continues the tradition of receiving the Holy Sacraments such as the Eucharist.
Key Stage 2 pupils take turns to prepare and deliver the first reading and bidding prayers at each Mass, giving them the opportunity to have an active participation in the Mass and the practice of our faith.
Holy Days of Obligation such as the Feast of All Saints, the Ascension and the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul are also celebrated with a special Mass and readings related to their liturgical message. The feast of St. Vincent de Paul is the first celebration of the school year and reminds us of our patron Saint and his dedication to God and charity.
Alongside the teaching of the Holy Sacraments such as the Eucharist and Reconciliation, children are given the opportunity to experience this. After Year 3 have received their Holy Communion, they are invited to attend a school Mass in their communion dress, celebrating one of the holiest and most important occasions of a Catholic person’s life. Parents are invited to mark the momentous occasion of their children receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time with a special tea after St Peter and St Paul Mass.
Years 4, 5 and 6 take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Autumn and Spring Term. They attend confession and experience God’s healing through forgiveness.
EYFS and KS1 hold school nativities with readings of the story of Jesus’ birth and the singing of hymns. KS2 hold Christmas and Easter celebrations in St. James’ Church for our entire school family and their parents.
The celebrations are services which feature Gospel readings of the Christmas and Easter stories and the singing of both traditional and contemporary hymns featuring our school Choir and Orchestra. The Marian Procession also takes place in May, during the Holy Month of Mary. Our school honours Mary by processing to the Church with flowers, plants and song as we follow a statue of Mary our mother. A special liturgical dance is prepared and performed by children in Years 1 & 5 as an expression of our love and celebration of Mary.
To mark the start of Lent, the school family attends an Ash Wednesday service. Prior to the service, in every class of our school prepare Lenten promises which are placed on the altar in a procession during the service and blessed by the Parish Priest. The blessed promises are displayed as part of our classroom displays in school during the season of Lent.
During the seasons of Lent and Advent, special Lent and Advent prayer bags are provided for families to encourage times of reflective, quiet meditation, prayer and worship at home. The bags include: and age appropriate story of the Nativity/Easter, a purple cloth, a cross, a rosary, a bag containing candles and pebbles and a guide for the families to help them structure their worship together. We ask families to send in photos of their prayer focus/time together during these special seasons to be shared on the school website.
To support the learning of our topics throughout the school, we encourage families to send in photographs of the children’s Baptism, first Holy Communion and other special religious occasions they are part of, to share their participation in the Holy Sacraments and Catholic traditions outside of school. This highlights that the children are active participants in their faith and strengthens the bond between prayer life at school and at home.
Child-Led Collective Worship:
Child-Led Collective Worship is a time for the children to reflect on Gospel readings, lead prayers they have prepared and participate in worship together.
The children select a Bible passage that they would like their session to focus on. They may choose a text related to the time in the Liturgical Calendar, a Saint or a special person being studied or a theme they would like to reflect upon together, for example, friendship, honesty or forgiveness.
Each half term, we hold a special paired Child-Led Collective Worship. Classes come together (N&Y3, R&Y4, Y1&Y5 and Y2&Y6) and lead the worship for the each other. This gives children the chance to model liturgical worship and explore the meaning of Scripture together. The children take this time to discuss the Mission and support each other to live our its message.
Pupil Chaplaincy Team
Pupils in year 5 and 6 volunteer to be part of our Pupil Chaplaincy Team. This role is a key aspect to ensuring pupil participation and voice within the Catholic life and ethos of our school. The Pupil Chaplaincy Team members will be involved in helping to organise religious events and services. The Pupil Chaplaincy Team members demonstrate their willingness to the role by dedicating their lunch time to supporting those in lower year groups by involving children in daily reflective / meditative activities, such as weaving, colouring, prayers and religious crafts. The Pupil Chaplaincy Team update the school during whole school assemblies about their learning of Catholic Social Teaching, events and charitable appeals. They are aware of their role as prayer leaders and ambassadors of the Catholic faith, as well as their duty to support not only the wider community, but also their peers. Through their interactions with peers across the school and weekly meetings with the Religious Education Co-ordinators, the Pupil Chaplaincy Team ensure the views and ideas of the pupils at our school are communicated and heard by adults. The Pupil Chaplaincy Team are advocates for their peers, and the ways in which they wish to express their faith. This impacts our school family through their commitment to live out our mission statement and enrich the Catholic life of our school.
Throughout the year, we respond to events around the world by praying and fundraising for specific communities and tragic events around the world, for example the Turkey-Syria earthquake in 2023.
In the season of Advent our school supports our local community through the Caritas Giving Calendar initiative which provides Westminster Food bank with essential items collected by our school family of food, toiletries and cleaning products for those most in need during the festive period.
St. Vincent’s donate money to St. Mungo’s, a charity which supports and provides help for those who are homeless. Our annual Christmas jumper day and carol singing event at St. Christopher’s Place are close to our hearts.
During our annual World Week in February, we hold a Spirituality Day where the children take part in reflective activities and participate in prayer for countries and communities around the world. Global issues remind the pupils of the Global Church and the call to ‘live your faith out loud, speaking and living the message of Christ for all to see’ (1 Thessalonians 1:8).
The Catholic Children’s Society (CCS) is especially important to our school. It is a charity we fundraise for during every Advent and Lent. During Advent, Year 3 attend the annual Christmas Advent Carol service and throughout Lent children collect money in almsgiving boxes to support vulnerable children and families in Westminster.
We support the World Wildlife fund through activities organised by Green Team to encourage the value of the common good and encourage each other to take care of the environment, animals and their habitats, all of which are a part of God’s creation.
Our Parish Priest
Father Philip is the new parish priest at St James’ Church. Before he came here, he lived in Rome for over 20 years. He worked in the Vatican during the time of St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, and he has also been the rector of the English College, a seminary in Rome that trains priests for England and Wales.