"Congratulations Jimmy, we would like to offer you the job"
As I sat in Covent Garden, enjoying the sights and sounds of busy London life, I heard these words informing me that, as of July, I would become Mr. O’Donnell, teacher of Religious Education at Our Lady's Convent High School, in London. After accepting the offer and hanging up the phone I began to reflect on how I had got here, and started to call to mind my journey to this point.
Volunteering at Castlerigg Manor a few years ago gave me the opportunity to explore my vocation. I had always liked the thought of being a teacher and, coming from a family full of teachers, I knew that it is a very rewarding job. However, it was only through my experience of working with young people at Castlerigg that I was able to truly discern my calling to working with young people, and in particular, working with young people within a Catholic setting.
After leaving Castlerigg Manor and completing my undergraduate degree, I decided to take a position in the chaplaincy department at Cardinal Allen Catholic High School, Fleetwood. This was an invaluable year for me as it gave me further insight into Catholic education and everything that is unique and glorious about Catholic schools. The ethos and vision of Catholic schools, in that they reflect the values proclaimed by Christ in the Gospels; faithfulness and integrity, dignity and compassion, truth and justice was very apparent at Cardinal Allen. This was further confirmation that Catholic education is where I am needed. And importantly, at Cardinal Allen I was exposed to a RE department that is truly outstanding in every sense of the word. It was the example and inspiration of my colleagues there, that led me to take the next step and get into the classroom and become a teacher of Religious Education.
I feel privileged to have undertaken my teacher training with the Catholic Teaching Alliance, based at Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Preston. Whilst this year has been one of the most challenging periods of my life; I have learned more about myself as a person, as a child of Christ and a teacher in this last 12 months than I thought was possible. My career path has afforded me the honour of working within Catholic education at all stages and under several different guises.
From my experience, I firmly believe that Catholic schools have the potential to promote the fullness of Christian life and to demonstrate the joy with which you can live your life, when you follow the teachings and example of Christ and His Church. To be able to put Christ at the centre of my teaching, not only in subject material but also in my building of relationships with my students and colleagues is a gift unique to Catholic Education, and one which I have thoroughly enjoyed in this past year.
I now stand on a precipice in my life: moving to London is a scary thing. Getting to know a new school, a new city, a new diocese, making new friends and leaving everything behind is a daunting challenge. However, I am not truly leaving anything behind; I will take with me all I have experienced. Not just during my career but throughout my life and during my journey in faith, and I will use these experiences to help me become the best teacher and the best person that I can become. I will miss the Lancaster Diocese and the North West terribly, but I know that a little part of me will always be there and a little part of it will always be in me.
Jimmy, 25, Blackpool