Newcastle school reflects on a year of commemoration for its founder

The realisation of a 19th century Frenchwoman’s dream to found a school for girls has been celebrated by the successors of its first pupils, 180 years later.

The students at Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Fenham have been commemorating the landmark anniversary of the establishment of the Society of the Sacred Heart in England with a year-long calendar of events.

“Madeleine Sophie Barat founded the Society of the Sacred Heart in France in 1801, and since then the Religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart and lay Sacred Heart educators have carried out her mission of educational excellence for girls in 30 countries worldwide,” said Lynsey Craig, Assistant Headteacher and Head of Religious Studies at the school, which is a member of the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust.

“Our schools are universally committed to each student’s spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical development. We also aim to instil and encourage academic rigour, social responsibility and a strong faith in the context of being a responsible and proactive member of society.

“Today, there are 155 Sacred Schools across our global network. In the English network, Sacred Heart Catholic High School, Fenham, is one of five schools founded by the Society.”

In line with the school’s community-minded ethos, many of the anniversary activities involved charitable fundraising, for causes both close to home and further afield.

Ventures included a Lip Sync Battle, where £1,300 was raised for charity;  Candy Cane and ‘Canny Friday’ events which collected £700 plus a van load of food donations for West End Foodbank; fundraising for a school in Nepal; and a Sponsored Read which raised £100 for Sacred Heart School in Kenya.

The students also performed a collective ‘180 hours of service’ to mark the occasion, with activities ranging from litter picking, making Christmas cards for care home residents, donating to charity shops, and taking part in sponsored walks, to paired reading, where Year 12 pupils worked with those in Year 3 to promote literacy and a love of reading.

In addition, they wrote articles about the school’s ‘Goal of Community’ and shared their reflections on being part of the Sacred Heart community.

“Marking this anniversary reminds us of what matters in our school community and reflects with gratitude on how a Sacred Heart education can transform lives,” continued Mrs Craig.

“The 180th anniversary of the arrival of the Society of the Sacred Heart in England marks the arrival in 1842 of six Religious of the Sacred Heart, who travelled to England with two students to make a new foundation.

“Although to many, an education solely for girls seemed unthinkable back then, it had long been a dream of Madeleine Sophie Barat to plant the seeds of the Society on English soil.”

“Today, our staff and students continue to remember, reflecting on the importance of our Sacred Heart heritage, and share in Madeleine Sophie Barat’s profound educational mission,” she added.

“Our ethos and events like these unite us as a school community. Our Sacred ‘Heartness’ is what ultimately connects us to one another, and these events are a genuine celebration of that.”