St Mary's School Welcome

Spiritual Life

St Mary’s is a Catholic school, and the chapel is at the heart of our school and our everyday life. Our school motto is ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’: a Catholic education means fulfilling human potential, not for self-aggrandisement, but ‘for the greater glory of God’ and for the benefit of others. That sense of service to the community, in all its meanings, was what inspired Mary Ward and continues to inspire us today. We remain faithful to that mission and express this purpose in the school’s Vision and Ethos.


Chapel is at the heart of the school, and its doors are always open. It sits just off the central corridor in the main building, opposite the girls’ refectory, close to the House offices and the staircases that go up to the boarding areas. The school gathers in chapel four mornings a week, and for Mass on Sundays and on other special occasions such as Saint Cecelia’s Day. The girls often prepare and lead worship in Chapel and assemblies. This can range from reflecting on the life of a saint whose feast day the church is celebrating to a dramatic presentation of the teachings of the prophets. Teaching staff also take part in leading whole school prayers, demonstrating the rich traditions and styles present in the St Mary’s community.

A Catholic Community

On two mornings each week, prayers and assembly take place in Houses or with tutor groups. Girls act as Eucharistic ministers at Mass, and alumnae often speak about this public role in communion as one of their most powerful memories. The Liturgy Captains organise Praise and Worship evenings in the crypt for younger girls, which are followed by cookies and hot chocolate. Our resident Chaplain leads us in Mass and prayers, and is a regular and cheerful presence around school. The girls love sitting and chatting with him in the refectory, and value his calm wisdom and steadying influence.


We believe that a genuine Christian commitment cannot simply be taught: it must be encouraged by example and nurtured through instruction, support and discussion. All pupils go on retreat every year, Years 7 to 9 for one day, and Years 10 and upwards for two days. This is an opportunity for each girl to step away from the everyday, and reflect on her faith, her relationships, and her spiritual journey. Retreats are led by experienced retreat directors and involve a variety of activities. They always follow a theme, such as the need for faith in times of change, or the value of prayer, as well as preparation for Confirmation in Year 10. Retreats might include discussions, workshops, some drama or a film, walks in our beautiful grounds, and the chance to enjoy silence and prayer. They give the girls an opportunity to talk things through in a calm and supported atmosphere.


Confirmation takes place every year and is a significant event that we celebrate together as a community, including parents and staff. The girls receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at a special Mass celebrated by the Bishop of our Diocese or his representative. The girls prepare carefully for this moment in their sacramental journey. The programme is delivered by the Chaplain and supported by catechists amongst the staff. They also have a day of recollection during the final run-up to the Confirmation itself.

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