Commissioning Chaplains – Fr David O’Malley SDB

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Taken from Fr David O’Malley’s Blog

This is the time of year when many chaplains are commissioned or re-commissioned for service in school communities. Commissioning can be a very helpful experience for both the chaplain and for the school community because:

  • It highlights the spiritual dimension of the school and the seriousness with which the school approaches its ethos.
  • It emphasises the different role and relationships that the chaplain has to maintain within other professional relationships at school.
  • It allows the school to recognise its formal links to the church as a a church school, especially if the dean or some local clergy take part in the commissioning.
  • It is a formal invitation for others to recognise and pray for the chaplain and be ready to support their work.

With that said I want to offer a sample which I have been asked to prepare for a new chaplain.

Firstly, the commissioning should be done by the head teacher and, if you have a strong parish link, by the local dean or pastoral area leader.
Secondly The service should be short and fit easily into an assembly slot and it may also need to be repeated through the cycle of assemblies so that all groups are involved.
Thirdly, The commissioning should involve some symbols and especially the handing over of the Gospels from the head or the dean to you with a form of words.
Fourthly there should be a reading from the Gospel and a quiet moment of prayer for you as you begin this ministry in the school.
Fifthly, there should be some brief explanation of the role of a chaplain- perhaps telling the story of St Martin of Tours, reminding people of the role of chaplains in hospitals and in the armed forces.

I like to remind people through the story of St Martin that the chaplain’s role is to guard the sacred values of the school community and help them to develop. That means that you could use your school mission statement and incorporate that into a form of promise that you make in public- to support that mission as a chaplain perhaps opening up your informal listening role.

Those are some thoughts so here is a possible running order:

COMMISSIONING SERVICE

Introduction-
A hymn around discipleship followed by the story of St Martin who’s cloak became the first focus of chaplaincy. (If you wanted to dramatise that story it would work quite well in an assembly)

Opening prayer by the head:
Lord, today we welcome a new person  ____n_______ to minsiter to our school community as a chaplain. May he/she hold us all in prayer and walk with us through the challenges and triumphs of our school year. May he/she be a good shepherd for those who are in need, an inspiration for those of us who are weary and guide to all of us in following the Gospel that lies at the heart of our school community. AMEN

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John (John 10)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd opens the gate for the sheep and they lsiten to his voice. He calls each one by name. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus said, I am the good shepherd I know my sheep and my sheep know me and I lay down my life for my sheep.

Head teacher.
I am now going to ask _____N________to come forward and make his/her commitment to the service of this school community as our chaplain. (Pause whilst the chaplain comes forward and stands near the head teacher- head bowed)

Questioning

_____N_________ as chaplain for our school community you are accepting a role as a spiritual guide within our school. Are you ready to live and work with us as a prayerful example of the Gospel?
Chaplain I am

Are you ready to spend time with members of our school community as a listener and as a learner so that you can understand our spiritual needs and, in partnership with me as the spiritual leader of this school, to feed the spiritual hungers that you find here?
Chaplain I am

Are you ready to pay particular attention to those who are sad and in need and support us as we celebrate prayer and liturgy. Are you ready to make the Gospel of Jesus even more visible in our school?
Chaplain I am by the grace of God

Head teacher
I now invite the whole school to pray for you as you begin this work by saying together the prayer that Jesus taught us. Our Father.

Head teacher
_________N________ I welcome you today as our new chaplain and ask you to receive this Gospel as a sign of your ministry in school. May you live these Gospel values with confidence among us and help us to do the same.

The Gospel is presented.

Head teacher
Lord, we have a new chaplain. May we support them in their work and may they stay close to you so that they can always remind us of your presence in every corridor and classroom. May our school become a holy place where your loving kindness is visible in all our work and relationships. May our chaplaincy bring new blessing on our school. AMEN

Some sort of applause might be appropriate here.

Clare Lewis