St Mary’s Celebrates Its Founder

Ask any ex-student of St Mary’s Independent School (formerly St Mary’s College) about their most memorable days at school, and it’s a fair bet that  a high percentage will grow misty-eyed and whisper the words ‘Founder’s Day!’. The birthday of the school’s founder – Jean De La Mennais – on 24th November has always been celebrated at the Southampton school in ways both formal and informal, and this year has been no exception.


Students who attended the school since its foundation in 1922 by the Brothers of Christian Instruction (the order founded by De Le Mennais) still talk of dances, ‘Blind-Date’ spoofs and rock-concerts in the gym, with mud-infused tug-of-wars and sporting competitions on the school meadow.


This year the school, set in 17 lush acres in the heart of Bitterne, has again enjoyed Founder’s Day in style.  Pupils attending the Preparatory Department (formerly Charlton House) spent the morning organising a toy and board-game fayre, where pocket money was spent on a variety of fun items (some of which may have been tested before buying!) and all proceeds were donated to charity.


At 11am, the whole through-school community met in the school gym for a celebratory mass led by school chaplain Father Michael Peters. From the youngest children in the school’s Nursery Department to the 16 year olds in Year 11 of the Senior School, as well as some considerably more venerable teachers and parents, the community came together to hear a message of charity and social responsibility, with the message of taking the ideals of Jean De La Mennais out into the world and living lives that serve others and not just ourselves.  Brother Francis, former Headteacher at St Mary’s, was present at mass to represent the Brothers of Christian Instruction, who are still trustees of the school.


After lunch, students from all age ranges took part in a sponsored walk for charity around the perimeter of the school. The total distance walked (and, in some cases, run) by the students added up to 300 miles, the distance from Southampton to Ploermel, the French home of the Mennaisian order. There are hundreds of Mennaisian schools world-wide, and all will have celebrated Founder’s Day in their own style.


The day was deemed a great success by students and teachers alike, and all involved in the school were reminded that such celebrations are a vital part of community life, and that the community life of a school like St Mary’s is indisputably its life-blood.