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The Big Assembly

The Big Assembly at St Mary's University 

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The Holy Father’s second engagement was a gathering of 3,500 school children and students billed as ‘The Big Assembly’.  The theme for the event was “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

The event was a celebration of Catholic education in the UK and the outstanding work that takes place in Catholic schools, colleges and higher education institutions across the country. 

The Big Assembly coincided with the start of the academic year and highlighted the way in which the Catholic Church works with the State and local communities to provide Catholic education in nearly 3,000 schools across the United Kingdom. 

This unique partnership between Church and State ensures the provision of Catholic schools with a distinctive ethos for around one million British school children, and The Big Assembly showcased the strong positive contribution that Catholic schools make to society as a whole. 

Head of the School of Education, Theology and Leadership (previously the School of Education) at St Mary’s at the time of the event, Geraldine Davies, said at the event: “The School of Education is delighted to be involved with the preparations for the The Big Assembly, a unique and historic occasion for all involved in Catholic Education. 

“We are very proud that our students will be both represented in the audience but also lead participants in the The Big Assembly itself.  It has been a privilege for us to be able to contribute to the planning and delivery of the event.”


Format of the event

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  1. The Holy Father addressed the gathered young people and led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer.
  2. Two award winning school choirs sang for the Holy Father and led the congregation in three hymns. 
  3. Prayer was led by representatives from each phase of Catholic education and was based on the writings of John Henry Cardinal Newman. 
  4. The links between Catholic schools in the United Kingdom and other schools around the world was celebrated through a showcase of an English school’s collaboration with its partner school in the Gambia. 
  5. The John Paul II Foundation for Sport was launched as a schools’ project following Pope John Paul II’s vision that sport and faith should work hand in hand.