We have 5 Houses, Assisi, Bakhita, Calcutta, Devereux and Edith Stein. Each have their own motto, colour and prayer;
- Each House runs a fundraising house week, where they work together to raise money for Cafod, Lourdes & Fr Hudson
- Each House also runs a spirituality House week, designed to raise the awareness of faith within BGN and encourage pupils to demonstrate our five core values; Compassion, Respect, Truth, Service and Forgiveness
- There is a House Activator in each form, who helps to plan and promote events and pass on information
- The PE Department runs a year round House sports competition, which includes, football, netball, badminton, athletics, cricket, rounders and mixed tag rugby
- The House system is supported by our rewards system, VIVO, which collates the House points. Each week there is a whole school focus, which form groups, from each House, work towards. The winning forms are rewarded with VIVOs, which are added to the House competition.
ASSISI (Red) ‘Make me a channel of your peace'
St Francis of Assisi was born in 1182 in Assisi. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant. Baptised John, his father renamed him Francis as a token of his love of France. As a young man, Francis was proud and vain although kind and affable and willing to give to the poor.
In the 12th and 13th centuries Italy consisted of several small states which frequently waged war upon each other. In 1205 he was due to take part in an atatck on Apulia when he had a dream in which God asked him who could do more, the servant or the master. Francis interpreted this as meaning that he had been serving the servant and not the master and abandoning dreams of becoming a knight returned to Assisi to care for the sick.
In 1206 whilst praying in a dilapidated church, the cross spoke to him, asking that he repair the church so Francis took some of his father's cloth and sold it giving the money to the priest to repair the church. In time Francis realised that God had not meant the physical church building but instead the community of the church. His father imprisioned him in a cellar and eventually took him before the bishop. Francis renounced his father so that he could belong only to God. He abondoned his fine clothes, his possessions, his rights and the privileged life he had been living in order to help the sick and the lepers, and the derelicts and outcasts from society. He took on the clothing of a poor farmhand, the tunic which to this day is the trademark dress of the religious order he founded - the Franciscans.
From 1210 until 1221 Francis sent his followers into the world to preach to the poor and the humble. He retired from governing the Franciscan Order and took to a life of prayer, contemplation and fasting receiving the Stigmata (the wounds of Christ) in 1224. Francis died on 3rd October 1226 and was canonised in 1228. The feast day of St Francis is 4th October. Pope Francis I picked the name Francis after Saint Francis as a sign of his humility and to bring into focus the needs of the poor in our world.
BAKHITA (Yellow) ‘Be strong do not fear’
Imagine being snatched from your family when you were between the ages of 7 and 9 then forced to walk 600km while being treated most cruelly on the way. This is what happened to Bakhita. She came from a large, happy family, with four brothers and three sisters. Slave traders had kidnapped one of her older sisters some years before w hen Bakhita was still very small. Bakhita's family were reasonably well off. Her uncle was the bribal chief. Her father owned cattle and a plantation. It was from this happy family and childhood that Bakhita was torn and the trauma of her kidnapping was so severe that she forgot her name. Bakhita, which means “lucky” or “fortunate” was the name given to her by her kidnappers but there was nothing lucky about Bakhita’s early experiences. She was sold twice before they reached their destination. Her third and fourth owners were particulary cruel, one subjecting her to frequent lashings with a whip that tore her flesh, the other had her scarified and tatooed. This involved tracing intracite patterns on her body with flour, then cutting them with a razor and rubbing salt into the wounds to ensure scarification was permanent. In all Bakhita had about 114 cuts on different parts of her body. The mistress of the house stood by with a whip ready in hand in case Bakhita struggled too hard.
Eventaully Bakhita was sold to an agent of the Italian Consul, who treated her well. On his return to Italy he gave Bakhita as a present to a friend of the family. He, too, and his family treated Bakhita well and she acted as a nursemaid to their daughter. However, his business interests took him back to the Sudan. While he and his wife were sorting out a place to live they left Bakhita and their daughter with a community of Sisters. Here Bakhita found peace and calm so that when the time came to leave she refused. For three days her owners tried in vain to get her to leave the Convent. The Sisters supported Bakhita and contacted the Italian authorities who declared that as slavery was banned in Italy, and had been banned in the Sudan before Bakhita was born, legally Bakhita had never been a slave. So Bakhita at the age of 21 was a free woman.
Bakhita was baptised – taking the name Josephine – made her first communion and after years of prayer and study joined the community that had befriended her. They were known as the Canossian Sisters. Bakhita was very happy and spent the rest of her life helping others. In 1935 she was asked to talk about her faith story and to help missionairies in their work in Africa. When asked what she would do if she met her captors she replied that she would kiss their feet because through them she had found God.
In 1938 her health began to fail but she accepted this with serenity, confident of God's love for her. In her last illness her experience of slavery seemed to return and she was heard to murmur, "Please loosen the chains they are too tight". However her last words were "Yes I am so happy, Our Lady, Our Lady".
Bakhita died in 1947 and in 2000 Pope John Paul II declared her a saint and the patron saint of Sudan. Pope Benedict XVI on the 30th November 2007 in the beginning of his second encyclical "Spe Salvi" (in hope we were saved) related Bakhita's entire life story as an outstanding example of Christian hope. Sadly the suffering of the people of Sudan continues. The Northern Sudanese word for a southerner is slave.
CALCUTTA (Green) 'If we worry too much about ourselves, we won’t have time for others’
Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, in what is now Macedonia, Mother Teresa was brought up in a prosperous family but when her father died her family were left in difficult circumstances . In 1928 she suddenly decided to become a nun and left her loving family, and travelled to Dublin, to join the Sisters of Loreto. It is possible that she chose to do this as a consequence of reading about daring missionaries in India. Once she had made this decision, Mother Teresa never saw her mother or family again.
In 1929, after studying at the convent for less than a year, she left to join the Loreto Convent, in Darjeeling, northeast India, to teach geography at St Mary’s High School for Girls in Calcutta. On May 24, 1931 she took the name of “Teresa” in honour of St Teresa of Avila, a 16th-century Spanish nun. For the first 19 years in India, Sister Teresa taught within the walls of a convent. But in 1946, on a train back to Darjeeling, after witnessing a violent eruption of Hindu-Muslim rioting, which left 5,000 people dead. Teresa became convinced that God had sent her a message to go out and minister in the slums to the city's poor.
To the sick, for whom she found food and medicine, Mother Teresa was a blessing, Mother Teresa initially focused her efforts on the poor children in the streets, teaching them how to read and care for themselves. Her order received permission from Calcutta officials to use a portion of the abandoned temple to the goddess Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. Here Mother Teresa founded the Kalighat Home for the Dying. She and her fellow nuns gathered dying Indians off the street of Calcutta and brought them to this home to care for them during their final days.
In the mid-1950s, Mother Teresa began to help victims of leprosy. The Indian government gave the Missionaries of Charity a 34-acre plot of land near the city of Asanol. Under Mother Theresa's guidance, a leper colony was established here, called Shanti Nagar (Town of Peace). For her work among the people of India, the Indian government gave her the Padmashree ("Magnificent Lotus") Award in September of 1962. In 1965 Pope Paul VI placed the Missionaries of Charity directly under the control of the papacy (the office of the pope). He also authorised Mother Teresa to expand the order outside of India. Centres to treat lepers, the blind, the disabled, the aged, and the dying were soon opened world-wide, including one in Rome in 1968. Mother Teresa also organised schools and orphanages for the poor.
In 1971 Pope Paul VI honoured Mother Teresa by awarding her the first Pope John XXIII Peace Prize. The following year the government of India presented her with the Jawajarlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. In 1979 she received her greatest award, the Nobel Peace Prize. Mother Teresa accepted all of these awards on behalf of the poor, using any money that accompanied them to fund her centres. By 1990 over 3,000 nuns belonged to the Missionaries of Charity, running centres in 25 countries.
Mother Theresa remained firm in her vision of the world's true needs: humble acts of mercy on God's behalf and finding peace in practisting the radical power of love.
DEVEREUX (Blue) 'While my heart beats, I have to do what I think I can do – that is, help those who are less fortunate'
Sean was shot dead on January 2 1993. Sean, who was 28 when he was murdered, had spent nearly five years helping the poorest of Africa’s youths. Sean who grew up in England, trained as a Geography teacher before deciding to follow his calling to help children in Africa. Sean whose father was a BA pilot had been fortunate to travel a lot with his family during summer holidays and it may have been his visits to Africa that inspired his decision to go.
He had worked first in the West African republic of Liberia, then briefly in Sierra Leone and for the last half year of his life, in famine-stricken and turbulent Somalia. Sean was aware that he was moving in dangerous waters, but he did not hesitate, his father Dermot remembers his saying “While my heart beats, I have to do what I think I can do – that is, help those who are less fortunate”.
In Liberia he was savagely beaten by soldiers when he confronted one on them attempting to steal food meant for the refugees. On another occasion he was imprisoned for pleading for the release of a teenager who had rushed up to him in tears. The youth had been his student in a bush school, run the Salesians, and was later drafted into the army as a child-soldier. In 1990, the civil war forced the closing of our schools including the Don Bosco school where Sean had taught and Sean joined the UN refugee program. People were being massacred, normal food supplies had been cut off, and homes and shops were being destroyed. As the fighting reached its height, Sean and other relief workers were ordered out of the country. UNICEF invited him to work for them. As a Salesian Co-operator who had promised to live the spirit of Don Brosco in everyday life, Sean accepted the challenge at once. Somalis was a test of Sean as well as of the world. From the frying pan of Liberia’s civil war he headed with optimism into the fire of Somalia with its anarchy, famine and live-by-the-gun environment. In Somalia, UNICEF assigned him to organise relief for the starving, with particular concern for the children. His point of operation was Kismayu, the stronghold of one of the many warlords who had made the lives of so many people seem hopeless. Kismayu was truly a hot spot. Once, Sean had to be evacuated because of the tumultuous conditions. But he was soon back in Kismayu to continue his service to others.
On the night of Saturday, January 2, Sean was shot in the back by a lone gunman while he was walking near the UNICEF compound in Kisamayu. He was the first foreigner slain in Somalia since the arrival of the US led military force the previous month to assure delivery of food to the hungry. There was speculation as to why he was singled out. Some recalled that recently Sean had told the media of eyewitness reports he had received of a massacre of scores of people on the day before the U.S. Marines landed in Somalia. Dermot Devereux and Father Brian agreed that Sean’s outspokenness about conditions might have led to his death. At the Requiem Mass in Sean’s parish church in England Father Brian delivered the homily. He referred to a favourite saying in Don Bosco about the need for saints in shirtsleeves – people who do not face evil and suffering with fatalism and indifference, but who roll up their sleeves, and get down to work to make things better.
Sean was remembered in Somalia too. Three and a half weeks after Sean’s murder, foreign forces completed rebuilding the bridge over the Juba River at Bur Koy, north of Kismayu. The reconstructed bridge made it possible to deliver food to families who had been isolated on the other side. There was an international ceremony attended by the American envoy, Robert B. Oakley and Brigadier General Lawson Magruder of the United States Army. The ribbon was cut by the local representative of a major clan leader. The rebuilt bridge was formally dedicated to Sean Devereux. UN Secretary General, Dr Boutrus-Boutrus Ghali said of Sean: “In adverse, and often dangerous circumstances Sean showed complete dedication to his work. His colleagues admired his energy, his courage, and his compassion. Sean was an exemplary staff member and gave his life serving others, in the true spirit of the United Nations, Sean was a real solider of Peace.”
EDITH STEIN (Purple) 'The nation doesn’t simply need what we have, it needs what we are'
Edith Stein was born on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, in 1891 in Breslau, Germany, (now Wroclaw, Poland), the youngest of eleven children in a devout Jewish family.
When she was not yet two years old her father died suddenly, leaving Edith’s mother to raise the seven remaining children (four had died in childhood) and to manage the family business. Brought up on the Psalms and Proverbs, Stein considered her mother a living example of the strong women of Proverbs 31, who rises early to care for her family and trade in the marketplace. By her teenage years, Stein no longer practiced her Jewish faith and considered herself an atheist, but she continued to admire her mother’s attitude of total openness toward God.
Like many before and since, Edith Stein came to Christianity through the study of philosophy. One of the first women to be admitted to university studies in Germany, she moved from the University of Breslau to the University of Gottingen in order to study with Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. Stein’s philosophical studies encouraged her openness to the possibility of transcendent realities, and her atheism began to crumble under the influence of her friends who had converted to Christianity.
During the summer of 1921, at the age of twenty-nine, Stein was on holiday with friends when she read the autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, founder of the Carmelite Order. She read it in one sitting, deciding the Catholic faith was true and went out and bought a missal and a copy of the Catholic catechism. She was baptised the following January, but her desire immediately to enter the Carmelites was delayed for a time. Her advisers saw that her conversion would be a blow to her mother, and they knew the Church could benefit enormously from her contributions as a speaker and writer. Stein eventually became a leading voice in the Catholic Woman’s Movement in Germany, speaking at conferences and helping to formulate the principles behind the movement. By the time Hitler rose to power in early 1933, Stein was well-known in the German academic community. Hitler’s growing popularity and the increasing pressure on the Jewish people, prompted her to request an audience with the pope in the spring of 1933. She hoped that a special encyclical might help counteract the mounting tide of anti-Semitism.
Unfortunately, due to bureaucratic confusion, her request was not granted. By March of that year Stein’s colleagues at the Educational Institute in Munster realised that they could protect her no longer, and so offered her a teaching position in South America. Since this would mean that her mother, now eighty-four, would never see her again. Stein felt that the time had come to fulfil her long-standing desire to enter religious life.
While on a trip during Holy week of 1933, Edith stopped in Cologne at the Carmelite convent during the service for Holy Thursday. She attended it with a friend, and by her own account, the homily moved her very deeply. She wrote: “I told our Lord that I knew it was His cross that was now being placed upon the Jewish people; that most of them did not understand this, but that those who did would have to take it willingly in the name of all. I would do that. At the end of the service, I was certain that I had been heard. But what this carrying of the cross was to consist in, that I did not yet know”.
On October 15th, just after her forty-second birthday, Edith Stein entered the Carmel of Cologne, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Stein’s family saw her entry into the convent as a betrayal, and as coming at the worst possible time, just when Jewish persecution was intensifying. Christianity was the religion of her oppressors: they couldn’t understand what it meant to her. When Stein’s mother heard of her decision to enter the convent she was crushed. Stein remained in Cologne for five years, participating in the life of the community with great joy while continuing her scholarly work. After the terror of Kristallnacht (Noveber 9 1938), the nuns in Cologne feared for Stein’s safety and decided to send her secretly to the Carmel in Echt, the Netherlands. Her sister Rosa later joined her there as a Third Order Carmelite, serving as the convent portress. When Holland fell to the Nazis, Edith and Rosa Stein were in danger again, and plans were made to move them to Switzerland. Before these could be finalised, the Dutch bishops issued an encyclical attacking the anti-Sematic atrocities of the Nazi regime. The Gestapo retailed immediately by rounding up all Roman Catholic Jews to be sent to the death camps. Edith and Rosa Stein were arrested on August 2, 1942. When Rosa seemed disorientated as they were led away from the convent, Edith gently encouraged her, “Come on Rosa. We go for our people”. The sisters were deported to Auschwitz and executed just a week later. Edith was fifty years old.
Reports from those who were close to Sister Teresa Benedicta in those final days show her to have been a woman of remarkable interior strength, giving courage to her fellow travellers and helping to feed and bathe the little ones when even their mothers had given up hope and were neglecting them.
She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 1, 1987.