The #supportstaff effect: Lay Chaplain Kay Dodsworth retires
Lay Chaplain Kay Dodsworth is retiring at the end of the Autumn Term 2020, having worked at St Mary's for 34 years. She will be missed and remembered fondly by the many hundreds of students who have been under her care during this time, offering a friendly face and advice to both students and staff over the years. Here she explains some of the things that she loves about St Mary's.
When did you start at St Mary’s? September 1986
What did you do before you joined?
I went to university in Wales, then did some research. I had no intention of becoming a teacher, other than perhaps a Dance teacher, I taught Dance briefly when I had completed my research and married. Initially I went into teaching because I wanted a job which allowed me to be at home during the school holidays to care for my son but found that I really enjoyed it. Before coming to St Mary’s I taught English and RE at a large Catholic comprehensive school in Derby. There was a similarly strong spiritual base, community feel and focus on social justice such as we have at St Mary’s.
Why do you enjoy being Lay Chaplain at St Mary’s?
I like people; young people, older people, all the infinite variety of people. Being Chaplain gave me the privilege of getting to know people and accompany people of all ages, spiritualties and dispositions and it is always a privilege to be able to talk with people about things that really matter. It is particularly wonderful knowing that your role is to be available and make time for people. It is not that often in a school that there is the opportunity to spend much time with individuals but a Chaplain is able to do that. I have enjoyed the companionship of students and staff, teaching and non-teaching; being involved in school liturgy and celebrations and helping students with assembly preparation. I have enjoyed the great variety of things I have been invited to do as Lay Chaplain, including helping to paint some of the scenery for school productions!
What have been your highlights of working at St Mary’s?
I could fill several volumes with responses to this question but I will just pick a few. One has to be magical times in the classroom when teaching. There is something very special about the relationship that is formed between a teacher and a teaching group when they have grown to trust each other and feel free to share their exploration of a subject openly and with enjoyment.
Another has to be the fun and depth on Days of Reflection, which I introduced, I think, in 1987. Similarly, liturgy has always been a joy, things like the Easter liturgies, Mary Ward Day celebrations, the rededication of the chapel celebrated by Mass outside on the Chapel lawn, Carol services in OLEM, assemblies when the whole school settles into silence, times of prayer and meditation in the chapel.
The zanier aspects of St Mary’s have also been highlights; for example, coming in one day to see a cockerel strutting round the cortile, brought in on the train by an enterprising student for something to do with Lourdes Fundraising Fortnight. I have particularly enjoyed seeing students getting involved in many extra-curricular activities, such as concerts, plays and musicals, Gym displays, debates, fun runs, and a multitude of inventive fund-raising initiatives.
Getting to know the CJ community has also been a highlight. I have learned so much from them and so much appreciated their welcome, friendship and support.
What advice do you have for all the students you have taught – past and present – to help them on their journey in life?
I think it is important to understand that asking for help is a sign of wisdom not of weakness. That the things we enjoy and make us feel most fulfilled or satisfied are indicators of our vocation. Finally, to quote Pope Francis, ‘Love does not have to be perfect to be valued.’