Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Catholic Kete; Sharing our Culture

"At the heart of the Catholic character of a school are the Catholic hearts of those who work in the school, principal, teachers, chaplains and other staff " (The Catholic Education of School - Age Children NZ Catholic Bishops Conference 2014)
Studying a paper called Identity and Mission by Lyn Smith through the Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand, drew my attention to the importance of the whole staff understanding their role when working in a Catholic school. The whole staff includes everyone our children and families come into contact with: our office staff, teachers, teacher aides, caretakers and cleaners. They are all equally as important as each other.
Although not all of our staff are Catholic, just like our families, all staff members sign an agreement to support the Catholic character of the school.
Job descriptions and copies of guidelines, explain expectations for employees. How often do we go the extra mile and support staff to understand the traditions, rituals and Catholic culture of our schools? I remember returning from an Ash Wednesday mass and a caring support staff member, drew my attention to the smudge of dirt on my forehead. We laughed and I briefly explained that the cross on my forehead represented the start of Lent.
Our children need to be supported to grow their Catholic faith in an authentically Christian environment where each and every staff member understands that the 'ethics of the school are rooted in Gospel values and the teaching of the Catholic Church' (Christ at the Centre, The Diocesan Schools Commission, 2005).
In 2015, we welcomed all staff to the new year by presenting them with "well being bags". We ensured there were some prayers and links to our Catholic character but the main focus was on staff well being. 
A Maori flax kete. Image from
This year, we decided to support staff to understand more about the Catholicity of our school with the creation of Catholic Ketes. A kete is the Maori word for a traditional flax basket. These are used to store cultural materials. Although our ketes were made of paper and weren't as beautiful as the flax ketes, they were filled with items that link to our Catholic cultures and traditions. They were gifted to staff during morning tea prayers on Ash Wednesday. Special thanks to the very dedicated Paula Brien our office assistant who was rostered on staff prayers together with me and helped to prepare this reflection and our Catholic Ketes. Here is the reflection:
Prayer Reflection
Light the candle, bless ourselves and begin with this Lent video (from the Education resource page on the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin website). 
Present the Catholic Ketes and ask different staff members to read a sentence from the list of contents.
Our Catholic Ketes around the prayer table in the staff room.
Contents of our Catholic Ketes
-  Bottle of Water (This reminds us of holy water and our baptismal invitation to be part of God's family.)

-  Easter Egg (Chocolate is traditionally given up for Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Can you save your chocolate egg for the end of Lent on Easter Sunday ?)
The definition of the Catholic Kete contents

-  Green blessing card  (These days we focus on our thoughts and actions during Lent. Do something thoughtful for the person whose name is on your card for a week during Lent.)

-  Rosary Beads (Rosary beads help us to keep track of our prayers when praying to Mary. Hold on tight to your beads and pray when the going gets tough.)

-  Pencil (A pencil with a special message from God for you and a rubber to erase your sins. Going to reconciliation regularly is a way to be forgiven by God for our sins.)

-  'Give God the glory' message card ( Pass this to the person on your right for them to read and keep God's message in their hearts. When we say 'we will keep you in our prayers', we promise to pray for someone in need.)

-  St Joseph's medals ( A keepsake to remind you which school you are working at in case you can't remember or you get lost!! St Joseph was the loving father of Jesus and a role model for all fathers.)

-  Dominican Prayer card (This helps to remind us of the Dominican sisters who founded our school and the charism of Jesus. At St Joseph's we say JJ. This means Just like Jesus and Journey with Jesus.)

-  Another Chocolate Treat with a twist - You will have one of these bars in your bag for nourishment. Once more, hold out for forty days and nights, just like Jesus did when he fasted in the desert before beginning his ministry. Can you last or will you be tempted ?

                           -  Moro Bar to give you the extra energy when required
                           -  Boost Bar to give you a boost after the 2.00 pm drift
                           -  Picnic Bar to give you a light meal after 3.00 pm
                           -  Bubbly Bar to keep your bubbly personalities afloat
                           -  Flake Bar - to savour each bit of yummy chocolate after a great day at 
                           -  Crunchie Bar - a golden reward for all of your hard work
                           -  Dream Bar - when you are short of inspiration
                           -  Caramello - when you need some liquid gold before 5.00 pm and then at 5.00
                              pm you can enjoy the other liquid gold!!
                           -  Turkish Delight - to remind us that everyone is a delight in our school
                           -  Cherry Ripe - a yummy bit of fruit to include in our tally of 5 fruit and vege a 
                           -  Dairy Milk Chocolate - to remind us that a plain outside is not 
                              necessarily what you get in the inside

Conclude with this Lenten prayer adapted from Matthew Kelly's book: Rediscover Lent 
God of goodness and mercy, hear our prayer this lenten season. Let us be honest with ourselves as we look into our hearts ad souls, noticing the time we turn away from you, then seeking to repent and return to your love. May humility guide our efforts to be reconciled with you and live forever in your abundant grace. Amen.

Share other Kelly resources available for staff to loan: Rediscover Catholicism, Rediscover Jesus and explain about the daily email reflections from Dynamic Catholic during the forty days of Lent.

Let's support all of our staff to understand more about the Catholic school they work in and the role they play in creating an authentically Catholic environment where we "help to form Christ in the lives of others" (John Paul II quoted in Catholic Education of the School-Age Children, NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, 2014).


  1. We are so fortunate to work at a school where we are all supported physically, mentally and spiritually.

  2. Thanks for your awesome input and support Mrs Dooley. Together we support and encourage each other to be the best we can be.