I realised today that it is thirty years since I left the John Fisher School at 18. The school was founded by Canon Byrne in 1929, before the canonisation of Sts John Fisher and Thomas More. It has always retained its original name, without the "Saint."
I was there today to speak to the school's Faith Society. This is where the Faith Movement began. The Society was founded by Fr Roger Nesbitt who was then a teacher at the school, with guidance from Fr Edward Holloway. It still meets in what used to be Fr Nesbitt's study - I think it was Andrew Nash who coined the nicknamed "The Nesbitry." The room is in a house called "Takapuna." In the 70s, it was the home of several priests who taught at the school.
Inside, it is not at all as tidy as it was when Fr Nesbitt lived there - generations of boys have taken their toll on the paintwork and furnishings. However, the spirit of the place is clear enough from the walls:
I was invited by Dan Cooper ("Sir Dan of the Nesbitry") who retired from teaching several years ago but continues to run the Faith Society in the school.
The subject he gave me to speak on was "Blood of the Martyrs, seed of Christians." There were about 20 boys there, mainly from the lower forms although two sixth-formers came, including the School Captain. They all stay voluntarily after school on a Friday evening. I tried to give a quick rundown of the way that the Church grew in the first three centuries, the heroism and of the martyrs and the inspiration they gave to the Christians under persecution. Including a few gory details was also very much appreciated, of course.
These gatherings are always lively and good fun. The boys carry on asking questions afterwards over tea and toast. An innovation since my time is a pool table and chess board for those who don't go out to play football after the talk.
The Faith Society has been the seedbed of many priestly vocations over the past thirty years since mine was nurtured there. The picture at the top of the post shows the school chapel where we used to attend daily Mass. There is still Mass before school two days a week and there is always a good attendance of boys. Dan told me that they have fifteen servers for the weekly lunchtime Benediction, with one boy arranging rotas for all the different "jobs" that they have been able to give out. With that number, there must be competition for "spoon holder" or something.