Bellerive begin FCJ bicentenary celebrations

By Simon Hart

Pupils at Bellerive FCJ Catholic College in Liverpool have taken part in an ‘International Day of Kindness’ to mark the beginning of a special year of celebrations.

With 2020 marking the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) in northern France, all pupils at FCJ schools around the world were invited to show kindness in their school and home on Friday 20 September – the first event of a busy bicentenary programme. At Bellerive, the activities included pupils serving afternoon tea to a group of elderly visitors, and teachers handing out gift bags and cake to their students.

The FCJ celebrations officially run from 21 September – birthday of the foundress of the congregation, Marie Madeleine d’Houet – until the Feast of Christ the King in November next year, and one publicly stated priority for the Sisters in Europe is the environment, with a pledge made to plant ten trees in their local areas, as well as offering financial support for an alternative energy project.

In the FCJ Area of Europe Bicentenary Commitment, the congregation underlined its wish to respond to the ‘climate emergency’  and ‘make a positive contribution to our local environment’. The Sisters added: ‘We will plant ten trees per community and/or group in 2020 and endeavour to divest all our FCJ communities and homes of single-use plastics.’

At FCJ schools including Bellerive, there will be a year-long programme of workshop resources and daily prayers, as well as a specially composed new song. Other activities include the staging of a theatre production based on the life of Marie Madeleine and the expansion of the society she founded, with performances planned in the UK, Ireland and other English-speaking locations.

The story of a woman who took inspiration from her namesake Mary Magdalen is certainly worth retelling. After the early death of her husband, while she was pregnant with their son, Marie Madeleine was 38 when she opened her first school in Amiens in 1820. By the time of her death in 1858, there were FCJ schools and orphanages not only in France, but also in England, Switzerland, Italy and Ireland.

Today the society has a footprint on six continents and is responsible for a range of institutions, including centres for women and refugees, schools and centres of spirituality. It has four schools in England, including Bellerive and Upton Hall School in Birkenhead.