The Great Hall at Manchester Town Hall was once again the venue for our annual presentation evening. Unlike in previous years the rain held off as our guests made their way through the Christmas market in Albert Square to take their places in the magnificent Great Hall, entertained on entry by the college string and wind ensembles playing a selection of seasonal favourites. Greeted by Assistant Principal Aidan Bruce the audience of past students, family members, friends and staff, was treated to a musical interlude featuring the college Chamber Choir performing an ingenious version of ‘You’re all I want for Christmas’ and a stunning rendition of ‘Christmas Carol’, a piece composed by choir member and current Loreto student, Sarah Spencer. Freddie Jensen dazzled the audience further with his brilliant and idiosyncratic interpretation of the carol ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ played on the double bass.
Principal Ann Clynch then delivered her address, welcoming the guest of honour, The Right Reverend John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, highlighting his northern connections and his work with CAFOD and other charitable institutions. Ms Clynch informed the audience that the expansion and refurbishment of the Loreto site was now complete and that student numbers will now stabilise at an extremely healthy 3,300. She went on to pay tribute to the leavers of summer 2015, who have contributed to another superb set of examination results, maintaining Loreto’s position of academic pre-eminence in the further education sector. Loreto students are now studying at universities all around the country, from Aberdeen to Southampton, East Anglia to Lancaster.
The Principal pointed to the success of the Pathways Department in preparing their students for the world of work and independent living, and also asked the audience to consider the success of our annual Rotary Club awards and the continuing beneficence of the Camplin Scholarships.
Ms Clynch drew attention to the range of extra-curricular activities in which the 2015 leavers had been involved. Loreto students take part in a variety of subject related enterprises, such as the science Olympiads and the International Translators competition; our Maths students work extensively in local primary and secondary schools, encouraging youngsters to be enthusiastic about their subject; the Performing Arts Department hosts a splendid Shakespeare festival every year, with young people from all over the city taking part. Our college wide lunch break facilitates the running of a large number of clubs and societies, such as Debate Club, which packs out Ball theatre every Tuesday, and in addition enters Loreto debating teams for competitions all over the north west and beyond, including the prestigious Model United Nations event. Loreto musicians perform on various occasions throughout the year, culminating in a spectacular musical evening at Easter, held at the Halle rehearsal venue in Manchester. Our Performing Arts Department stages a full-scale musical each year just before Christmas as well as numerous other productions throughout the three terms, and our dancers have their opportunity to shine in the annual Dance Show. Our sports teams continue to excel, with great success in both football and basketball, at local and national level.
Loreto students have the opportunity to visit a variety of places elsewhere in the country, and abroad. Trips this year have included visits to Iceland, New York, San Francisco and of course Kolkata, in India. Ms Clynch praised the work carried out by our students in India, working with the Loreto sisters to help educate the street children. Ms Clynch highlighted the important role of the Chaplaincy at Loreto, raising awareness of social justice and offering a spiritual dimension to the life of the college, in particular in their annual trips to Lourdes and Taize.
Mary Ward Day was an outstanding success again, with over 3000 students and staff off timetable and engaging in a variety of activities reflecting the core values of Loreto. Our students are also keen to get involved with charities of all descriptions; over £14000 has been raised for various charities, in particular the ‘toilet twinning’ project, which does so much to help improve sanitation in third world countries. The annul talent show provided an opportunity for students to show off their singing and dancing skills and raised a considerable amount of money for the toilet twinning cause. Ms Clynch praised the efforts of the ‘unsung heroes’, the back-up staff who ensure the smooth running of the college; she commended the efforts of the student council in representing their peers; paid tribute to two retiring, long standing members of staff, Marie Kelly and Kathryn Cooper; and expressed her gratitude to and appreciation of the tireless work and duties performed by our governing body. Ms Clynch finished her address by reminding the audience of the words of Pope Francis, who has proclaimed this as the Year of Mercy, where we are called through our mercy to bring the goodness and tenderness of God. To quote, “It would not be out of place to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimension of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love”.
Bishop Arnold then presented the prizes and certificates before delivering a brief address. He congratulated the students on their magnificent achievements, both in the academic and extra-curricular spheres. He asked the students to consider carefully the nature of their God given talents: what are those talents, and perhaps more importantly, what are you going to do with them? The Bishop quoted Henry Newman and urged the young people present to contemplate their purpose and mission in life. He implored them not to waste their unique talents by settling for ‘making do’; they should expand and develop these gifts in a constant endeavour to make the world a better place. Bishop Arnold was confident that this is not just a dream: it can be a reality.
The formal part of the evening was concluded by a vote of thanks from a representative of the student council, leaving students and guests free to mingle and renew old acquaintances before making their way home.