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Ipswich school with Mother Teresa link set to celebrate

As Mother Teresa was canonised at the Vatican in Rome by Pope Francis on Sunday September 4, a school in Ipswich was remembering her very special visit to the town some 46 years ago.

And the influence of St Teresa still remains strong at St Mark's Catholic Primary School after all those years as it prepares to celebrate its own Golden Jubilee.

St Teresa's words are regularly read by pupils, pictures of the visit on October 30, 1970, adorn the school walls and the people who welcomed her that autumn day still recall it with affection.

motherteresastmarks1970x600One of them is school governor, Maureen Kelway, who, at the time, was a parent of three young pupils – Amanda, Andrew and David.

"The visit was a huge occasion with hundreds of children and parents filling the school hall," recalled Maureen. "I remember Mother Teresa arriving with all the dignitaries and walking down the lines of children and shaking most of them by the hand. My son David shook her hand and said to me afterwards "she is such a tiny lady'. She was dressed in her blue sari and it was a lovely, lovely occasion and she has such a beautiful smile on her face."

Maureen has been a school governor ever since and now has a longer association with the school than anyone else.

She recalled that the children had knitted squares into a blanket which was given to St Teresa, together with £800 from a sponsored walk. And the school still raises money for the Missionaries of Charity, and other charities, with sponsored events.

And this is not the only way in which St Teresa still has an influence on the school.

"We use St Teresa's quotes as the themes for some assemblies," explained head teacher Theresa Barker. "The quotes are written on small wooden fish, which is a Christian symbol, and are hidden around the school and in the grounds.

"The children then have to search for them and those who find them are invited to read the quote in assembly, which we then talk about. They get very excited about finding them and reading them out. The fish quotes are then attached to a fishing net on a pavilion in the playground for all the children to see.

stmarkschildrentheresafish60"The children are very proud of the fact that St Teresa came to the school and they love finding the fish and quotes. We are consciously trying to ensure that even though St Teresa only came to visit us once, in a very real sense, she is present at St Mark's every day," said Theresa.

"It is our golden anniversary year and Bishop Alan Hopes will say an anniversary mass in June and will link the theme to Mother Teresa. We feel that the canonisation is a great start to our anniversary school year and is spiritually very powerful for us.

"I think it is wonderful that she has been made a saint, because people who actually met her can still remember her. It also reminds us that we too might meet people who become saints and that St, Teresa's example is something we can aspire to."

The school still has a display of pictures of the visit and St Teresa's signature in the visitors' book. During the speech she gave at the school, Mother Teresa said: "I want to thank you all for all you have done and the sacrifices you have made to help our children. The money you send gets bread for the children and we would not be able to feed and clothe them and send them to school if you did not walk and raise money for us."

St Mark's, which has 212 pupils, including a number of different nationalities, has lots of special activities planned for the anniversary year, including a garden of hope and a video in which children take the lead in the pursuit of world peace.

Pictured above is head teacher Theresa Barker with St Mark’s pupils and the St Teresa fish quotes and, middle Mother Teresa visits St Mark’s in 1970 (picture courtesy of EADT).