As the end of June approached so did my two weeks work experience. I had been looking forward to two weeks away from school and even though I expected to work hard it would be something new and different. I had been given a book of instruction at school detailing how to behave, dress and the sort of things I should say and do while I was “employed.” It told me not to wear T shirts with unsuitable slogans and not to say I was bored!
On Sunday Father David announced to the congregation of St. Michael’s that I would be helping him for the next two weeks, there was a murmur and some not very well concealed laughter. I am not sure whether this was at the prospect of me being helpful or the idea of Father David teaching me how to be hard working and diligent!
On Monday the 29th the temperature rose as a summer heat wave rolled in. I had decided to wear my new suit, shirt and tie as I didn’t know what we would be doing during the day. When I arrived at the vicarage Father David went through the health and safety section of the book with me and then we headed to the Church, or at least the bar at the back of the hall. Father David and I moped the floor, tidied up and restocked the bar. As we worked we talked about the Church, faith, life the universe and everything. Poor Father David looked very tired by the end of the afternoon!
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday brought a trip to St. Augustine’s at Belvedere and days spent with Father Clive and his two lovely dogs! We worked at some of the parish administration and completed the Wedding returns. I was invited to observe their PCC meeting in the evening. The next day Father Clive and I made some home visits to parishioners who were sick, the afternoon was spent in St. Augustine’s school meeting the staff and children. The day concluded with me serving at Mass in the evening. On Thursday we spent the morning at a funeral directors dealing with the administration for a forthcoming funeral, even though I had prepared myself for this trip I was relieved that we were only dealing with paperwork. Friday was my day off! On Saturday I had been invited back to St Augustine’s to help with their Church Fair. After a week of my help Father Clive felt the need to go away for a weeks holiday!
On Sunday I was back home at St Michael’s and serving at morning Mass. For the second week of my work experience I was to be based at St Michael’s and working with Father David. On Monday we once again cleaned and restocked the bar. On Tuesday I accompanied Father David as an observer to an a meeting in Southwark. The meeting was about education and quiet important but rather dull as many meetings are. At the end of the meeting I was thanked for coming along, I said thank you for allowing me to be there and that it had been interesting. The committee laughed, they knew the meeting had been dull as well! On Wednesday Father David and I attended the Crematorium. The crematorium was a very interesting place. The staff there are of course very respectful of what they are doing but also have a wonderful dark humour that I think they must need to survive the job they do. Thursday morning saw Father David and myself attending a funeral at St Michael’s. I had been asked to act as an usher and generally help out in the Church which I was pleased to do. I accompanied Father David to the cemetery but waited in the car while the service was completed at the graveside and the family said goodbye in private. In the afternoon we made a home visit to a member of St Michael’s who had been rather poorly, this turned out to be a nice cup of tea and a chat. The lady in question can always find a chuckle and cheerful word. Friday saw us doing yet more paperwork (the Church seems to generate so much paper!) and helping with the preparations for the pilgrimage to Walsingham at the weekend. After a much needed day off on Saturday I completed my work experience by serving at Sunday morning Mass for Father Andrew.
By the end of the two weeks I had learned a lot about the day to day work of a priest and the life of the Church. (I had also been nicknamed Father Dougal, after the naïve probationer in the comedy series Father Ted!) Father David and Father Clive made my time with them interesting and enjoyable and deserve a big thank you for letting me spend my work experience with them and making their busy lives even busier.