Sunday Times Secondary School of the Year 2023

St. Mary's Grammar School

Catholic Ethos

We aim to create a vibrant, living faith community where young people are enabled to develop a strong set of Catholic Christian values and attitudes which will inspire and guide them in all aspects of their lives.

The St. Mary’s school motto is ‘Gloria Deo Soli’ which means ‘Glory to God Alone.’ We provide many opportunities for our students to glorify God in word and deed, particularly in their relationships with and regard for others, especially those in need. We strive to create an environment in which young people can grow in self-awareness and in empathy for their fellow human beings in the context of a living faith.

Prayer, reflection and liturgical celebrations are important aspects of school life. Our pupils are encouraged to engage in prayer, reflection and worship through:

  • Daily Form Class Prayer
  • Weekly Year Group Assemblies
  • Prayer Groups
  • Faith Retreats
  • School Pilgrimages
  • School Masses
  • Lenten Masses
  • Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Christmas Service
  • Easter Service

These activities promote the development of a shared understanding of Gospel values and Catholic traditions and enhance the opportunities for staff and students to develop a personal relationship with God.

In St. Mary’s, pupils do not only learn their faith but are encouraged to live their faith.
Pupils have opportunities to demonstrate a living faith through:

  • School Participation
  • Parish and Community Involvement
  • Charity and Social Justice Campaigns

St. Mary’s offers two programmes which promote faith in action among its young people – the Muiredach Cross Award and the Pope John Paul II Award.


The Muiredach Cross Award is open to pupils in Year 11. It is a faith development award of the Archdiocese of Armagh. Its primary aim is to create opportunities for young people to put their faith into action. By developing their leadership skills, the programme aims to enable young people to become a positive influence on the spirit or ethos of their school, parish and community. Students working towards the Muiredach Cross Award must complete one project in each of the following areas:

  • General School Ethos
  • School Faith Based Project
  • Parish/Community Faith Based Project
  • Justice Based Project


The Pope John Paul II Award is open to pupils in Year 13 and Year 14. It was created to commemorate the late Pope John Paul II who was so committed to young people and who had such belief and confidence in them. Through the Pope John Paul II Award, young people are enabled to take an active part in the life of their Church, in the life of their community and society and also become more aware of the teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world. Participation in the programme enables young people to engage at a deep level with Christ.


The generosity and kindness of the whole school community - including pupils, staff and parents - are widely recognised and have benefitted a range of charity organisations over many years.

St. Mary’s charity work fulfils part of the school’s vision whereby we aim to:

  • encourage pupils to play an active and responsible role in society;
  • provide opportunities for pupils to develop as global citizens;
  • encourage pupils to use their talents for the service of others; and
  • create a vibrant living faith community where all members of the school community are encouraged to live the Gospel values and be committed to a Christian way of life.

Through charity, fundraising and volunteering activities, pupils learn about charitable causes and the work of particular charitable organisations. Engagement in charity, fundraising and volunteering activities gives pupils an opportunity to put their faith into action, demonstrate Christian values and develop a sense of social responsibility and moral obligation by serving others in need in the local, national and global context.

A core feature of the school’s charity and fundraising work is the annual Year Group Charity Focus. Through this, each Year Group from Year 8 to Year 14 identifies a particular charity and engages in activities to raise funds to support the work of that charity. Throughout each year, other charity and fundraising events are organised by pupils and staff.

Examples of recent charity and fundraising activities in St. Mary’s include:

  • Hamper Appeal
  • Shoebox Appeal
  • Spring Concert
  • Sponsored Walk
  • Mini-Enterprise Initiatives
  • Coffee Mornings

Among the wide range of charities to benefit from the fundraising efforts of the St. Mary’s community in recent years are:

  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • Trocaire
  • Saphara
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Action Cancer
  • Macmillan Cancer Care


In St. Mary’s, we are fortunate to have a School Chaplain who provides spiritual support and guidance for the school community throughout the year.
The School Chaplain is Reverend Father John Gates who is pictured below.