ICONS Neue Mittelschule Gundstamdorf - Jack Fleming, former intern

A story from a school in Austria.

“In the summer of 2015, as a reconciliation intern at Coventry Cathedral, I was able to spend three days in a middle school in the small town of Guntramsdorf, about 20 minutes south of Vienna.  Between us, my colleague Hannah and I built up a routine of running classes and activities with children aged between about 10 and 14. Using her native German and my piecemeal knowledge, we explored what it takes to be superheroes, how young people can be bridge builders, the importance of symbols, and what reconciliation is all about with some 15 classes over two days.

“The high point, however, came on the third day, when the School was presented with a Cross of Nails to mark its membership of the ICONS network. The School’s involvement stemmed from the work of one passionate teacher, who had visited Coventry before, and had taken our story back to her School and her R.E. classes, an environment where it could have a real impact.

“In small schools, ideas travel fast. Soon, children from other faiths were sitting in on Catholic Religion classes, and peace Cranes marked the stairs to the staff room. When it was time to present the cross, its impact was clear. At the service were Catholic monks, Lutheran pastors and Orthodox priests. But what made Guntramsdorf such a good example of the ICONS network in action was that it was the students who took the lead - the very same students who were already taking responsibility for their choices and their lives (not to mention supporting the Cathedral’s reconciliation work, having funded our plane tickets to Austria and back). The teacher who had initiated the process struggled and failed to hold back tears of joy in the service.

“Afterwards, the cross was carried in procession from the Church back to the school by one of the girls. The other children, staff and guests followed behind, the line stretching out of sight. That is what Coventry’s reconciliation ministry is - a line stretching back into the past, and moving forward, led by the Cross of Nails, towards a world reconciled to itself.”