June 6, 2024 opinion

Attending a Catholic school opens a new perspective inside you

Jefferson He in London, UK

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May 8, 2024. The Kwajalein community gathered together to bless the Kwajalein High School graduating class of 2024 during the annual baccalaureate ceremony at the Island Memorial Chapel.

Picture by: Jessica Dambruch / U.S. Army | Flickr

I’m an atheist who has spent four years studying at a Catholic school in the UK. That may sound like a nightmare, but believe me it has been a valuable experience.

One might wonder why my parents picked this school despite our family background as atheists. 1

The reason was simple: religious affiliation should not limit education and it makes you more aware of life. In addition, my school’s art department is renowned for its high standards throughout the UK. Interestingly, more than 60% of students at the school (a mix of day and boarding) are non-Catholics.

When I first joined the school, I found it very strange – it was my first experience of Catholic rituals. However, I slowly became fascinated by the weekly prayer routine and religious practices. Morning and evening prayers are compulsory for everyone and, during assembly on Monday, we pray before the assembly starts and sing a hymn at the end.

Additionally, on Friday evenings we have Vespers where we pray and sing. The name is derived from the Latin word vesperum, which translates to ‘evening’ and marks the end of a day. Moreover, for full boarders, attending Mass on Sunday mornings is required and, for Catholics, includes taking communion on top of prayers and hymns.

Through my many attendances to Vespers and Mass, I observed many different ways of praying, such as singing, kneeling, and genuflecting. Personally, I kneel and sing for the choir. Although I remain an atheist, I still kneel to show respect to God and to experience what it is like to be Catholic.

Now, after four years at the school, I find Vespers and Mass relaxing. At times of tension from exams (GCSEs and A-levels), the services help to reduce my stress and clear my mind.

I feel safe growing up in the school’s environment and its Catholic life, and I have grown more mature and confident.  

Now a senior student in the school, I have become more involved in the choir and charity school committees, while also sharing my own Chinese culture. Interestingly, I also joined a group with the chaplain to create the school’s first-ever school prayer.

Religious studies is compulsory up to GCSE level, which I was reluctant to study at first. However, through my involvement in my school’s Catholic life, I have become more interested in religion, and I have even chosen the subject for one of my A-levels.

In addition to fostering my interest in religion, the school has made me more open-minded, allowing me to consider different perspectives on religion and life. This leaves me wondering: how might the world change if more people were exposed to diverse religious practices from a young age, shaping their understanding and tolerance?

Written by:


Jefferson He


London, United Kingdom

Born in 2007 in Hong Kong, Jefferson studies in Reading, England and plans to attend a university in the United Kingdom.

Jefferson joined Harbingers’ Magazine in 2023 — first as a contributor, but quickly became the UK Correspondent. In 2024, he took over as the editor-in-chief and acting editor of the Politics section.

Additionally, Jefferson coordinates the Harbingerettes project in Nepal, where a group of 10 students has journalism-themed lessons in English. He spends some of his holiday reporting on the development of LGBT+ rights in Asia (one of his articles was published by The Diplomat).

He is interested in philosophy, journalism, sports, religious studies, and ethics. In his free time, Jefferson – who describes himself as “young, small and smart” – watches movies, enjoys gardening and plays sports. He speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Edited by:


Christian Yeung

Society editor

Hong Kong | United States




A person who disbelieves or lacks the belief in the existence of God.


A person who disbelieves or lacks the belief in the existence of God.

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