BIDDEFORD---“What’s the biggest mishap you’ve ever seen in a church?” asked the young girl.
“Well, one time, a lady had a heart attack during a Mass,” the bishop responded to the gasps of the students. “She was fine. Don’t worry, she lived until 90!”
The question was one of many that drew surprise, laughter, and looks of understanding from the group of middle school students that filled the cafeteria of St. James School in Biddeford on Monday, November 5, for a special “town hall” session with Bishop Robert P. Deeley (additional pictures below).
The bishop fielded any question the students could generate during the special visit, which came during New England Catholic Schools Week (Nov. 4-11).
Questions ranged from the humorous to the insightful. From finding out the bishop’s favorite color (“Blue”), sports team (“I’m from Boston, so the Red Sox”), and if he’d ever been to Disney World.
“I made it to the door and then I saw the prices,” said the bishop to the laughing students.
One young girl asked Bishop Deeley what the most challenging thing about being the bishop was.
“We live in a world that doesn’t necessarily agree with the values that we hold,” said the bishop. “I think one of the hardest things I do as a bishop is just the challenge of helping people to understand that we do live in a world where we have to care for one another; we have to respect each other; and we have to go out of our way to respect the dignity of every person.”
The bishop added that so much of what the students get to learn at St. James is about living moral lives in which they care for others.
“Our society sometimes talks to us a lot about taking care of ‘me’ and ‘myself,’” he said. “We have to have a sense that we are not only taking care of ourselves, but we are also taking care of each other. Jesus called us to care for others as he thought we would have a better world.”
A young boy asked the bishop what he wanted to be when he was their age. He said he learned that there is a more important question to pose.
“People often ask ‘what do you want to be?’” said the bishop. “The real question is ‘what does God want?’ God has created each of us and given us the gifts that we have for the good of ourselves and others. So, if we want to be happy, it’s good to consider, through thought and prayer, what it is God wants you to do.”
In addition to the “town hall,” the bishop visited all the classrooms at St. James and participated in a student prayer service that focused on the saints.
“As we celebrate the saints, we remember that God calls each of us to be saints,” said Collin, one of the student readers during the prayer service. “We are to live in holiness each day.”
As part of the service, the students, many of whom were dressed as different saints, tested Bishop Deeley on his “saint knowledge.” Each student gave a few clues as to which saint they were dressed as. The bishop, along with Monsignor Rene Mathieu, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish of which St. James is a part, were able to successfully guess all of the saints.
Prior to departing, the bishop enjoyed lunch with the teachers and staff of St. James.
New England Catholic Schools Week is designed to honor the past, shine a light on the present, and look forward to a promising future for Catholic education. For more information about New England Catholic Schools Week and the events planned at many Maine schools, click here.