SOUTH PORTLAND---"Noli, Mater Verbi, verba mea despícere, sed audi propítia et exáudi. Amen.”
“Wonderful! Latin connects us with Catholics around the world,” Bishop Robert P. Deeley told fifth, sixth, and seventh graders at Holy Cross School after their recitation of the Memoráre.
The moment was one of countless highlights during the bishop’s visit to the school in South Portland on Wednesday, October 9 (additional pictures below). The day began with a schoolwide Mass, with Bishop Deeley as presider, at Holy Cross Church, located across the parking lot from the school. The beautiful celebration featured students serving as readers, gift bearers, and musicians. Monsignor Paul Stefanko, pastor of St. John and Holy Cross Parish, of which the school is a part, concelebrated the Mass with the bishop, as did Fr. Innocent Okozi, SMA, parochial vicar of the parish.
During his homily, Bishop Deeley told the students to look to the sign of the cross that they had just prayed in helping them connect with God.
“In the Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. How does Jesus help us pray? In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The sign of the cross,” said the bishop. “The Father loves his Son and the love is the Spirit which is the breath of God. When we do the sign of the cross, we connect with God and, in Jesus’ cross, we see God’s love for each of us. When we pray, we connect ourselves to that love and we ask God to help us to be able to love.”
The bishop reminded the students that the next step is to make that love real.
“How do we show people that we love?” asked the bishop.
“Be kind,” answered one student.
“Be respectful,” said another.
“That’s right,” said Bishop Deeley. “Even your homework is part of it. Homework helps you to learn and be a more complete person, right? All of that is included in what it means to love.”
After Mass, the bishop visited with all of the students at Holy Cross in their classrooms, where he was treated to a wide range of projects, presentations, and songs. The fifth graders showed Bishop Deeley their saints projects, which involved a large cardboard display and report for each student’s selected saint. In pre-kindergarten, the bishop enjoyed a loud and proud rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” and in kindergarten, the children presented the bishop with a book they had made which featured a different prayer intention and illustration on each page.
“Prayers for firefighters, policemen, moms, dads, and so many others, even me!” said the bishop after scanning each page and reading it aloud to the class. “This is very special.”
The bishop also took in a reading and writing workshop in the third and fourth grades and viewed some of the students’ amazing artwork, a program noted for its excellence.
“At Mass this morning, we nourished our spirits and connected with God. Now, you expand your appreciation of the world through studying and learning, and you take care of your bodies through physical education. All of those things are important,” Bishop Deeley told students. “By the time you go home this afternoon, you will have taken care of the whole person. That’s what happens every day at a Catholic school.”
Prior to departing, the bishop ate lunch with eighth graders and teachers in the school gym and received a “blessings bag” that included handmade notes, prayers, thank you notes, and other original artwork from students made especially for him.
“Become the person that God wants you to be,” the bishop told the student body at Holy Cross. “Now, at the beginning of the school year, think about what you are going to do to be a person that reflects the cross that you are wearing.”
The Diocese of Portland has Catholic schools in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Biddeford, Brunswick, Lewiston, Portland, Sanford, South Portland, Waterville, and Winslow. If you would like to learn about the many ways our Catholic schools are making a difference and bearing witness to the love of Christ, visit www.mainecatholicschools.com.