By Peter G. Sánchez
HADDON TOWNSHIP — Here at Paul VI High School, Bishop Dennis Sullivan kicked off the school year by reminding students, simply, to pray.
“Prayer leads to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit makes us aware of the presence of the living God,” he said during the opening school Mass on the morning of Sept. 3 in the school auditorium.
“The Holy Spirit leads us, guides us, and strengthens us in our learning, in our exams, and in our teams and clubs,” he said to the students, “so that you will become what God has created you to be, and expects you to become.”
Bishop Sullivan also recalled an experience he had this past summer while on an airplane headed to Turkey.
While flipping through magazines and doing “mindless reading,” he noticed the teenager next to him praying the Quran on his iPhone.
The two shared stories of their different faiths, with the youth telling Bishop Sullivan that he admired Pope Francis. After he declined the in-flight meal, the teen told the bishop that he was fasting in preparation for Ramadan, a month of fasting in the Islamic calendar.
“Fasting helps me know that I need God, more than I need food,” Bishop Sullivan said, recalling the youth’s words.
“Inspired by his concentration,” Bishop Sullivan said, “I instinctively pulled out my rosary and prayed.”
“His faith and his fidelity made me very aware of the presence of the living God.”
In concluding his remarks to students, Bishop Sullivan referenced Pope Francis’ words to youth on his recent trip to Asia.
“The Lord is counting on you to do your best, to be aware that God is present, and to grow in Christ during this school year.”
After the liturgy, Bishop Sullivan met with student council leaders.
“It’s important to remember that at this school God takes a central role,” said senior Anthony Leone, adding that “the spirit of God is everywhere.”
Emma Erwin said that amidst the books and exams, “the most important thing we’re going to be learning this year is to trust God, and depend on him. It’s very easy to get lost in the busyness of school, to get stressed and to get unfocused; God should be a huge part of our lives.”
The school’s Director of Catholic Identity, Father John Rossi, who concelebrated Mass with the bishop, said, “He helped the students realize that at any moment they can encounter God’s spirit. They have to be open to this encounter, and be people of prayer,” he said. “This is a very important reminder as we begin this new school year.”