By Peter G. Sánchez
HADDON HEIGHTS — Bishop Dennis Sullivan was on hand for the usual first day of school rituals at St. Rose of Lima School here Sept. 3.
He posed with children as their parents took first day photos, and he swapped stories about summer vacation, even donning Mickey Mouse ears as he talked about the trip he took to Disney World while he was in Florida for the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus.
The bishop also led the students and faculty in a prayer service and presented the school with an image of “our boss,” Pope Francis.
The day started at 8 a.m. in the schoolyard, with the bishop greeting the school’s 335 K-8 students, all wearing fresh shirts, pants and sneakers, with brand-new backpacks slung on their shoulders and books under their arms.
Maureen Mattson was one of the parents dropping her children off that morning: Francis, a first grader, and Bridget, beginning kindergarten.
A graduate of St. Teresa School in Runnemede, Mattson said her family is “proud to continue our Catholic education in the Camden Diocese. It’s something we’re very proud of, and believe very deeply in.”
“We’re honored to have Bishop Sullivan at the school, and we hope it will bestow an extra blessing on our school year,” she said.
At 9 a.m., Bishop Sullivan joined the school community in the auditorium and shared tales of summer vacation with the students, who recalled trips to the shore and One Direction concerts.
Putting on a Mickey Mouse-eared hat, the bishop asked the students if they could guess where he had been. “Disney World!” the students answered in unison, amid laughter.
Bishop Sullivan reminded the students that they “can make a difference” in the lives of their families, peers and teachers, “in how you speak, act and conduct yourselves.”
“Thank your parents for the blessing of a Catholic education, which allows you to grow as God’s children,” he said. He also imparted a blessing on the teachers, administrators and parish priests of the school, who “strive to share their knowledge and bring truth to eager minds.”
In appreciation of his visit, the school presented Bishop Sullivan with a basket of fresh peaches. In turn, he presented the school with an image of Pope Francis.
After the prayer service, Bishop Sullivan visited the classrooms.
The next day, the bishop was scheduled to celebrate Mass at Paul VI High School in Haddon Township.