COLLINGSWOOD — After fourth grader Joseph Wigginton heard that his young relatives at neighboring Camden Diocesan schools had been visited by Bishop Dennis Sullivan, the Good Shepherd Regional School student knew what he had to do.
With pencil in hand last fall, he sat down and wrote the bishop a personal invitation to “come and visit my school for Catholic Schools Week.”
Accepting the young students’ invite, Bishop Sullivan did, indeed, visit the school Jan. 26, celebrating Mass here at St. John Church, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish.
The Camden leader’s visit to Collingswood was just one stop on a busy week of encouraging and inspiring students during Catholic Schools Week, being celebrated nationally Jan. 25-31. The day before, he celebrated the opening of the week for St. Michael the Archangel School at St. Bridget Church in Glassboro. He also planned on visiting St. Mary School, East Vineland; St. Cecilia School, Pennsauken; St. Teresa Regional School, Runnemede; and St. Vincent de Paul School, Mays Landing.
In Collingwood, Bishop Sullivan was joined at Mass by vicar general Father Robert Hughes; and local clergy: Father John Bohrer of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Father Walter Norris and Father Frederick Link of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Haddon Township.
The bishop thanked young Joseph Wigginton for his invitation from the altar and reminded students of the hallmarks of Catholic schools: “faith, community and service.”
Telling the students that his visit marked the feast day of Sts. Timothy and Titus, followers of St. Paul, Bishop Sullivan urged them to follow their example of being “very strong in the Catholic faith.”
The day’s Gospel reading recounted Jesus’ call to Simon and Andrew to drop their fishing nets, follow him, and “become fishers of men.” In the same way, the bishop told the students, “you must be the ‘bait’ that attracts others to Jesus Christ, to his Gospel, to the church. When people hear you and see your example, they will come after you.”
When knowing Jesus and the faith, we realize that “the first thing that Jesus tells us, is to love one another, respect one another, and give service to, and reach out to them,” Bishop Sullivan said.
“We can serve them by praying for them — and maybe helping them shovel snow,” he said, in reference to the impending snow storm.
Speaking of the school community gathered for the Mass, comprising students, teachers, administrators, parents, and grandparents, Bishop Sullivan reminded the students to “thank them, and the sacrifices they have made, in exposing you to knowledge and truth.”
Mary Boyle, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Camden Diocese, called Bishop Sullivan’s “energy for and commitment to Catholic schools…inspiring. It is obvious that in these children and young people he sees reason for hope.”
Sullivan’s “energy for and commitment to Catholic schools…inspiring. It is obvious that in these children and young people he sees reason for hope.”