The school community welcomed the Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, Tenth Bishop of Manchester, to Saint Benedict Academy on Thursday, January 30 in celebration of Catholic Schools Week and our school’s 125th Jubilee.
The visit began in second grade where the students shared with him some facts about Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Saint Andrew. The students selected Saint Elizabeth because of her affiliation with Catholic education in America and chose Saint Andrew because, as the patron Saint of fishermen, fit in well with our school’s ocean-themed Catholic Schools Week. The Bishop shared with the students some additional insight about the saints and was pleased to receive two books that the children created about their classroom saints.
Bishop Libasci was greeted with more smiling faces on the first floor. The students of Mrs. Silveira’s class read the Bishop their favorite Bible passage – the account of Jesus calming the seas. They even wrote out the passage for the Bishop and illustrated it. The students learned that the Bishop’s favorite passage is the account of the Transfiguration. In Kindergarten, the students sung him their lobster song in celebration of their “class creature” for Catholic Schools Week and were eager to show the Bishop all of the lobsters in their classroom and tell him how Mrs. Connors incorporated lobsters into their math, science, art, and more throughout the week. The Bishop also got a chance to see the location of our new pre-school program which will open this fall.
Upstairs, the Bishop was impressed with the community service outreach that our third grade students perform in their pen-pal relationships with residents at Birch Hill Terrace. The Bishop sat in one student’s desk while the children told him about why they like the pen-pal program and how it works. They learned that when the Bishop was their age, he had a pen-pal in Japan!
Next door in grade four, the children engaged the Bishop with a discussion about the Ten Commandments. The children sought the Bishop’s advice about how to live up to these commandments and were encouraged to reflect on Christ’s words: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The students of the fifth and sixth grade joined together in providing the Bishop with a “Top Ten” list of why Catholic education at Saint Benedict Academy is important to them. The students listed reasons such as the power of prayer, teachers who care, small class sizes, and the support of their parents. The Bishop remarked on each one and noted that each could be the title of a chapter of a book about why Catholic education is so vital.
The school community then joined Bishop Libasci for a beautiful noon Mass at Saint Raphael Church. The students were happy to see Saint Raphael pastor, Father Jerome Day, O.S.B., concelebrate the Mass. Many parents, siblings, parishioners, alumni, and new students were also in attendance. In keeping with the ocean-themed celebration of Catholic Schools Week, the students sung “Lord, You Have Come to the Seashore” during the Mass.
The Bishop offered an inspiring homily about the importance of Catholic education and the accomplishments of Saint Benedict Academy as it celebrates its 125th Jubilee. The Bishop reminded us that Christ called for his apostles to leave their boats and to become fishers of men. He spoke of the ministry of Catholic education in not only helping students to come to know and love God, but to prepare them to serve God by helping others to know and love God.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Mr. McLaughlin and one of the Kindergarten students presented Bishop Libasci with a gift-bag of SBA memorabilia to remember his time on campus. Included in the bag were a water bottle, a t-shirt, and our celebratory cookbook. Bishop Libasci had a special gift for the students too. He requested that the teachers and staff give the children an extra recess and an ice cream sundae on Friday!