“How did you become a Bishop?” “When you were a kid, did you want to become a Bishop?” “How busy are you every day?” “What is your favorite part of Mass?” “What do you pray for?”
PHOTO GALLERY: Mass of the Holy Spirit
These were some of the questions Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., fielded from the fourth graders in Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Princeton, when he visited their school Sept. 22. His visit coincided with the start of the school’s Homecoming Weekend Sept. 22-23 and the kickoff of its 60th anniversary year.
The Bishop’s packed schedule began with celebration of the Mass of the Holy Spirit for the students, faculty, staff, families and alumni.
“When a family chooses a school for their children, they consider a number of factors: academic excellence and reputation; location; affordability and value; proven track record of student success,” Bishop O’Connell said in his homily.
“When a family chooses a Catholic school for their children, they consider all those factors plus one more: the opportunity for students to grow and deepen their personal and active faith in God,” he said. “That is the first and primary reason for Catholic education. That is the first and primary stated goal of Stuart. That is the reason you are here.”
Bishop O’Connell noted that ever since Stuart opened its doors as a Catholic high school 60 years ago, the community began its new academic year and Homecoming Weekend with the Mass of the Holy Spirit, saying, “As a Catholic school, there is no better way to begin than with this, our most important prayer.”
Bishop O'Connell blesses the Mater Admirabilis window which depicts the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is located in the front hall of the school. Hal Brown photo
Steeped in Tradition
Before Mass, students and staff participated in a flag ceremony during which flags representing more than 50 countries were carried in procession and posted in stands near the altar in Cor Unum, the school theater.
Julia Breen Wall, Stuart’s head of school, told those in attendance the flag ceremony and the Mass of the Holy Spirit provide “a visible recognition and validation — at the start of the school year — of our five Sacred Heart goals that call us to love as God loves, study and learn, help those in need, be a friend to all and make wise choices.”
Breen Wall said the flag ceremony is a 25-year tradition and a tribute “to the beautiful cultural diversity of the Stuart community and leads us into the Mass of the Holy Spirit.”
“We know that in order to live our best, we need each other. We need each other to inspire, challenge and instruct us in what it means to live our best,” Breen Wall said. “And we know that we need God. We need the grace of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live as servants of love, prophets of hope and people of faith.
“We begin our year promising to follow where the Holy Spirit leads us and to ask the Spirit to make us grateful in times of joy and strong in difficult moments,” she said.
Honoring Our Lady
After Mass, everyone gathered in the front hall to witness Bishop O’Connell blessing the Mater Admirabilis window, which depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Under her title as Mater Admirabilis, Mary is considered the patroness of Sacred Heart schools throughout the world, said Hilary Morris, Stuart’s director of marketing and communications. In all, there are about 25 Sacred Heart schools across North America, two of which are in the Trenton Diocese — Stuart and Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart. There are 160 schools internationally.
“Every Sacred Heart school in the world has a painting in their school; we are the only one that has her depicted on glass,” Morris said.
Getting to Know One Another
Bishop O’Connell rounded out his visit to Stuart by taking a tour of the school.
“Today is my first time seeing the Bishop,” said junior Alexandra Durish, who led the tour. “I’m excited for the opportunity to meet him. It’s an honor.”
The Bishop also ate lunch with the fourth graders and answered their questions. His responses included that he did not ask to be a Bishop but was appointed by the Pope [Benedict XVI]. While growing up, he considered being a lawyer, a funeral director and a priest.
“I became two out of three” — a priest and a [canon] lawyer. He told the students that except for Wednesdays, his day off, he is busy going all over the Diocese to visit parishes and schools “like I’m doing here today.”
He also told them that while he loves everything about the Mass, his favorite part is Communion, “because that’s when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.” Lastly, he said he prays “every day for everyone in the Diocese of Trenton and anyone who asks for my prayers.”
The flag from Haiti is carried in the procession of flags at the start of Mass. Joining the students in the procession is Father Jean Felicien, the Bishop's secretary and master of ceremonies, who is also a native of Haiti. Hal Brown photo