AUGUSTA — Handmade signs of welcome filled each hallway as the smiles of students, teachers and staff greeted Bishop Robert P. Deeley upon his arrival Jan. 11 at St. Michael School. The visit gave the bishop a chance to learn about life at the Augusta school by spending time with the people who make it so special, according to a news release from Dave Guthro, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland communications director.

“It’s so cool that the bishop is here,” said eighth grader Kyle Douin, according to the release. “It means so much that he’s here.”

“His visit shows the kids how important they are to the bishop,” said Kevin Cullen, principal of St. Michael School, according to the release. “They are proud of their school and proud to show it to him.”

“It’s so exciting that he’s here,” said eighth grader Aaliyah Cruz, when the bishop arrived early Wednesday morning, according to the release. “I love our school. We are able to do so much for the community and talk about God. Not many schools get to do that. Some places, you can get in trouble for saying ‘God bless you.’ Here it’s perfectly normal. It’s a great school community.”

And most of that community gathered as Deeley began his visit with a schoolwide Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, located next to the school. St. Michael students served as the readers, gift bearers, and altar servers, and a St. Michael choir performed during the Mass.

After the Mass, Deeley visited each classroom (pre-K through eighth grade) at St. Michael and had the opportunity to read stories to the younger children; learn about a variety of topics being covered in classes from magnets to advanced math; discuss his love of skiing; receive a jar containing “Prayers for the Bishop” written by first graders; and even bless a teacher who is expected to deliver her baby by week’s end. He also described other jobs he’s held in addition to being the bishop.

“I was a paperboy when I was your age,” the bishop told sixth graders, according to the release. “I was up first thing in the morning and out and about. That was a very different time!”

The children shared stories with the bishop as well, including discussions about the school’s service work. At Thanksgiving, the school community helped provide more than 150 Thanksgiving baskets to local residents in need and at Christmas, St. Michael students assisted the Capital Region Salvation Army in distributing toys to nearly 200 families.

“These service projects you do are wonderful. They are helping to form you for the world and getting you to think about the ways you can help and love,” said the bishop, according to the release. “Remember, love means to want to care for another person. These projects are showing you the way to live your life.”

Before departing, the bishop joined students for lunch in the cafeteria.

“It’s important for the students to be with the bishop and see him in action because not all of our kids are Catholic,” said Cullen. “It shows all of our kids what a life well-lived can lead to.”

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