“Have you got it? Are you okay?” asked Bishop Deeley, walking behind a first grader who temporarily struggled to hold onto cans of green beans.
“Yep,” he answered back as he caught his balance and carried forward on the windy Wednesday morning.
Bishop Deeley and the first graders were braving the elements for a great reason: hand delivering canned goods, a $300 donation collected by students, and other items to the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP), just down the road from St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick, where the bishop made a special visit on March 4
Once inside the facility, the students placed their items into a large box, presented the money to a staff member, received a tour, and saw firsthand the good that their many service projects benefitting MCHPP do.
After his walk back to the school, the bishop visited with all of the St. John’s students and staff, moving from classroom to classroom and topic to topic, including the relationship between science and religion. The eighth graders were curious about the bishop’s thoughts on that relationship.
“Well, God is the one who created everything out of nothing. How did it all start? What would science say?” the bishop asked the eighth graders.
“Two atoms collided?” answered one boy.
“Where did those atoms come from?” responded the bishop. “Science points to the possibility of there being a God. At some point, no matter what scientific theory you use, there must be a beginning. Science and religion are operating on two levels but they’re not contradictory. They answer different questions.”
“The why and how,” said one girl. “Religion answers the why and science answers the how.”
“That’s a beautiful way to put it,” said Bishop Deeley. “Science gets you to a certain point. Religion answers why we were created and why we have Earth.”
One student asked how religion answers the “why.”
“It answers the why because we are created out of God’s love. We speak about God as Trinity,” the bishop told the class. “The binding force that holds Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together is love. Love is at the heart of God. Not necessarily an emotion, but a will for the good of the other. Creation is an outpouring of that love into us, an expanding of that love into the universe.”
The seventh graders, also studying the subject, asked the bishop how the world started.
“If I ask you how the world began, you might talk about the Big Bang or two atoms reacting,” said the bishop. “The question is, where did those atoms come from? Science can only take you back so far. All we say is that ultimately, what we believe, is not contradictory to science. It’s that the unknown is God’s love, and science has never contradicted that ultimate truth.”
Bishop Deeley also had a chance to go “head to head” against the students in different activities like Bingo and a spelling competition called Sparkle. He also received handmade cards from many students and was able to participate in a STEM project in which students had built houses out of clay and other substances. The bishop, holding a hair dryer with a “big, bad, wolf” mask attached, was tasked with trying to knock them down. In addition, the bishop was treated to musical performances, including a beautiful song about the sacraments by the second graders.
The bishop was joined on his tour of the school and walk to the MCHPP by Fr. Thomas Murphy, pastor of All Saints Parish, of which St. John’s Catholic School is a part; Marianne Pelletier, superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools; Shelly Wheeler, principal of All Saints, and Suzanne Lafreniere, director of public policy for the diocese.
Before departing, Bishop Deeley enjoyed lunch with members of the faculty and staff.