WATERVILLE---With just over two weeks until Easter Sunday, Bishop Robert P. Deeley made a special Lenten visit to Mount Merici Academy in Waterville on Friday, April 5, to visit the students and staff.
Before spending time in each classroom, the bishop celebrated a schoolwide Mass in the academy’s gymnasium. During the Mass, Bishop Deeley asked the Mount Merici students to tell him what we are supposed to be doing during Lent.
“Fasting and prayer,” said one student.
“Charity,” said another.
“Good!” replied the bishop. “And why are we doing these things? Because that’s what Jesus did. What we’re trying to do, boys and girls, is to make more room in our hearts for Jesus. In Lent, we try to get to know Jesus better and not take him for granted by trying to become like him in the things we do.”
Bishop Deeley told the children that during Lent, Catholics give up things to become more aware of who we are and the gifts we have.
“We have many gifts. We have the opportunity to pray together, beautiful schools, your wonderful families, there are so many gifts that we have,” said the bishop. “By letting go of some things that we like during Lent, we remind ourselves of the other things that God gives us, and we are grateful.”
The bishop told the students that when we do that, we realize that God really loves us, and we’ll want to share what we have with others.
“We find Jesus in each other. You see that each of us reflects the love of God and each of us is called to treasure that love of God in each other. Lent is to become more like Jesus and bring his love and truth into the world in which we live.”
After the Mass, Bishop Deeley was able to observe the many ways in which different grades have been commemorating Lent.
In fourth grade, the students gave the bishop a plastic egg and different items to place in the egg for each week of Lent. For instance, one student brought a rubber band to the bishop to “remind us how God stretches his patience with us and to remind us how we should do the same with each other.”
The second graders, who had each made a Lenten promise and written them on paper crosses that hung on the wall, told the bishop about their promises which included being nicer to siblings and praying every morning.
“And what will you do with those promises after Easter?” asked the bishop.
“We’ll keep doing them!” the students answered enthusiastically.
During his tour, the bishop also blessed crosses that had been given to the kindergarteners, heard from the first graders about forgiveness, discussed the sacrament of reconciliation with fifth graders, and even blessed the third graders’ classroom bunny, Mr. Bun Bun.
Bishop Deeley also heard from the older students in grades six through eight about their many service projects, including work at the local soup kitchen and food bank, school improvement initiatives, and weekly visits to the Muskie Center in Waterville, which assists seniors and disabled adults.
The Serviam Shield, the logo worn by students on their uniforms at Mount Merici, literally means “I will serve.”
“One thing I’ve learned at the academy that I will remember for the rest of my life is the importance of service,” one eighth-grade girl told the bishop. “It’s important to help those who can’t help themselves.”
“When you serve, the service is in the name of Jesus, said the bishop. “This academy was named in honor of the foundress of the Ursuline Sisters, St. Angela Merici. Her work continues through your work.”