Written by Mary Beth Peabody
“Fear not. God is with you.”
Bishop Dennis Sullivan took this simple but strong message to Camden Diocesan high schools as he celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit – a traditional liturgy to start a new year of learning and growth in a Catholic faith community. He reminded students, faculty and administrators that celebrating and growing in faith is what makes Catholic schools different.
“Education is work. Learning is work. Teaching is work,” he acknowledged. At the same time, he offered assurance of the Holy Spirit’s presence in all aspects of that work: studying, teaching, guiding and directing. He asked all members of the faith community to make room for the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Sullivan encouraged students to face, rather than run from, struggles at home, with friends or in school. Recalling the Scripture readings for the day, he said, “Remember God is among you. Remember God is with you. … Fear not.”
Making the shift to a contemporary reference, Bishop talked about the movie “Peanut Butter Falcon,” currently playing in theaters. “I can’t stop thinking about [the movie],” he said. He explained the premise — a young man with Down syndrome and a petty thief who find themselves on a journey together. He described the genuine friendship the men develop and the way the thief’s respect for the man with Down syndrome grows, calling it a great pro-life film.
“When I saw the movie I thought, ‘That is what Catholic school is all about,’” he said. “We are here for you students so you make a difference in other people’s lives, now and in the future … to help you grow in Christ.” He reminded students of the need to serve and respect others, especially the poor, and assured them of Christ’s presence through the Holy Spirit. He also encouraged them to reach out for help if they find themselves feeling alone. “There are wonderful people at school who can help you,” he said.
At Saint Joseph High School in Hammonton, student council representatives welcomed Bishop Sullivan for breakfast. Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, invited alumni who graduated 70 or more years ago. These alums, along with student leaders, spent time at a reception with Bishop Sullivan after Mass. His trip to the shore took Bishop Sullivan to Wildwood Catholic High School, where he met with student council representatives, and then to Holy Spirit High School, Absecon, where he had lunch with a group of students. At Gloucester Catholic High School, Bishop Sullivan was present for student council induction and a reception.
The week of high school Masses was scheduled to end when Bishop Sullivan celebrated with the community of Paul VI High School, Haddonfield, on Sept. 26, the birth date of the school’s patron saint.
To find a school near you, go to www.southjerseycatholicschools.org