Written by Mary Beth Peabody
A chilly drizzle on a gray Monday morning did not dampen the energy of the 450 students who streamed into Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Mary Mother of Mercy Parish, Glassboro, on Dec. 9. They gathered for Mass in observance of the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a sea of uniforms representing 35 elementary and high schools throughout the Diocese of Camden.
Celebrant Bishop Dennis Sullivan was joined by clergy from many diocesan schools and by Father William Kelly, gracious host and Mary Mother of Mercy pastor.
The celebration began with a procession of banners made especially for the Mass. As schools superintendent Dr. Bill Watson introduced each school by name, students returned to their pews, where they hung their banners. From front to back on both sides, the center aisle was transformed into a colorful, creative display symbolizing every school.
“Looking out at all the different uniforms and seeing the different banners really reinforced the uniqueness of every school. It was beautiful,” said Watson. “At the same time, I felt so blessed by our ability to come together as one in faith to share the Eucharist. Our Catholic identity unites us. It allows us to intentionally invite God’s grace into our community.”
During his homily, Bishop Sullivan left the pulpit and engaged students with questions as he walked up and down the aisle. He expressed pleasure as students answered questions about the role of a bishop, stories from the Bible, and the meaning of the Advent candles and wreath. He connected the preparation for Christmas with the Blessed Mother and her unique role.
“Mary has the great privilege to be the Mother of Jesus. And that is why we gather today … to honor her. And what’s our privilege? That we are the children of God. And we are loved by Jesus and saved by Jesus.”
Bishop said that what makes Christmas special is the celebration of Jesus coming as the Savior, bringing God’s enormous love.
A high school choir and instrumental group was assembled and directed by Michael Bedics, director, Worship and Christian Initiation for the diocese. Singers and musicians had learned music in advance and arrived early to practice as a group. Students from several schools led the music with solos. Other students served as readers, gift bearers and altar servers.
“They were a great group of people, and it was truly a blessing to see youth from several schools all working together with appreciation and respect for each other,” said Bedics. He also expressed gratitude for support from school administrators.
In his closing remarks, Bishop Sullivan thanked administrators and teachers for all they do to support Catholic education. He told students he would continue to pray for their spiritual, intellectual and physical growth.
Once the Mass was ended, Bishop Sullivan greeted school communities and accepted numerous photo requests.
If the number of students waiting for a photo with him is any indication, Bishop might have an inkling of what it’s like to be that popular guy at the mall, even without the red suit and beard.