Catholic Schools Week means getting to know the bishop Malone ‘delighted’ with merger

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LEWISTON – After saying Mass to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, Maine’s bishop, Richard Malone, visited Trinity Catholic School classrooms Monday.

The bishop quizzed students on what they were learning. Then he let students quiz him.

“Is it fun being a bishop?” asked Kristen Olko, 11.

“A lot of the times it is fun,” Malone said.

“What do you usually do in Portland?” asked Coreen Robert, 11.

Most of a bishop’s day is spent doing office work, Malone said. Meetings and appointments “are not my most favorite. My favorite is to visit the parishes and the schools.”

Madison Jalbert, 10, asked: “Have you always wanted to be a bishop?”

“No,” Malone said. When he was their age he wanted to be a firefighter, then a veterinarian. “Sometimes I thought I’d like to be an FBI agent. But I also thought I might like to be a priest,” Malone said. “I figured out that’s what God wanted for me.”

At one point, Malone and students laughed as he let fourth-grader Zach Abisalih, 9, try on his skullcap.

Earlier, Malone celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Attending were Trinity students and teachers, St. Dominic Regional High School seniors, some parents and community members.

“Good morning, and happy Catholic Schools Week,” said a beaming Malone. “We thank God for all our students, faculty, staff and administration, parents, all our Catholic school community.”

Officiating with the bishop were seven priests, one monsignor and an array of altar servers. Youngsters in uniforms led prayers and songs.

The bishop’s lecture was Malone style. With microphone in hand, he walked up and down the aisles, teaching.

In all schools students learn math, English, French, science, art and music. In Catholic schools students also learn “the good news in the Gospel,” and how Jesus wants them to live, Malone said.

“How do you think the world would be if everybody lived by the Ten Commandments?”

“Good,” a little girl answered.

What are some ways Jesus teaches us to live?” Malone asked.

“To honor our parents,” one girl answered.

“To honor our teachers,” one boy answered.

Another girl said we “should all be peaceful.”

“You’re right,” he said.

Malone will spend the rest of this week visiting Catholic schools throughout Maine.

It’s been a year since he came to Lewiston and announced that the three Catholic elementary schools had to consolidate. That created anxiety with some wondering if it could be done, and how.

Today, students from last year’s Holy Cross, St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s/Sacred Heart attend Trinity. The school has two campuses: grades prekindergarten through five attend the Lisbon Street building; grades six through eight go to the Main Street campus. Combined enrollment of the three schools last year was 651. Trinity enrollment is now 575.

The bishop said Monday “I am delighted” with how the schools came together.

There’s more work to do, he said, “but we were able to intervene creatively at the right time to do what we wanted to do: secure the future of a strong Catholic school education here in the Lewiston-Auburn area. That was the whole key.”

Waiting longer could have imperiled Catholic education in the area, Malone said. Classes that were getting smaller at the three schools could impact parents’ confidence to the point they don’t register their children.

“You have to do something that says, ‘We’re here to stay. We’re strong. We’re taking action to be sure we’re strong.”

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