SANFORD — What do you say when the new bishop comes to call?

You say, “Good morning, Bishop Deeley” in unison, just like the students at St. Thomas School did Monday morning.

It was a special morning for the youngsters, who lined up grade by grade, to listen to what the new spiritual head of Maine’s Roman Catholics had to say.

Deeley, formerly an auxiliary bishop of Boston, was appointed bishop of Portland in December by Pope Francis, and was installed Feb. 14. He succeeds Bishop Richard Malone, who was named bishop of Buffalo, N.Y. in 2012, but continued as administrator of the Portland diocese until Deeley arrived.

Deeley’s appearance at St. Thomas, where he said prayers with students, met with Principal Donna Jacques and visited classrooms, was his first visit to any of the state’s 15 Catholic schools since his installation.

The students learned that the new bishop’s favorite subject when he was in school was Latin.

Scheduled to arrive at 9 a.m., he arrived a bit early, accompanied by the superintendent of the state’s parochial schools, Sr. Rosemary Donohue. He greeted staff in the principal’s office, and then made his way to the assembly.

“Be mindful of all the gifts God gives us,” the tall man dressed in black and wearing a silver cross around his neck told the students, in the cafeteria of the school on North Avenue. “Open our minds and hearts at what God calls us to learn.”

They prayed the Our Father and Hail Mary together. And then he told the youngsters about Saint Katharine Drexel, who was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, which was dedicated to educating and otherwise improving the lives of American Indian and black children in the early part of the 20th century. She died in 1955 and was canonized in 2000. Monday was her feast day.

The St. Thomas Select Choir, along with the rest of the students, sang “The St. Thomas School Song,” written by Bruce Carlson Jr. Then they went off to their classes.

Deeley spoke to reporters following the assembly.

“I want to get around and meet the students and the teachers,” the bishop said, who called Maine’s 15 Catholic schools a priority and concern of the church. He said the schools teach leadership and service, and speak to the spiritual aspects of education as well as intellectual.

Deeley said he’s been making the rounds of the parishes, and spent time over the past couple of days in Kittery, South Berwick, Kennebunk, Limerick, Saco and Old Orchard Beach.

He made the rounds of the classrooms as well, and in the sixth-grade classroom, he was presented gifts with a Maine theme ”“ including maple syrup, saltwater taffy, a lighthouse made by the school’s art teacher, note cards, blueberry jam and more, including a big welcome card, signed by everyone in the school.

“The bishop can’t take care of all of the people in the diocese unless he gets help to do that,” Bishop Deeley told the sixth-graders, according to a statement issued after the event. “The priests and the sisters help him, so I want you to think about how you can help when you grow up. Some of you are going to be priests and some of you are going to be sisters. I want you to think about and pray about that. Ask Jesus to help you know what it is He wants you to do. That’s the way you are going to find happiness in life, by doing what God wants, by helping in the work of the Church.”

Deeley, 67, was ordained as auxiliary bishop of Boston in January 2013, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. He has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Boston since September 2011. According to his biography on the Diocese of Portland website, he was raised in Belmont, Mass., as the fourth in a family of five sons. His parents, Michael and Mary, now deceased, were born in County Galway, Ireland. He has served in a number of capacities, including a stint in Rome.

In a December news conference, Deeley listed increasing vocations to the priesthood and strengthening the parishes as goals.

“It was cool to meet the new bishop and see what he was like,” fourth-grade student Lindsay Brown said, according to the statement. “You don’t know what they are going to be like, so you are nervous at first, but once you meet him, you are really happy and excited.”

“It was a privilege for St. Thomas School to host a visit from Bishop Robert Deeley,” said Principal Jacques. “Our students and staff had an opportunity to meet and get to know Bishop Deeley while sharing with him about St. Thomas School.”

Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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