Bishop Robert P. Deeley of the Diocese of Portland will participate in a town hall event with students during a visit to St. James School in Biddeford on Monday. COURTESY PHOTO/Diocese of Portland

BIDDEFORD — Next week as Maine Catholic schools begin to observe New England Catholic Schools Week, students at St. James School in Biddeford will have a special visitor to kick off their celebration. Bishop Robert P. Deeley of the Diocese of Portland will spend Monday at St. James School and participate in a school town hall for students.

The unique town hall event is for students in grades 6 to 8 and will be followed by a prayer service based on the saints that will be attended by all St. James students and the bishop.

“The students can ask him anything that’s on their minds,” said St. James School Principal Nancy Naimey. “We think it’s a wonderful way for our students to feel comfortable around the bishop and to see how warm and easygoing he is.”

New England Catholic Schools Week is designed to honor the past, shine a light on the present, and look forward to a promising future for Catholic education in the region. The overall theme of the week is “Celebrating the Beauty of Every Child” with daily themes focused on leadership, academics, service, friendship, confidence, and alumni.

Naimey said that Bishop Deeley will visit all the classrooms at St. James during his visit to spend time with the students and teachers and will eat lunch with school staff members.

Deeley said he always enjoys visiting St. James School and meeting students there.

“Catholic education forms our young students as people of spirit and mind, of faith and knowledge,” said Bishop Deeley. “It gives them an intellectual preparation for life, and a spiritual grounding for dealing with life. It also gives them a moral compass by which to guide their lives. These are beautiful places, moving our students ahead to live full lives in our world.”

He said he’s proud of St. James School students for their devotion to others and achievements in attaining healthy lifestyles.

In September, St. James School was recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the recipient of the Silver Award in the “HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms” competition and only 7 percent of schools throughout America receive this designation.

The “HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms” competition is an initiative for schools that have created healthier school environments through the promotion of nutrition and physical activity.

The school also has won numerous “Let’s GO! 5210 Gold School of Distinction Awards” for promotion of healthy living and adherence to 5210 principles. The 5210 program is a public education campaign to bring awareness to the daily guidelines for nutrition and physical activity.

Bishop Deeley’s visit is part of a full week of activities celebrating New England Catholic Schools Week at St. James School.

On Tuesday, St. James will host an Open House and on Friday, Nov. 9, St. James students will participate in a “Casual for a Cause” food collection for Good Shepherd Parish in Saco to assist the gathering Thanksgiving baskets for individuals and families in need.

As part of the “Casual for a Cause” initiative, the St. James School student council chooses a worthy charity to which to donate each month. If a student donates to the cause, they can dress casually on the second Friday of each month instead of wearing their school uniform.

According to Naimey, members of the public also can donate to the “Casual for a Cause” Thanksgiving collection by calling 282-4084.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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