“What’s great about Immaculate Heart of Mary School?” Bishop Nelson Perez asked the more than 300 students at the Cuyahoga Falls school.
Answers included things like no bullying, good students, great teachers, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and opportunities for learning well.
“These are all gifts,” the bishop told the students, who gathered on May 11 in IHM Church for the school’s annual May crowning. “It’s good to remember this and not to take them for granted – or to forget them,” he added.
Bishop Perez told the students, teachers and parishioners that Mary embraced the truth; the words of the angel who told her she would be the mother of God’s son, who would be the savior of the world, resonated with her.
“But I’ll bet her first reaction was fear,” he said. “She would give birth to the savior of the world, the king of kings, but he looked just like any other baby. Yet, at the same time, he was the savior, the wonder counselor, the king of kings.” He said this was difficult for Mary to understand, but she had faith. “She knew that nothing was impossible with God.”
The bishop said Jesus was like any other child. At age 12, he wandered away and got lost. His parents looked frantically and finally found him in the temple. “He gave them a smart-aleck answer,” he said. “Imagine if you were lost. Your parents probably would never think to look in the church, yet there he was. Why? He told them he was doing the work of God.”
As Jesus grew up, Bishop Perez said he performed great miracles, raising the dead, healing the sick, turning water into wine and even walking on water. “Mary watches. She probably wondered how this could be, since Jesus was the son of two people. Then she sees him tortured and sees him die. She holds his body in her lap and wondered how could this be? But she knows nothing is impossible with God.”
Then, she encounters the risen Lord and she hears the angel’s words again, the bishop said. “She remembers those words: ‘Nothing is impossible with God.’ Remember that.”
After the statue of Mary was crowned, students processed forward with roses and placed them in vases that were near the statue. They also performed a special song for the bishop before heading back to their classrooms.
Two student ambassadors gave Bishop Perez a tour of the school, stopping by several classrooms, including the maker space, where he saw rockets the students made and other creations. On their Lego wall, there was a greeting for the bishop. He also made a visit to the pre-kindergarten room where children were eating lunch.
The bishop also stopped by the technology room where students broadcast daily announcements, visited the gym which was being readied for the school performance of “Willy Wonka Junior” and posed for a photo with the eighth-graders and Father James Singler, the parish pastor, before heading to the library for lunch and conversation with student representatives and some faculty members.
They chatted about their favorite foods, hobbies, plans for the future and other topics. One student mentioned that she was a pescatarian, explaining that she eats fish, not meat. Another asked about the bishop’s favorite super hero: Batman, and what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I wanted to be everything – a policeman, a fireman, a doctor,” he said, before realizing he was called to be a priest.
Students also told him about the Kindness Matters initiative that started at IHM after a fourth-grader heard that another student felt she had been mistreated. The initiative began with fourth-grade girls, spread to the boys and eventually to the entire school.
Bishop Perez commended the students for their concern and for developing the program.