PORTSMOUTH — When it came to talking about the role of religion in their lives, Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin made it easy for students at St. Philomena School to understand.
“Have any of you ever been to a corn maze?” the bishop asked students gathered before him during a special Mass in the school’s auditorium Monday morning.
Nearly every hand shot up, which was not too surprising since there’s a corn maze not too far from the private Catholic school — at Escobar’s Highland Farm on Middle Road.
Most corn mazes, Bishop Tobin noted, have a little tower in the middle of the field that visitors can climb if they need some assistance. Religion, likewise, provides the same type of guidance when dealing with life’s challenges, he said.
“I’d like to think of our faith as a tower that’s in the middle of our life. Our faith gives us a better view, a better perspective,” said Bishop Tobin. “Your faith is like a GPS; it shows you where you are and where to go.”
The occasion of Bishop Tobin’s visit Monday was St. Philomena’s 60th anniversary. The Society of the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus first opened the school in 1953 with only seven students in one building. Now the student body numbers about 500 — in pre-kindergarten through grade 8 — and the campus has seven buildings.
“Today we come to thank God for all the blessings that He’s bestowed upon the school,” Bishop Tobin said during Mass. “We’re very proud of St. Philomena School and all the important work it does all the time. Thank you for your good work and commitment.”
The bishop visits all the Catholic schools in Rhode Island and said it was his third or fourth time at St. Philomena.
“Whenever I visit the classrooms, I always ask students their favorite subject,” he said. The answers are usually math or science, he said, but the response is usually the same when he asks children their most difficult subject.
“Each of us are unique with our own abilities and talents,” said Bishop Tobin, “but when we get together, that’s how we build up the church.”
As for himself, most people assume his favorite school subject was religion because, well, he’s the bishop.
“I always say, ‘Well, I wasn’t the bishop in the third grade.'”
But religion is the most important subject students will learn at St. Philomena, he told the assembly.
“The most important thing that St. Philomena does every day is introduce you to God,” the bishop said.