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HAMMONTON - Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan visited Saint Joseph Regional School on Feb. 3 to recognize students for their participation in Operation Yellow Ribbon.

He spent the morning with students in grades fifth through seventh grades as they filled Valentine’s Day care packages for soldiers.

Each brown paper gift bag had been decorated by students in the second-, third- and fourth-grade classes with a Valentine’s Day message, and the supplies were donated by students and faculty at the school. The packages included items such as shampoo, body wash, lip balm, hand sanitizer, batteries, tissues and snacks.

“We are serving those who are serving us,” Bishop Sullivan told students. “I’m so proud of you, and you should be just as proud of yourselves for doing this ... I just want to make sure that you know that as the bishop, I think this is fantastic.”

The visit was part of Sullivan’s efforts to visit as many Catholic schools in the Diocese of Camden as possible during Catholic Schools Week.

He spent a few moments reminding each group of students about the importance of service before they proceeded down the aisles to fill the bags.

“What you are doing by collecting these items for those who are serving us in the military is such a great expression and concrete evidence of what it means to be in a Catholic School,” the bishop said. “A Catholic school is a community of faith, a community of knowledge and a community of service and collecting all these items that men and women in service in the military need is an expression from this school in Hammonton to them.”

Fifth-graders Marco Caponi, 10, of Hammonton and Alexander Adair, 10, of Egg Harbor Township worked diligently to fill their bags as the bishop walked along behind them. “I loved it. He talked to us, and it was fun,” said Caponi. “I think this will do a lot to help our nation.”

Seventh-grader Brandon Jones, 12, of Hammonton also had the opportunity to talk to the bishop. “It was pretty neat. It’s always fun to meet someone who is important, someone who is a leader,” said Jones.

Art teacher Nichole Ayala coordinated the project at the school. She believes the visit from the bishop will inspire the students to continue to be involved in service projects. “He’s commending them on their effort,” Ayala said. “For the kids to see that they are appreciated and for him to say that he was coming here no matter what, I think will help them.”

“He’s the highest you get in our diocese so it’s very special,” Ayala said. “Anytime the head person comes down and says you did a good job makes you feel good.”

The care packages, along with Valentine’s Day cards made by every student at the school, will be donated to the collection drive at Raymour & Flanigan in Voorhees and then distributed to troops deployed overseas.

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