LEWISTOWN - When area pupils recently got to talk with Catholic Bishop Joseph McFadden, they didn't bother with the "What's your favorite food?"-type questions.
Instead, the youth, including a group from Sacred Heart School in Lewistown, asked him about women serving as priests, school choice initiatives and God's will.
On Wednesday morning, the third, fourth and fifth graders at Sacred Heart participated in a seven-school video chat with the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.
Sentinel photo by MICAIAH WISE BILGER
Sacred Heart fifth grader Clara McCahren asks Bishop Joseph McFadden a question during a video conference Wednesday at the school in Lewistown.
"This is more like a day for ducks than for people," the bishop said with a chuckle as he greeted the pupils on the rainy weekday.
After a brief challenge to students to study hard and commit their lives to the Lord Jesus, the bishop answered one question from each school.
Sacred Heart fifth-grader Clara McCahren asked McFadden why women can't be priests.
The bishop responded that God calls every person to a different vocation. God has decided, not the church, who to call to his ministry, McFadden said.
The church does not have the authority to change what God has established, he said.
Still, women should not be perceived as any less of people because they cannot be priests, he said, referring to the Virgin Mary whom God chose to bear his son.
"Bishops, priests are no more important than any of you," McFadden said, emphasizing respect for every single person who God created.
He also told the children that the workings of God are a mystery - "what we see is not all there is."
Question: How is the diocese promoting school choice efforts in Pennsylvania?
The diocese supports giving Pennsylvania families better opportunities to choose a private education for their children, the bishop said.
Currently, parents who send their children to private school are penalized - they still have to pay public school taxes, McFadden said. School choice gives parents the freedom to decide where to send their child to be educated, he said.
He asked the children to go home and tell their parents to contact local legislators about supporting school choice. The diocese also plans to send letters to families asking them to support the movement in Pennsylvania, he said.
Question: What would you like to see happen with Catholic schools in the future?
"People who love life, have a heart for God's creation and reflect the values of Jesus," McFadden answered.
Catholic schools should be places of prayer and service, values that put faith into action, he said. That can mean praying for a grandparent who is sick, or helping a neighbor rake leaves, the bishop said.
Question: Is it right to pray to Our Lady of Victory before a sporting event?
The bishop chuckled a little and responded, "I always used to."
Athletes should pray that they will do their best before the game, and give thanks after the game whether they win or not, he said.
Victory should be about trying to do your best and enjoying the sport, he said.
"And remember, she can't help us if we don't practice," McFadden said.
Question: What is your favorite part of the Mass and why?
The bishop said he enjoys listening to God speak through Scripture readings. It shows how God worked in the past and intends to in the future, he said.
Though not a good singer himself, McFadden said he also finds joy listening to the worshippers sing.
"The Lord gives us a voice, and there is a joy in our hearts when we sing," he said.
Question: When you were in elementary school how did you listen to the call from the Lord?
McFadden said he had to learn to be quiet and listen, because the Lord speaks to the heart in a whisper.
After communion, during special services like Stations of the Cross or while saying the rosary, he learned to kneel and pray quietly, he said.
He challenged the students to build their relationship with God by praying for a family member who is sick or for a difficult school project. Sometimes, God speaks by giving us a peace, he said.
Question: What advice do you have for students taking confirmation or considering the priesthood?
Students should speak to their parents, teachers, coaches, and ask for advice, he said. Ask them, "What do you think I might be good at?" he said.
When McFadden was in eighth grade, he admired a priest at his school who was active and athletic, the bishop said.
"I thought I could be like him," he said.
McFadden told the youth to ask God for discernment before making a decision, and seek advice from trusted friends and relatives.
Questions to the bishop came from students at Catholic schools across the Harrisburg Diocese, which encompasses a 15-county area in south-central Pennsylvania.