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Gift of personal Bible inspires students
By Christina Capecchi
Sister Jane de Chantal Smisek presents a Bible to Visitation freshman Colleen Scallen. Credit Christina Capecchi for The Catholic Spirit
Sister Jane de Chantal Smisek presents a Bible to Visitation freshman Colleen Scallen. Credit Christina Capecchi for The Catholic Spirit

.- Freshmen at Visitation School in Mendota Heights received a special gift from the religion department on the second day of the school year: their own Bibles.

The gift-giving ceremony that took place in the monastery chapel is part of an initiative begun six years ago to encourage more robust Scripture study. The Bibles are intended for their four years of high school and beyond.

Each freshman received a third edition of the Catholic Youth Bible published by St. Mary’s Press, which is ­sprinkled with vignettes that personalize Scripture passages, as edited by Catherine Cory, an associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas. Their study is informed by material from local Catholic Jeff Cavins, a national Bible expert, and well timed as Visitation’s religion program inaugurates the new curriculum designed by the U.S. bishops.

Received with gratitude

It was the first Bible Stephanie Puma, 14, a member of Holy Rosary in south Minneapolis, had ever been given. “It’s really special to me,” she said. “Now, whenever I feel sad, I can look at the word of God and be comforted.”

“Having these Bibles is going to be a great gift for us,” added classmate Anna Evans, 15, a member of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. “I really like the Psalms, especially Psalm 139 — ‘I praise you, God, that I am wonderfully, fearfully made.’” Those words are a source of encouragement for any teenager struggling with self acceptance, Evans added.

Colleen Scallen, 15, who belongs to Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, said she’s looking forward to digging deeper into Scripture, especially after attending a predominantly Baptist summer camp where she was reminded of how well-versed Protestants tend to be with the Bible. “The Bible is way more important than a textbook because it shows us examples of how to live,” Scallen said.

Catholics may not be as adept at citing verse and chapter, said religion teacher Mary McClure, but she’s teaching her students to recognize patterns. For instance, if they’re seeking Scripture about the Virgin Mary, they should turn to the Gospel of Luke.

A solid foundation

The Bibles were presented to the freshmen by Sister Jane de Chantal Smisek and Sister Mary Paula McCarthy, who gave the students handwritten cards with various passages about the power of Scripture, such as Psalm 119: 105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”

Sister Jane de Chantal said she was pleased by the students’ response to the gift. “They are darling girls and eager to have their own Bibles. Their hearts are in it, and at this stage, when their lives are really beginning, you need a foundation,” she said.

The soft-spoken nun elaborated on the role of the Bible. “Scripture study is the basis of our religious belief,” she said. “We know we got it directly from the source, and I believe in going to the source.”

Scallen said she was struck by Sister Jane de Chantal’s message when she presented the gift. “She gave me the Bible and smiled at me and said: ‘You’d be surprised by how smart God is. You should go to him for everything, little or big.’”

Posted with permission from The Catholic Spirit, official publication of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


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