If there’s one thing opening day of Catholic Schools Week in St. Jerome School made perfectly clear to Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., it’s that students there are amassing a wide range of knowledge.

His tour Jan. 27 of the in West Long Branch school’s 11 classrooms and computer lab revealed that teachers are opening doors on everything from language arts, math, science, social studies, world language, and fine arts to technological literacy classes that include virtual robotics.

“I liked that he [the Bishop] wanted to know what we were learning in social studies,” sixth-grader Maralyn Loughlin said as Bishop O’Connell stopped by while the class was studying ancient Nubia and Egypt.

Photo Gallery: Bishop visits St. Jerome School for Catholic Schools Week

She especially appreciated being able to tell him in person that she likes “religious education and getting to learn about Jesus and God.”

During the Bishop’s classroom visits, the students shared their appreciation for the school’s focus on how to become a “blessing to the world” by being “brave, strong and true.” That’s the motto Filippini Sister Elizabeth Seton Dalessio, principal, drew from the classic film “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” and plastered on posters all over the school.

Sentiments like Maralyn’s drew broad smiles from Bishop O’Connell, who celebrated Mass at the start of Catholic Schools Week in St. Jerome’s Church, one of two worship sites of Our Lady of Hope Parish.

Concelebrating were Father Peter James Alindogan, pastor of Our Lady of Hope, Father John Butler, pastor of St. Michael Parish, West End, and Father Mark Nillo, parochial vicar there.

In her opening remarks before Mass, Sister Elizabeth Seton thanked diocesan schools staff for their attendance: JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools; associate superintendent Dr. Margaret Boland, and Judy Nicastro, diocesan associate director of school services/school data management. She also thanked the parents, and parish and sending schools for “the special way you show your respect and love of Catholic Education.”

She spoke of how this week parishes all over the nation were gathering to celebrate the core values of Catholic schools and of the students who will “carry our hopes and dreams into the future.”

During the classroom tours, Bishop O’Connell met the nearly 200 students in pre-k through eighth grades. He saw the creativity and intellectual curiosity of the students displayed in art, science, cultural, historical, technology and service projects. In one hallway, bins and baskets containing hundreds of personal care products were destined to be put into “Blessing Bags” put together by children in the lower grades.

Second-grader William Adams said he collected toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and “one of everything,” while fourth-grader Jacob d’Silva was one of many students who helped make cards for members of the military.

The students agreed they enjoyed Bishop’s visits into their classes, especially when, as William put it, “he told us we were really smart.”

Arianna Simon, 13, is an eighth-grader who plans to go on to either Biotechnology High School in Freehold or Trinity Hall, Tinton Falls, a private school in the Catholic tradition for girls in ninth through 12th grades.

“When the Bishop came into our [robotics] lab, he saw that we were helping each other; he was like, ‘That’s great.’ We had just started a new lesson, and it can be difficult but we work together. We were learning the code for making the virtual robot turn around.”

Coding and robotics are important subjects, she said, and her education in St. Jerome School will go far to preparing her for success in high school and higher learning.

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent