Members of the newly elected Trenton Diocesan Parent Teacher Association gather for a group picture with superintendent, Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt. Rose O'Connor photos.
Members of the newly elected Trenton Diocesan Parent Teacher Association gather for a group picture with superintendent, Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt. Rose O'Connor photos.

For almost a century, the Trenton Diocesan Parent Teacher Association has gathered together with local school PTAs for an annual Fall Conference.  This year the conference was held Sept. 25 in St. Paul School, Burlington, and was aptly titled, “Together at Last,” reflecting that the attendees were unable to gather in-person last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Father Chris Colavito, Catholic chaplain and Campus Ministry, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, principal celebrant of the Mass, reflected on the Gospel, particularly the apostles who were afraid to ask Jesus a question. 

“We need to encourage students, parents and teachers to ask questions about our faith, not to undermine our faith, but to understand it,” he said.  “We should never present that we know it all.”

Be sure to visit the Photo Gallery

He also advised the attendees to ask questions themselves to better prepare for the inquiries of  others, “We need to understand that what and why of our faith. All of us share in the responsibility to share the truth of Christ– the salvation of Christ,” Father Colavito said.

At the conclusion of Mass, Paula Pangilinan, performed her last official duties as outgoing diocesan PTA president, which included the installation of the new diocesan PTA President, Elia Landino, the new diocesan executive board, and the Monmouth/Ocean and Mercer/Burlington regional boards. Joined by Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent for Catholic Schools, Pangilinan installed the regents and boards, providing each member with a candle and oath to read.

Following the installations, a breakfast meeting was held in the school cafeteria, where Pangilinan, a parishioner of St. James Parish, Red Bank, expressed her gratitude and reflected on her years in the diocesan PTA. She thanked those who assisted her along the way, notably her advisor, JoAnn Giordano, principal of St. James School, Red Bank, and retired diocesan superintendent, JoAnn Tier, to whom the annual yearbook was dedicated this year.

“Don’t be afraid to take a chance, I tried a lot of different things, some of them worked and some of them didn’t,” Pangilinan advised.

In his remarks Dr. Schmidt praised Pangilinan for her “dedication and effort” in leading the diocesan PTA during the past four years. He also shared his gratitude for the work of the local PTA boards in the Diocese.

“You are all rock stars and fantastic at what you do,” he said, noting, “I have never seen such a professionally organized and supremely engaged group.”

Newly installed president, Elia Landino, whose three children attended St. Veronica School, Howell, now Mother Seton Academy, Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, and St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, thanked Dr. Schmidt and Pangilinan for their commitment, leadership and guidance.

“I am honored to be assuming the role of diocesan PTA president. The PTAs in our schools are rooted in faith and are dedicated to promoting Catholic education. They remind me that I began my involvement with the PTA for the same reasons – love for my children and our Catholic faith and a desire to be present in Catholic education.”

This idea of supporting one another in faith was shared by all who came together to celebrate the newly installed boards and one other.

Cara Lynch, co-president of the St. Paul School PTA was also glad to participate in the Conference. “The entire event was great, and it was nice to be back and to see each other face-to- face.  It’s wonderful to see how much the PTA means to others in general.”

Kristin Klein, vice-president of St. Mary Academy, Manahawkin, is happy to help her son’s school and is grateful, especially for the teachers and staff for all that they do for the children in their care.

“We are blessed at the school. The teachers truly love their students and the kids are happy to be in school,” Klein said.

For Coleen Sgammato, co-vice-president at St. Rose School, Belmar, the Fall Conference, “Together at Last,” was actually the first she attended, as her children were previously enrolled in public school. “This is so nice. It’s definitely different and I am glad to be here.”

St. Rose, PTA president, Kelley McGee, shared Sgammato’s sentiments and is looking forward to a great year, as the Belmar elementary school is marking its 100th anniversary in October.

‘It’s great to come and support everyone,” she remarked of the Fall Conference, “I am just looking forward to meeting and talking to all of our different school families. There is such a strong sense of family and I am just excited to see everyone again.”