Bishop O'Connell celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving, Oct.8 as the Belmar school celebrates 100 years of Catholic education this Nov.
Bishop O'Connell celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving, Oct.8 as the Belmar school celebrates 100 years of Catholic education this Nov.

Many school and parish communities refer to themselves as “a family” given the experiences they share resemble a familial bond.

At St. Rose Grammar School, Belmar, alumni, faculty, administrators and students all spoke of that sense of family when the school celebrated its’100th anniversary during a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Oct. 3 in St. Rose Church.

Bishop O’Connell reflected on the legacy of St. Rose and the Gospel of Luke in his homily.

Bishop O’Connell reflected on the legacy of St. Rose and the Gospel of Luke in his homily.

“Seed,” as Luke’s Gospel explains, “that has fallen on good soil,” where this school has enabled the “word to be heard and embraced with good and generous hearts.”  St. Rose School has, indeed, and please God, will continue to “bear fruit through perseverance.”

“St. Rose has always been an integral part of my life,” said Bridget Killeen, alumna and first grade teacher.

“My mom went here in 1956 when it was just the red brick building [and] my sister, brother and I all graduated from the both elementary and the high schools. My husband and his six siblings all graduated from here and now my children are here in the grammar school.”

Colleague Cindy Fluhr attended the event with her family as both a faculty member and alumna.

“My history with St. Rose goes way back, my grandparents went here, my parents went here, my aunt went here.  My two children are here and two have graduated. And now I teach here!”

The celebration provided the opportunity to share stories from St. Rose over the years, with many attendees sharing some of their favorite memories.

Mass of Thanksgiving Photo Gallery:

“My favorite thing was learning cursive and the Catholic school still teach it,” said Colleen Reilly who has taught at the school for 17 years and had three children attend.

“As a teacher and as a student, I loved any time when we all came together – during Catholic Schools Week or pep rallies – when we all gathered as a family to support one another. I am just glad that my kids are going to get and experience the same traditions like I had growing up.”

Fluhr offered similar sentiments.

“I feel privileged and blessed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Rose because the school gave me so much.  It gave me my Catholic faith, a great education, a loving community.  I am just so happy that my children and future generations will get to receive those same gifts.”

Gregory Guito, principal, has worked with members of the school community over the months in preparation of the centennial celebration.

“It’s quite an honor to have the Bishop here. He is such an incredible supporter of Catholic schools. He believes so intensely in the success of Catholic schools,” Guito said.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Guito said, referring to the enormity of the event.  “We’ve had generations of families of students coming through our school: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents , it has become a legacy throughout the many years.  It’s a multi-generational school family.”

While greeting guests after the Mass, Msgr. Edward Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, shared what he believes makes the school community special.

“I’ve often said the parish school is the heart of the parish,” he said. It brings energy and a lot of life, a lot of involvement. It’s a real blessing to be a part of a parish with a school – not only the grammar school, but the high school, which will celebrate its centennial in 2023.  Thanks be to God.”

“Father Ed,” as Msgr. Arnister is affectionally know, also reflected on what it meant to celebrate 100 years of Catholic education.

“I was thinking the other day how in all those years that St. Rose School survived.  We went through the Great Depression, through two World Wars, all the cultural and societal changes over the years.  My second year as a pastor in 2012, we had Hurricane Sandy and now we have the global pandemic and we are still here, thanks be to God. We are still thriving and continuing the mission that began with Msgr. William McConnell [school founder] and his great vision. He lit a spark in 1921 and the flame is now being passed on to future generations. “

Visit the photo gallery on to see photos of the Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop O’Connell.

Audio interviews by freelance photographer Mike Ehrmann contributed to this story.