St. Rose juniors pose with a celebratory frame Jan. 6. In front, from left: Maria Testa, Reese Loscar and Alyssa Luizzi; back row from left: Emily Fudge, Giovanni Pescatore and Andrew Restiano. Courtesy photo
St. Rose juniors pose with a celebratory frame Jan. 6. In front, from left: Maria Testa, Reese Loscar and Alyssa Luizzi; back row from left: Emily Fudge, Giovanni Pescatore and Andrew Restiano. Courtesy photo
In today’s world of snap chatting, fickle relationships and career hopscotch, lasting values and institutions stand out. That reality can clearly be seen in the successful and impactful legacy of St. Rose High School in Belmar, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary.

St. Rose’s firm foundation began a century ago in 1923, and events in that first decade strongly tested the very mettle of its community. Founded just a few years after World War I, St. Rose then experienced the Wall Street crash of 1929. In the most recent decade, St. Rose stood tall despite Superstorm Sandy’s flooding of the school’s lower levels. Most recently, the global pandemic challenged the school’s resilience, and it was in the crucible of COVID-19 that St. Rose once again distinguished itself.

St. Rose High School epitomizes the deliberate commitment and focus to sustain a Catholic educational faith community. The school lives its mission statement, which reads, in part, “a St. Rose education instills a spirit of unity with God and others while preparing our students to be disciples of Christ and leaders of tomorrow.”

Speaking to students, faculty, alumni and parents, one discovers a compelling example of unity, with legacies and lineages intertwined. 

John Killeen, ’90, had six siblings who all graduated from St. Rose. His wife, Bridget, also attended, along with her two sisters, her mother, an aunt and an uncle. John and Bridget’s daughter, Emily, is a sophomore; Anna will attend next year.

John explained, “Success for me started with a Catholic upbringing, a Catholic education, and then me believing in it so much that my kids are going there. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that guidance that St. Rose provided.”

Those family legacies are repeated across many generations by countless families. Colleen Phillips Panzini, ’82, just celebrated her 40th reunion; her son Gioacchino, ’24, is a standout on the basketball team. All the Phillips siblings attended, including Karen Philips, ’86, whose son Christopher Burlington, ’26, bagpiper and hockey player, will graduate exactly 40 years after his mother.  Cousins Gio and Chris benefit from what their mothers describe as a student-centered environment where proactive faculty and teacher accessibility are part of the fabric of the school.  Once again, the collaborative partnership of student and teacher reflects this spirit of unity and each dimension of a community caring about the other.

Robert Dougherty, ‘05, principal, who assumed the leadership position July 1, 2022, emphasized, “Our school’s mission drives my purpose and the collective efforts of the faculty and staff of St. Rose to ensure that above all, our students will be supported on their own unique journey in faith to prepare them to be the leaders of tomorrow who will make a positive impact within our world.”

Msgr. Edward Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, also praised the commitment of the faculty. “Teaching in a Catholic school is a great sacrifice. There is a spirit here that is very attractive and inviting. Teachers care for one another as well.”

Likewise, the parish community firmly supports both St. Rose High School and St. Rose Grammar School, which celebrated its centennial in 1921. Msgr. Arnister spoke about the energy that young people bring to the parish. “Our parishioners are very supportive of the school. We emphasize that everyone is responsible for Catholic education and educating our young. This reflects our Gospel values. I love being a pastor in this school. It keeps me young and gives me hope in the future.” 

The St. Rose Board, composed of administrators and lay members, collaborate to bring experience, skills, and resources to support St. Rose’s future. Board member Francis “Fro” Heine, ’80, who counts himself among 22 family members who attended St. Rose, explained, “As board members, we look at the high school as being within a competitive business environment of other strong schools.” He explained that one distinct advantage at St. Rose are the opportunities “for every student to be in leadership positions that will, in turn, grow their skills and confidence.”

St. Rose is intertwined within the community in a very profound way. Once again hearkening back to mission, Dougherty highlighted that, “Our work in Catholic schools is so essential in serving our communities and, in turn, truly making a difference in the lives of others.” 

As Peter Smith, ’63, proudly stated, “It’s the premier educational institution in Belmar. The fact that it is the oldest continuing operating high school in the Diocese of Trenton is remarkable to me. It has stood the test of time.” 

For generations, St. Rose High School has supported those who seek to build their family’s life around their faith, not just at school, but also at home, at work, and in the community. The charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Chestnut Hill, the first teachers at St. Rose, resonates still: “Uniting God, neighbor and all creation.”