By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
The more than 100 school administrators, parents and teachers gathered for the 93rd annual Diocesan PTA Fall Conference heard not only how they are a help to others, but how they, too, are angels in their own right.
Photo Gallery: Diocesan PTA Conference
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., joined more than 100, school administrators, parents and teachers at Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, for the 93rd annual Diocesan PTA Fall Conference Sept. 29.
In the homily he preached during the Mass he celebrated, Bishop O’Connell referenced the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael and the role they play in Salvation History.
“The term angel itself means messenger. Angels are messengers…, they bring something to us,” he said, “they are sent, they are messengers of God who announced God’s will, who protect us and defend us against evil. Their existence is linked powerfully to the mission of Christ in the world.
“What’s the connection between the feast that we celebrate and the reason that we gather here today?” he asked. The Parent-Teacher Association in the Diocese of Trenton highlights two elements essential to the effectiveness of Catholic education: parents and teachers. Parents are the first and most important teachers of the Catholic faith. The role of parents in transmitting the faith in the lives of the young ones is most important. Teachers in our Catholic schools are primary collaborators with parents; they’re partners who build upon the foundation of faith in Catholic schools, and working together, parents and teachers share the same audience, the children.”
“So as the angels bring God’s message, as angels reveal God’s presence, as angels show God’s strength and offer God’s healing in a spiritual way, parents and teachers put a human face on all of that. Parents and teachers are those leading the children to meet and to know God,” Bishop O’Connell said.
Following the Mass that was concelebrated by Father Michael Kennedy, parochial vicar, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington, Father Christopher Dayton, parochial vicar, St. Rose Parish, Belmar, Father Leandro Dela Cruz, pastoral administrator, St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville, and Father Carlo Calisin, parochial vicar, St. Parish, Princeton, the attendees gathered for the breakfast meeting portion of the day.
“Today we gather to show appreciation for the diocesan PTA and our individual school PTAs,” said JoAnn Giordano principal of St. James School, Red Bank, in her welcoming remarks. “We are taking the time to recognize these units because they deserve to be applauded.
“Our PTAs collaborate with the administration and teachers on the planning of events and student activities. This type of collaboration sends a clear message to our students that they are part of an extended school family that cares about them. PTAs are truly a vital part of Catholic schools.”
Diocesan PTA president Paula Pangilinan discussed the diocesan PTA’s plans to monetarily assist the local PTA Boards, namely, through the creation of the Outstanding PTA Leadership Award.
The monetary award of $2,500 will be presented annually at the fall conference, beginning next September. All PTAs within the Diocese will be eligible to apply for this award. An application must be submitted to be considered and the applicants must meet certain criteria to be considered.
Diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools, JoAnn Tier, asked those in attendance to reflect on the reality that the diocesan PTA in the Diocese of Trenton has been around for almost a century.
“Ninety-three years ago when the first diocesan conference took place in Trenton, they were 48 stars on the American flag. Calvin Coolidge became the first American president to have his inauguration broadcast on the radio. The first female governor was named governor of Wyoming. F. Scott Fitzgerald published ‘The Great Gatsby,’ Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon and Johnny Carson were born. And PTA ladies donned hats and gloves and supported the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton.”
Tier discussed several programs that were able to be implemented due to the generosity of the diocesan PTA, including the recent summer training for teachers that offered practical ways to improve instruction for students with dyslexia.
“Our principals and faculty remain committed to preparing students for a future that continues to be undefined. Heartfelt thanks are expressed for the work of the PTA,” said Tier, noting that $2.4 million has been provided by the elementary and high school PTAs to support the Catholic schools. Tier also acknowledged that 93 years of parental involvement, commitment and support of Catholic schools and how it makes a profound difference in the lives of our students.
“While the PTA membership no longer don hats and gloves, the smiles and can-do spirit have not waned with the passage of time. Thank you for your generous leadership commitment and the character of a defined your work,” Tier said.
Trenton Catholic Academy PTA Secretary Robyn Lucash said she appreciates the PTA conference because she likes to hear what other schools are doing; what has worked and what hasn’t. “It’s great to get together,” she said.
Our Lady of Sorrows principal, Maureen Tuohy, added, “The fall conference is important because it sets the tone for the year. New PTA members can get a visual representation of the involvement in our diocese, can connect with other PTA members [outside their own school], and there is a sense of community when we are together that gives everyone the feeling that we can do this, we will be successful. The Bishop cared enough to say mass for us. By doing that, he shows the importance of the PTA in the Diocese.”
Kathryn Basheer, principal in Sacred Heart School, Mount Holly, concurred.
“We share ideas, our successes and even our struggles to be reminded of the fact that we are really all in this together for the sake of our students. It's inspiring to see what schools can accomplish when the school and the home work together!”
Kathy Winch, treasurer of the PTA in St. Joseph School, Toms River, found the opportunity to meet with other schools and the diocesan PTA board an invaluable experience.
“What I took away from the conference is the strong support network from the Diocese and the willingness of the leaders on our executive board to help each school achieve and hopefully exceed our goals.”
Meaghan Lupa, PTA president from St. James School, Red Bank spoke of how she enjoyed getting together with the other PTA representatives and hearing about new events taking place in their school communities. “The conferences also help me to refocus my perspective on volunteering. We are here to enhance and enrich our children’s experience at school. When the kids see me on campus, they know that we are probably doing something fun for the day, whether it’s a book fair, a special snack -- whatever the case may be. We do what we do not just to raise money -- but to see all of the little faces smiling with excitement. The conferences help me to step back and remember why we are here -- the kids.”