At annual conference, Diocese's PTA members recharged in vision, ministry
Stories of success and words of affirmation were appreciated by all who attended the 92nd annual conference of the Trenton Diocesan Council of Parent-Teacher Associations held Sept. 30 in Toms River.
The day, which drew some 150 members representing Catholic school Parent-Teacher Associations from around the Diocese, the diocesan PTA board and the Office of Catholic Schools, opened with Mass celebrated by Franciscan Father Gabriel Zeis, diocesan vicar for Catholic Education, in St. Joseph Church. A breakfast meeting followed in the town’s Days Inn.
“What a joy it is for me to be here with you today to celebrate the wondrous Good News of God’s tremendous love by the ministers who serve so well in our Catholic schools,” Father Zeis said in his homily.
He spoke about the day’s Readings and also on the joy of discipleship.
“My prayer for you, my prayer for myself, priests, all of our teachers, all of our students is that we come to understand the joy of discipleship and that we understand our mission,” he said. “We’re still on a path, a journey; we enter into it, and with Jesus we journey back to Jerusalem and into the fullness of his kingdom for eternity.”
Prior to the conclusion of Mass, JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools and PTA adviser, recognized executive board members Rose O’Connor, public relations/marketing; Marybeth Consiglio, legislative; Paul Signorelli, strategic adviser, and Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, adviser to the board.
Tier also presided over the installations of new diocesan board members: Paula Pangilinan, president; JoAnn Giordano, adviser to the president; Linda Anzano, vice president; Colleen Herbert, secretary, and Elsa Pagano, treasurer.
At the conclusion of the installations, Father Zeis congratulated the newly installed diocesan board and conveyed gratitude on behalf of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
“Personally, I would also like to congratulate everyone and convey the Bishop’s prayers to you and continued support to you and the wonderful work that you do in the diocesan PTA as officers and leaders. Thank you so very much for the services that you do in the Diocese of Trenton,” said Father Zeis.
The breakfast meeting that followed opened with the invocation led by Father Scott Shaffer, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, and welcoming remarks by Madeline Kinloch, principal of St. Joseph School.
Keynote speakers were members of the PTA from St. Paul School, Burlington, who addressed the topic, “Heart and Soul – Indispensable Tools for Succeeding on the Journey,” by reflecting on their fundraising efforts in and beyond their local parish community.
Kerri Chewning, who is also Mercer/Burlington regent, was joined by Sue Turpin and Lucy Tomczynski.
Chewning recalled November 2014, when it was announced that if St. Paul School intended to remain open for the 2015-2016 academic year, the school would need to raise $250,000 in six weeks.
While the task and timing seemed insurmountable, Chewning, Turpin and Tomczynski discussed how the PTA became “the intangible and ever present force that moved us forward to our goal.”
“We reached out to the local news media, we reached out to local businesses in the community, and we reached out to family and friends to raise awareness of our situation and to raise money,” Chewning said, stressing that while they utilized corporate matching programs and received some large donations, “We saved our school with a multitude of $50 and $100 from people who cared enough to help us save St. Paul School and continue the mission of Catholic education. We asked for help, and the world around us responded.”
Chewning urged her PTA colleagues to “help maintain your [school’s] PTA.”
“It is the heart and soul of your school, and it is a critical piece in today’s world. It is the mechanism for carrying the blood through the body of your school and it must engage everyone at all levels in your school.”
Thanking the parish priests and school administrators in attendance for all they do daily in their schools, Tier exhorted the gathering to address their respective school’s challenges and to use their talents, to dream, to be creative and find solutions.
“As leaders in Catholic schools, we invite you to expand our realm of influence and recognize the talents of those in the PTA and in the community and involve them in the programs, the projects, the field days, the gift auctions. Involve them in the life of the school, in the life of the PTA, and in our faith life,” she said.
The breakfast meeting also included the PTA’s beloved tradition of dedicating a yearbook to a person selected by the PTA. This year the yearbook was dedicated to Katherine Soss Prihoda, former diocesan PTA president and Mercer County CYO board member.
Those in leadership on the local boards said they enjoy the annual conference and the opportunity to gather for fellowship and share ideas on how to best serve their school communities.
Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, PTA president Jessica Perez said she enjoyed hearing the stories of successful PTA endeavors from St. Paul School. “We all need to work together to share the mission of our schools. I am excited to work with my own board and [am] looking forward to the school year.” Anzano added how the “annual PTA Fall conference is always a wonderful event accentuated by the contagious spirit of its members both past and present.”