PTA conferences end year on celebratory note
By Lois Rogers|Features Editor
and Rosemary Daniels |Correspondent
As the school year drew to a close, hundreds of Catholic school PTA members from around the Trenton Diocese held regional meetings, which traditionally offer them a chance to reflect on the highlights and accomplishments of the past two semesters; recap the challenges; share some best practices and spend some quality time with each other.[[In-content Ad]]
This spring, the Mercer County region met April 25 in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, while the Burlington County region gathered in Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Maple Shade, April 30. The Monmouth-Ocean regional PTA conference was held in St. Joseph Church, Toms River, May 2.
The conferences, said Jo Ann Tier, diocesan superintendent of schools, are designed to take the take the dialogue initiated yearly at the annual Trenton Diocesan Council of Parent Teacher Associations to “another level. It’s a diocesan-wide opportunity for oneness and growth,” Tier said.
“It’s meant to acknowledge the PTA leaders and membership and thank them for all that they do,” she said. “They are invaluable to our Catholic schools,” she added. “The regional conferences are a way to celebrate what they contribute and take inspiration from it.”
Tier spoke at all three of the meetings. In her presentations, she referenced the many events that have challenged the nation’s faith since the school year began: Superstorm Sandy; the tragedies in Sandy Hook and Boston, as well as the one which resonated locally – the death of sixyear- old Brandon Holt, a student in St. Joseph School, Toms River, whose life was cut short when he was accidentally shot by a young neighbor.
She also mentioned the many changes that have occurred, from the recent election of Pope Francis to the changing demographics of the diocese. The latter has led to the re-evaluation of current educational needs. A resulting sustainability plan for Catholic schools is being finalized, in preparation for presentation to Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Tier highlighted the accomplishments of the past months: A partnership with Georgian Court University has resulted in 10 teachers working to attain their master’s degree in administration.
Trenton Diocese 2012 graduates received $123 million in scholarships from colleges and universities.
Sister of St. Joseph Jude Boyce, principal of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Asbury Park, and Father Daniel Swift, pastor of St. Benedict in Holmdel, received national recognition from the National Catholic Educational Association.
St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, and St. Paul School, Princeton were two of 50 private schools recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.
Diocesan schools have taken advantage of NJ Energy and Green Tech opportunities to realize $984,000 in replacement value for an investment of $75 per school.
In her concluding remarks, Tier thanked the PTA representatives for their contributions, saying: “Our work continues. As each day’s opportunities unfold, the challenges (and the change) provide us with yet another opportunity to live our faith, to be renewed and to know that God loves us.”
Each of the conferences had its own theme and keynote speakers. In Monmouth-Ocean, the theme was “Our Faith Journey.”
The day opened with Mass celebrated by Father G. Scott Shaffer, pastor of St. Joseph Parish and director of Monsignor Donovan High School, Toms River, attended by a large number of PTA representatives from three high schools and 13 elementary schools.
In his homily, Father Shaffer spoke of the journey that parents and educators share, and that sometimes these groups may disagree or be unsure of the way to go. “Our mission is to step outside ourselves,” said Father Shaffer. “We must all pray and listen to each other, but we must also listen to Christ to know the way. You who sacrifice to provide a Catholic education for children have an awareness that there’s something larger than yourselves, and that’s the presence of God in our lives.”
Eileen McCullion, assistant principal in Monsignor Donovan High School, has served as PTA liaison for the past 18 years. She welcomed the group to St. Joseph Parish, saying, “In October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI invited Catholics throughout the world to participate in a Year of Faith. The events of this year, following the pontiff’ s announcement, have truly tested the faith of those of us who live in Monmouth and Ocean counties. But our Catholic faith has sustained us during these difficult times and given us strength to face the future. We are most grateful for this gift of faith to support us on our journeys.”
All eight Catholic schools in the Mercer County region were represented at the Mercer Region spring PTA conference where the theme was “Hope.”
“All in attendance received a small plaque with the word ‘Hope” on it that was handmade by students from the Lower School in Trenton Catholic Academy,” said Mary Beth Consiglio, Mercer County regent.
A short prayer service was followed by the installation of the new Trenton Catholic Academy PTA board and presentations by Tier and Kathie Prihoda, Trenton Diocesan PTA president, said Consiglio, who noted that Sister of St. Joseph Carol Cimino, superintendent of Schools for the Buffalo Diocese who was guest speaker.
“Everyone was impressed with her presentation and at various installations in the weeks following the conference, PTA members were still talking about how they enjoyed Sister Carol’s message,” Consiglio said.
Burlington County regent Tricia Malady said “Walking in the Light of Christ,” was the theme of the Burlington County Regional PTA spring conference. Some 100 guests including current and past Burlington County School PTA presidents and board members, past and present diocesan PTA board members, current Burlington regional board members, school pastors and principals were in attendance.
The keynote speaker was Jim Gallo, an alumnus of both Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and Holy Cross High School, Delran. His presentation reflected the theme, “Walking in the Light of Christ.” He focused on the importance of the active involvement of parents to reinforce the teachings and faith present in their child’s educational experience in our Catholic Schools, Malady said.