Catholic School News

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Catholic School News
  1. Ocean City Knights award scholarships

    The Knights of Columbus of Ocean City have awarded $500 scholarships to the following students: Patrick Dever (sponsored by Knight Jim Dever), Robert Cristella (sponsored by Knight Charles Cristella, Amanda Leonetti (sponsored by Knight Paul Leonetti), Aurelio Caldereon (sponsored by himself), Hollis Barlett (sponsored by John Lynch).

  2. Grant focuses on Latino recruitment for Catholic schools
    The Diocese of Camden will soon hire a consultant to work on recruiting more Latino students to its schools, the result of a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). The new initiative from CCHD is in partnership with the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame.
    CCHD is the U.S. bishops' arm for combating poverty and injustice in the United States.
    The goal of the national program is to increase Catholic school enrollment among Latino families, widening their education options. Numerous recent studies have indicated that while the majority of young Catholics in the United States today are Latino, they continue to lag behind other groups in attending Catholic schools. Nationally, only three percent of Latino school-age children are enrolled in Catholic schools.
    "Catholic schools have offered a road to success for many immigrant groups in the past," said Mary Boyle, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Camden. "This grant will allow us to seek better ways to provide that option to our new immigrants, particularly Latino families in South Jersey."
    She is hopeful that the new position will be in place by the start of the new school year in September.
  3. The future of CCHS
    cchsgroup-webOn June 24, Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, held a "wall-breaking" ceremony, signifying the beginning of construction on the school's new dining hall. The $600,000 project is the first to be funded by The Campaign for the Future, a $6 million fundraising effort for the oldest Catholic high school in South Jersey. Leading the ceremony were, from left, Heather Crisci, school principal; Mary Boyle, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Camden Diocese; James and Mark Williams, of J.W. Williams Contractors; and Mary Whipkey, school president.

    Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos

  4. Students’ new coats
    studentswithnewcoats-webOn June 11, 25 boxes of coats were donated to Holy Name School in Camden, from a collection undertaken by the Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter School. Standing with the coats are Holy Name seventh graders Walter Blanco, William Rentas, Ah'Sheer Harvey, Anthony Perez and Pablo Rivera.

    Photo by James A. McBride

  5. Row, row, row your boat, after you build it
    Photo by James A. McBride

    kidsbuildingboats-webBefore launching one of the two boats they built themselves, the fifth grade of Our Lady of Sea School, Atlantic City, and their teacher, Colleen Griffin, pose for a photo on June 16.

    No doubt, students throughout the region have rushed headlong into their summer vacations, excited at the prospect of no homework and zero tests. And while many of them may pause a moment from playing video games, catching up on sleep, or hitting the pool to reflect on a productive school year, you can bet that the fifth graders from Our Lady Star of the Sea in Atlantic City truly have something they can look back on with pride.

    Our Lady Star of the Sea's fifth graders now know how to build a boat. In fact, they've built two of them as part of the Building Kids Program, an initiative sponsored by the Bayshore Center at Bivalve.
    Designed for boys and girls ages 10 to 15, the program teaches students to build traditional wooden sailing and rowing boats. Our Lady Star of the Sea is the first local Catholic school in the area to participate.
    "The students have built two beautiful boats," says Sister Shamus Zehrer, RSM, principal at Our Lady Star of the Sea. "They have gotten a very, very good foundation with math."
    Construction of the boats began in November. One was built at the Atlantic City Convention Center in conjunction with this year's NJEA teacher's conference. The other was put together the week after. Prior to the boats' official launch on the bay last week, members of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol inspected the vessels to make sure they were seaworthy.
    "The Beach Patrol were surprised that the boats were done by 10 and 11 year olds," says Colleen Griffin, the fifth grade teacher from Our Lady Star of the Sea, who helped coordinate the project for the school. "In fact, the Coast Guard approved the boats for 455 pounds."
    As they constructed two boats, all of the school's fifth graders had an opportunity to be involved with the entire building process.
    "The kids did this from scratch and did everything but seal the boats," explains Griffin. And while the students learned a lot about geometry, mathematical computations and tides in order to properly build the boats, there was also an opportunity to teach some other important lessons.
    "The kids learned a lot about teamwork and cooperation. This is something they really needed be on top of," added Griffin. "We also talked about the Apostles and their boating."
    "They're involved and engaged in an activity that's beyond their horizon," says Bill Sheridan, a retired educator who coordinates the Building Kids Program. "Why a boat's important is that it's not a toy. This is something that has a real-world function. It's a very important life lesson. Anybody in this world, if they're going to be successful, they're going to have to take risks. This program gives students the opportunity to totally go beyond their imagination to build something like a boat and do it right and do it effectively. That's the real value."
    But don't just take the grow-ups' words for it. Several of the fifth graders took the opportunity to share their thoughts on this experience.
    "We had a lot of fun building the boats and meeting new people," says Dakota Bivens. "I liked learning about power tools and safety. It will be something I will always remember."
    "Building the boats was a big surprise for us," added Andres Angulo. "They turned out really nice. It was a great opportunity."
    "We learned so much math that we really will use in real life," explained Catherine Scott.
    The Building Kids Program would like to have more Catholic schools involved next year.
    For more information on the Building Kids Program, contact the Bayshore Center at Bivalve at 856.785.2060 x100 or by email at

  6. Saying thank you to Sister Shamus
    Photos by James A. McBride


    Sister Shamus Zehrer, who is retiring after 38 years as principal of Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Atlantic City, stands with Daniel McNair (left) and Edward Bannister Holmes, both class of 2006. Right, school graduates who went into law enforcement congratulate their former principal on her retirement.

    Forty-six years of teaching. Over four decades of molding young Catholic boys and girls with a Christ-centered education. That is the legacy of Sister Shamus Zehrer, RSM, who is retiring at the end of the month after 46 years as an educator and 38 years as principal of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Atlantic City.
    And to honor her commitment to the children of this shore-side community, alumni came in droves to thank Sister Shamus on June 18, the final day of the school year.
    And what a thank you it was. Hundreds of alumni, some going back as far as 1964 when Sister began teaching in Atlantic City, came to wish her well and show their appreciation.
    The impromptu get together was planned solely through social media by alumnus Christine Parker, class of ‘97, on the Our Lady Star of the Sea group on Facebook.
    What's even more impressive is the idea was hatched a little over two weeks prior to the last day of school.
    "I truly didn't think a post on Facebook a couple weeks ago would reach so many Our Lady Star of the Sea Alumni," explains Parker from a post on her own Facebook page. "But then again, when the post is about an amazing woman like Sister Shamus, it catches everyone's attention. I was in awe of the many generations of Stars that came to wish Sister a farewell as a principal."
    Sister Shamus is still in awe of the outpouring of love and support from so many members of the Our Lady Star of the Sea family.
    "I was very amazed and in awe. It was a very humbling experience and one of the happiest of my life."
    "I never would have believed it. I just can't even explain it. They're all just very, very dear people There's nothing like Our Lady Star of the Sea. I'm very grateful to each person I taught and worked with for making me the person I am today. Sometimes you just get speechless. You can't express how you truly feel."
    Sister also thanked God who gave her the strength each and every day to give back to the community and teach young people. "It was really God. That's what I was supposed to do."
    Sister Shamus plans to take a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of school life. After that, she looks forward to volunteering. "I'll get my hand into something."
    But it was, and still is, the guiding hand of being a teaching religious and helping raise the next generation of Catholics that she'll truly cherish.
    "I wouldn't change a minute of it. I love each one of them."

  7. Pups on Parade
    Photos by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos


    Holy Trinity Regional School, Westville Grove, held its first-ever "Dogs on Parade" June 7, with students dressing their dogs up in their summer best for prizes. Left, second grader Makayla Clemente with Tiny. Right, kindergartener Anna Jones with her dog Ally.

  8. ‘Nothing is going to keep me from graduating’
    Photo by James A. McBride

    olohgraduate-webKathleen Spadaro poses for a photo with her family on June 7, the day she graduated from Our Lady of Hope School in Blackwood. Pictured from left are her brother Patrick, sister Molly, mother Robin, Kathleen, father Jerry Sr. and brother Jerry Jr. Kathleen, who has Down syndrome, is planning to attend Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, in the fall.

    Kathleen Spadaro wanted to go to the same school as her older sister and two older brothers, and that presented her parents with a difficult decision.
    Should they send her to Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Blackwood, or to a school that routinely enrolls students with Down syndrome?
    At Lady of Hope there would be worries about Kathleen learning in a mainstream classroom setting, and about being accepted by other children. And would she have the determination to work as hard as she needed to keep up?
    "We decided to try it, and go year by year," said Robin Spadaro, Kathleen's mother, who works part time at the school as a counselor. "She wanted to be here so badly."
    Although her parents had occasional periods of doubt, Kathleen never did.
    "We would ask Kathleen how she felt about going to a different school and she would always answer, ‘Nothing is going to stop me from graduating from my school. Not even you, Mom,'" Robin recalled.
    The Spadaros felt reassured they made the right decision when they saw their daughter wearing her light blue cap and gown and accepting her diploma on June 7.
    She made the school's Honor Roll (earning As and Bs) every year, and was a straight A student her last marking period, putting her on the Principal's List. In the fall she will attend Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill.
    The current trend in education, according to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), is to fully include children with Down syndrome in the social and educational life of the community. Still, the challenges of grammar school are hard enough for any child: they have to learn to leave their parents, sit quietly at a desk, keep up with homework and study for tests, deal with peer pressure - not to mention survive the turmoil of adolescence. For a child with cognitive delays to succeed is no small accomplishment.
    "She has had to work 100 times harder than her classmates," said Marcy Robinson, the school's technology teacher.
    Kathleen is legally blind without her glasses. She missed class the first six weeks of second grade because she needed open heart surgery. She occasionally has the help of a classroom aide and has an ISP (Individualized Service Plan). (Mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, an ISP is a document that identifies education strategies and goals for a student with a disability.)
    When she began school as a kindergartener, Kathleen did not understand the difference between her abilities and those of the average student. That realization, and frustration, came later - along with a drive to be as much like other students as possible. Robin noted, for example, that Kathleen might have fewer homework questions than the rest of the class but she would often push herself to do "what the other kids do."
    Kathleen is proud of graduating and aware that some people didn't think she would be able to do it. She said she hopes she can help change their thoughts about people with Down syndrome and what they are able to do. She said she wants people to know that people with disabilities are able to do more than anyone can imagine.
    On Kathleen's last day of eighth grade, as the children were cleaning their classroom, ready for summer vacation before taking the next step in their education, Robin expressed her gratitude to the faculty at Our Lady of Hope, and to her older children who have always been supportive of Kathleen over the years.
    And of Kathleen, Robin said, "She is amazing if I say so myself."

  9. Camden student presented with Young Catholic Leader Award
    Photo by James A. McBride

    youngcatholicleader-webHillary Peralta accepts the 2014 David T. Coghlan Young Catholic Leader Award Scholarship from Kathy Coghlan. Also pictured are Joan Lind, center, who sponsors the scholarship, and Frances Montgomery, principal of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral School.

    Hillary Peralta, an eighth grade student at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral School in Camden, is the first place winner of the 2014 David T. Coghlan Young Catholic Leader Award Scholarship. Hillary has received a $1,000 tuition scholarship for her freshman year at Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill.
    In her winning essay, Hillary expressed her gratitude for the gift of her Catholic education, saying, "To me, Catholic education is not based solely on academics. To succeed in society, you need to have grit, character and passion. These are the qualities that are nurtured in a Catholic school."
    Two second place scholarships of $500 each were merited by Stephen Grimmie of St. Joseph Regional School in Somers Point and Michael A. Macera of St. Mary School, Williamstown. Stephen will attend Holy Spirit High School in Absecon and Michael will attend Camden Catholic High School.
    The David T. Coghlan Young Catholic Leader scholarships are presented each year to eighth grade students who will be attending a diocesan Catholic High School. The scholarship is a memorial in honor of Dr. David Coghlan, who was the superintendent of schools from 1994-2004.

  10. A Diploma and an Appointment
    diplomaappointment-webThomas DePaul accepts his diploma and appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy during graduation ceremonies for Wildwood Catholic High School, held June 2 at St. Ann Church, Wildwood. Fifty students graduated. Pictured at left is Robert Smail, the Blue and Gold officer from the U.S. Naval Academy who attended to make DePaul's appointment official. Standing in back are Mary Kane, academic dean; Father Joseph D. Wallace, school president; Mary Boyle, superintendent of schools; Father Michael Field of Notre Dame de la Mer Parish, Wildwood; and Carolyn Miller, administrative dean.

    Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, more

  11. D-Day
    d-day-webHonoring the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Giovanni Sparacio, a junior at Paul VI High School, Haddon Township, meets John Conboy, a World War II veteran from the 474 AA AW Battalion who shared his wartime experiences with the school's history students. Conboy served in the June 6, 1944 D-day invasion of Utah Beach. He was in the Battle of the Bulge and part of the Allied liberation of the Nordhausen concentration camp in central Germany.
  12. New principal for Bishop McHugh School
    The Board of Pastors for Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School, Cape May Courthouse, announces the appointment of Thomas J. McGuire, Jr., as principal of the school, effective July 1.
    McGuire, who holds a master's degree in educational leadership, currently serves as assistant
    principal at Our Lady of Czestochowa/Little Harbor Academy in Jersey City.
    "McGuire brings creative vision in developing programs based on sound pedagogy and research. He has experience as a presenter of professional development at the national level," the school said in a statement
    "I look forward to working with the regional pastors and teaching staff of the school as we seek to provide quality Catholic elementary school education for the young people of the area for years to come. Bishop McHugh School is an extraordinary asset and most deserving of the committed efforts of all in the local faith community," said McGuire.
    McGuire will be succeeding Mrs. Laura Tomlin as principal of the school. Tomlin will be pursuing other opportunities in the area of education.
    "I wish to express my gratitude to Mrs. Tomlin for her professional efforts on behalf of countless students both as classroom teacher and building principal." noted Father Joseph Perreault, Chairman of the Board of Pastors.
  13. Colors
    stmaryschoolcancerribbon-webOn May 16 the students of St. Mary School, Vineland, gathered in the gym to form a larger than life cancer awareness ribbon. This was done to honor their gym teacher, Linda Nocito, who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. Nocito has been a teacher at St. Mary School for over 30 years. Each color, designated to a specific class, represented a different type of cancer. Kindergarten green, gallbladder; first red, multiple myeloma; second gray, brain; third blue; colorectal; fourth purple, testicular; fifth orange, kidney; sixth yellow, sarcoma; seventh pink, breast; eighth white, lung.
  14. Gloucester Catholic seniors honored for community service
    Gloucester Catholic seniors Matt Davis, Mike Davis and Maria Petrongolo were honored by the Adam Taliaferro Foundation for their community service to the organization on May 12 at Campbell's Field, Camden.
    The Rams' trio received scholarship awards and plaques during the ATF's annual Community Service Athlete of the Year Awards Banquet, hosted by the Camden Riversharks and sponsored by AAA South Jersey, the Philadelphia Eagles, and MJ Corporation.
    Student athletes from all over South Jersey were honored for raising funds for the Foundation to help patients with spinal cord injuries around the Delaware Valley.
    The three students, under the direction of Tom Iacovone, helped to raise more than $1,800 for the Foundation in 2014.
  15. I asked for help and God sent three people
    Commencement ceremonies have been taking place at schools in the Diocese of Camden, with valedictorians and salutatorians giving speeches to their classmates, family, school community and guests as they end their high school career. Following is a slightly abridged excerpt from valedictorian Christina G. Dalzell's speech at the graduation ceremonies of Holy Spirit High School, Absecon, on June 1.

    I was hesitant to ask for help in writing this speech from my family and teachers because I truly wanted it to be personal for us. I finally realized last week that I needed God's help, so I prayed, like many of us have prayed together as classmates before tests and games over the past four years. I asked God for help, and incredibly, he sent me three people who helped me in different ways.
    The first person I ran into was an elementary school teacher I hadn't seen since eighth grade graduation. She welcomed me and gave me the courage to start at a new school. Next year, we will all need this courage to take a leap of faith and embark on the next chapter of our lives, whether it is at college, in the military, or in the workforce.
    The following day, I bumped into a friend's father. This friend also helped me navigate through a hard time in my life. She believed me when no one else did and stood up for me when everyone else shied away. She represented loyalty and faith. If you do not remember anything else from my speech, remember this - the worst thing in life that you can be is a bystander. Do not spend your life following other people; stand up for what you believe. Do not spend time waiting for the ball or waiting for the job offer; make it happen. Do not allow others to tell you that you are crazy and that you will never achieve anything; do it anyway.
    The third person I met represented the future. While at a volunteer orientation at Shore Medical this past week, I was sitting in front of a girl who graduated from Holy Spirit a couple of years ago, and who is now studying to be a doctor. At that point, I was still struggling to write this speech. This girl, who I had never met before, gave me hope. She gave me hope that someday I will be in her position, following my dream of becoming a doctor. She also represents the belief we must have in ourselves to find our purpose in life. We, the class of 2014, cannot be afraid of our future....
    Now, you can call these encounters angels from God, or pure coincidences, or you can just call me crazy. There is a little truth to all three. The truth is that we are all a little crazy. It's what makes life interesting and exciting. In the future, do not hide your passions or your idiosyncrasies; rather, embrace them, because if you do, you are on the path toward happiness....

    Christina G. Dalzell of Linwood will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the fall.