Diocesan PTA members receive words of encouragement from Bishop O’Connell

At the conference breakfast, Bishop O’Connell poses for a photo with a group of students from St. James School, Red Bank. At left is Dr. Margaret Boland, diocesan associate superintendent of Catholic schools, and at right is JoAnn Tier, superintendent. Rose O’Connor photos


By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

The work and dedication of those who serve on diocesan and school PTA boards received thanks and praise from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., at the 94th annual Diocesan PTA Conference held Sept. 28 in St. James Parish, Red Bank.

“For almost 100 years, PTA parents like you have supported our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton. As Bishop, I thank you for that. What you do as members of the Diocesan PTA creates the possibility for the Holy Spirit to teach the young people in our Catholic schools what they truly need to know and how to live,” said Bishop O’Connell.

“I invite you to be joyful because you have a lot to be joyful about,” Bishop O’Connell said.

The annual conference, which brought together staff from the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools, diocesan PTA members, as well as school administrators, faculty and parents, began with a Mass in St. James Church with Bishop O’Connell as principal celebrant and homilist. Joining the Bishop at the altar was a number of priests who serve in parishes with schools. Following the reception of Holy Communion, JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, installed the new Diocesan PTA board members: Paula Pangilinan, St. James Parish, Red Bank, president; Paul Signorelli, St. Rose Parish, Belmar, vice president; Lisa Honning, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington, secretary, and Elsa Pagano, Our Lady of Hope Parish, West Long Branch, treasurer.

Following Mass, the conference continued with a breakfast in Red Bank Catholic High School. The conference theme for 2019, “Serve the Youth to Whom God Gives Tomorrow,” was chosen as a tribute to the late Sister of St. Joseph Dorothy Payne, who served for many years on the Diocesan PTA board. Sister Dorothy was the founding president of Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, and served in that capacity from 2005 until her death in February of this year.

In her first address as the new diocesan PTA president, Pangilinan acknowledged outgoing board members Linda Anzano of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, who served on the diocesan board as Monmouth/Ocean regent, president and vice president; Whitney Lechner, also from St. Joseph Parish, outgoing Monmouth/Ocean regent, and Kerri Chewning, St. Katharine Drexel Parish, who served as the Mercer/Burlington regent for the past two years.

She then welcomed new board members Elia Landino, Mother Seton Academy and St. Veronica Parish, both Howell, as the Monmouth/Ocean regent, and Marybeth Consiglio, Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, and Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, as the Mercer/Burlington regent.

One highlight Pangilinan shared was about the new extranet available to PTA boards, saying the source will provide a “single place that has all the information you will need” such as answers to questions, pictures from events, minutes from meetings and important forms.

“We are so proud that we have created this system that will allow us to communicate easily,” she said.

In her address, Tier thanked the Diocesan PTA for financially supporting Catholic school teachers by allocating funding for training in the Orton-Gillingham Approach, which provides techniques and strategies for teaching children with learning challenges.

“Our teachers are well-equipped to work with students who may have different styles of learning and they wind up feeling confident and secure,” she said.

Tier also presented the yearbook dedication posthumously to Sister Dorothy and the administration form Trenton Catholic Academy, including Mike Knowles, president, Anne Reap director of the Lower School, and Charles Kroekel, director of the Upper School.

“I think it’s most fitting that this 94th annual conference is in honor of Sister Dorothy,” said Tier. “She radiated a spirit of welcome; she was never pretentious. She was a humble woman who always acknowledged God’s will. She was passionate about providing Catholic education to many students, among them those who are underserved.”

At the conference, participants shared ideas on ways to support the mission of their schools, such as fundraising strategies.

Travis Sutphin from St. James Parish and School, Red Bank, said, “Fundraising is the key in making sure our students have the experiences they deserve. Fundraising is essential to support the children collectively.”

Gregory Guito, principal of St. Rose Grammar School, Belmar, spoke on the importance of the local PTA boards and the annual diocesan PTA conferences. “I think it’s a wonderful way to recognize all of the parents who really take so much extra time to enhance the quality of life for all of the children in our Catholic schools.

“A moment like this helps us realize that the PTAs are truly the backbone of our schools,” Guito said.

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