I can’t remember a time in my life when I was not associated with a Catholic school.
I began in kindergarten at St. John Cantius School in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia. The parish school was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. When our family moved to Wildwood in the 1960’s, I had as teachers the Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, PA at both St. Ann’s Regional School and Wildwood Catholic High School. I was off to the seminary at age 18, first to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and then to Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg MD.
As a deacon, I lived at Transfiguration Parish in W. Collingswood, NJ. The sisters who staffed the parish school were all from Ireland, belonging to the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. After my ordination to the priesthood, I was assigned to St. Matthew’s Church in National Park, NJ, where the parish school was staffed by the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, a Polish congregation.
I was then assigned to teach at St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, NJ and remained there for six years. After moving to Vineland, I became principal of Sacred Heart High School and was assigned there for 14 years. When I became pastor of Queen of Angels Parish in Buena Borough, we had an elementary school—Notre Dame Regional School. Now I am here as pastor of St. Joseph Church, Somers Point and we have one of the largest elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden—just shy of 500 students.
As you can see from my personal history, the Catholic school tradition is ingrained into my very being. I cannot imagine what it would be like without a local Catholic school forming students to know, love and serve Jesus Christ while preparing them mentally, physically and spiritually for the challenges of life.
We begin our celebration of Catholic Schools Week and I thank the dedicated faculty, administration and staff of St. Joseph Regional Catholic School for their hard work and dedication. Our Principal, Mr. Ted Pugliese strives to make the school a beacon of Christ’s light for our community.
Every Catholic parish in the diocese has an obligation to support our Catholic schools which is newly designated as 13% of all parish budgets. Bishop Sullivan had also inaugurated a special second collection to be taken up this weekend to support all the Catholic schools throughout the diocese.
I personally thank all parents who make the personal sacrifice and choose to send their children to St. Joseph Regional Catholic School. I ask parents of school-aged children to be open to and to investigate the possibility of sending your child/children to our Catholic school, if you do not already do so. While I understand that everyone may not be able to afford the full tuition, I know there is some limited financial aid for those who qualify. Why not investigate the possibility?
While no school is perfect and can always meet the needs of every child, Catholic schools that proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus Christ clearly and encourage families to live it faithfully give students a firm foundation for the challenges of life and offer them hope in an often confusing and troublesome world.
I am a proud product of Catholic schools. I can truly see the benefits and the advantage that it has given me in so many dimensions of my life. I believe that my vocation as a priest was fostered first in the home and then cultivated in the many years of a Catholic school environment. I am grateful for the priests and sisters that had a great influence on my life and thinking. I hope that I have been able to give back to Catholic education some of what I have received over the years.
Please join me in promoting St. Joseph Regional Catholic School and all our Catholic schools.
Fr. Ed Namiotka