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DISCOVER CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK

This week is Discover Catholic Schools Week! Stay-tuned to this webpage and our social media channels to hear more from our students, faculty, parents and volunteers about why they choose Catholic schools.
Sunday = Discovering Our Parishes
Monday = Discovering Our Students
Tuesday = Discover Our Parents
Wednesday = Discover Our Faculty
Thursday = Discover Our Faith-Based Community
Friday = Discover our Volunteers

 

SUNDAY: Discover Our Parishes!

Camden Catholic students don’t take a break from service once the dismissal bell rings. Hundreds of our students participate in and lead parish activities, whether that be as a choir member, lecter, food pantry volunteer, Eucharistic minister, and in many other ways. See a few examples below of our students’ service to their home parishes. CCHS students come from dozens of churches throughout the region and each serves in very special ways.


Domenic DeStefano ’22

Domenic DeStefano ’22 is an altar server and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at St. Teresa of Calcutta.”I work with their deaf community on a weekly basis,” Domenic says. “The service I preform for my parish has strengthened my faith in ways hard to explain. I have been more open to people with disabilities such as being deaf, hard of hearing, and autistic. I have seen the fruits of my labor and how they can bring others closer to God, which has in turn brought me closer to Him as well. I would highly encourage anyone who is looking for a new viewpoint on life to start serving in their community as it brings joy, not only to themselves, but to others. As Saint Francis of Assisi once said, ‘It is in giving that we receive.'”

Thank you for sharing your parish service with us, Domenic!


Sierra DiCupe ’20

Sierra DiCupe ’20 is an altar server at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Philadelphia.   “Altar serving has strengthened my faith for 8 years of my life,” she says. “I started doing it when I was in 4th grade and it helped me focus and really take in God’s message at Mass. Now that I am older, it has made me want to help more, which is a big message of Jesus. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor and serving at Mass has led to me helping with many different things. I am always willing to help in my church because they have always helped me.”   When asked about recommending parish service to fellow students, Sierra says “I think it would be great for other students to get involved in some type of service at their parish, whether it’s being an altar server, lector, etc. It has taught me to be more charitable and to always be open to help others.”   Great work, Sierra!


Justin Seo ’20 

Justin is formally involved with altar serving and is currently serving in the youth ministry at his parish Christ the Redeemer. “I might also become a lector as well and when I am 18, I will apply to become a Stephen Minister,” he says.

 

“Through altar serving, I get a more intimate experience in visualizing the Blessed Sacrament being consecrated during Mass. Even at funerals, which are very sad times, I learned that Jesus, no matter who we are, is always by our sides and will never give up, for his plan is eternal and everlasting. This made me self-reflect about how great our God truly is and has brought ever more closer, literally and spiritually, to Him. Through youth group, I get to meet new people of different backgrounds, but we all share the same beliefs.”

“Through prayer and spiritual activities, I have come to create a new lovely group of friends which helped me to get closer to God. It is such a blessing to come together to have religious beliefs under the same umbrella, and this is a way for me to take a step back from all the stress coming from the outside world and enjoy 2 hours of every Sunday with the youth ministry at Christ the Redeemer parish.””I would definitely recommend students to serve in their home parishes. The local parishes across the world are seeing less and less youth participation. However the youth is the next generation up, and we need to keep diversifying the age groups in the churches. I’m aware of many students who are unsure or just simply say they don’t have time for it. However in my opinion, I believe that everyone has time for God and if we all take the opportunity to participate in it, our local communities would grow and develop into better communities.”


MONDAY: Discover Our Students!

Hear from a few current CCHS students about their discovery of CCHS

Claire Marino ’20 

To me, Camden Catholic was the only real choice for high school. By the time I was in eighth grade, I already had two older siblings at CCHS, but my parents offered me the same high school search that they had. However, I didn’t need it. After seeing the experiences my brother and sister were having at Camden Catholic and seeing the musicals here, I knew this was where I was meant to be. 

Every year, participation in our Spring Musical brings me closer to God. Nothing makes me appreciate God’s blessings more than sharing music with people I care about. Between prayers at rehearsals, Circle Time, and mass on set during tech week, musical season never fails to remind me of the gifts God has given to those around me as well as myself. 

Speaking to some of my friends who attend public school, I have noticed a difference in the way they talk about their school community and peers. The fact that many in our school community have our faith in common allows us to connect with each other and forge relationships rooted in faith is something truly special to a Catholic education. The other ways our administration has valued interaction between students, including our cell phone and earbud policies, have also helped tremendously in helping us to get the most out of our high school experience by being completely tuned in to our surroundings. 


Jack Baylouney ’23

Camden Catholic has always been my number one choice.  I chose here because it feels like family at this High School.  Everyone accepts you for who you are.  It almost like you never left your house in the morning when you get into school, because your second family is already there waiting for you.   Mass that is held occasionally every month is undoubtedly what most impacts me on a spiritual level.  My time at Camden Catholic has been limited since I have only been in the school for about 3 months, but so far that would be my best answer.   At Catholic school, you not only get a good education, but you learn so much about yourself on a spiritual level.  Like the previous question, the spiritual events are something I feel as if my non-Catholic school friends are missing out on.  Little will they know how much you don’t know about yourself until you have a healthy relationship with God that Catholic school not only offers you but encourages you to have.


TUESDAY: DISCOVER OUR PARENTS

Dena is omnipresent at CCHS Parents Association events and is always willing to lend a hand. Her daughter Franki is a junior and Averi will be in the class of 2024, both girls attended St. Joan of Arc in Marlton, and the entire LaPata family has become important members of the CCHS family. Dena shares her CCHS story here:

The CCHS Community consumes our family with countless emotions. Immediately upon entering the doors you are enveloped with a feeling of overwhelming joy.  You instantly know you are in the presence of greatness.

It is always glaringly evident that my daughters have made a magnificent choice in choosing CCHS as their high school.  CCHS exudes positivity, warmth, compassion, and a culture of academic excellence. This occurs on all levels: Administration, Faculty, Staff and Students. There is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and pride each time we attend an event at CCHS. Even when I run in to someone and they inquire as to where my child/children attend high school you instantly smile and respond CCHS with great pride. If you ever have the honor of celebrating Mass in either the Chapel or Auditorium at CCHS the emotion that will immediately fill your heart will move you to tears. Literally! Witnessing my daughter blossom into this peaceful, confident, joyful, spiritual, comfortable, beyond helpful eighteen year old is one of the greatest blessings of my life. I am forever grateful to share in this tremendous high school journey with my daughters at this magnificent school.  I am overjoyed to say I am an “Irish Mom!”

 

Erica Rabenhorst, President of the CCHS Parents Association shares her “why” for choosing CCHS:

Q: Describe the CCHS community, what’s special about this school and the families, teachers, coaches and staff who make up CCHS? 

A: CCHS feels like home – It has the most welcoming atmosphere that encourages and supports the entire child.

Q: What’s the most fulfilling part of participating in the CCHS Parents Association? 

A: It’s amazing to see an idea presented and take part in the amazing support of our parents to reach that goal. 

Q: What do you think sets CCHS apart from other high schools? 

A: The welcoming environment – it doesn’t  matter where you came from or who you knew before you joined CCHS, we all come together as one once you pass through our doors.  The atmosphere sets the groundwork for the success of the students and strengthens their well-being.  It isn’t that easy to find a local high school with such balance. 

DISCOVER CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK: FACULTY

Camden Catholic’s faculty is by far our most lauded asset. Caring, compassionate, knowledgeable, faithful, spirited and proud, our teachers are simply the best. Read on to hear directly from them about their WHY.

Why work at a Catholic school? 

Why Camden Catholic? 

Why should others also consider this as a teaching vocation?

 

Liz Cranston

I enjoy working at a Catholic School for the sense of community and family that is always at the forefront. Coming together as a school and supporting, encouraging and inspiring each other provides a strong bond amongst all community members.  The efforts everyone puts in together as a team to display acts of kindness in times of need, the guiding principles for a faith-filled life and an educational foundation to build upon is uplifting daily.  I enjoy the positive energy and compassion displayed by community members in the classroom, the hallways, activities, athletic fields and while serving others.  Being part of a Catholic school community has been a part of my life for 22 years and I appreciate the strong community, valuable friendships and the genuine care displayed by all.  

Nancy Werner-Kaiser

I have wanted to be a teacher since my first day in first grade, when I was the ripe old age of five.  For most of my career, I have been a Catholic school teacher.  As an English teacher I am afforded the opportunity to teach values through the literature that we study in class.  However, having taught this course in the public school setting, I can say with certainty that teaching in a faith-based environment is quite different.  This assertion is based upon the fact that we, as Catholic educators, use our unshakeable belief in the lessons and life of Jesus Christ as the foundation for what we teach, and that changes everything.  Even when we have students from other faiths in our classes, we know that the core tenets of our Catholic/Christian beliefs present themselves in all aspects of instruction.  Our students watch us very carefully and they know when we are teaching from a perspective of our core belief system. This is why I truly love being a Catholic School teacher.  

Pam Palazzo (St. Peter School, St. Stephen School, Camden Catholic)

I work at a Catholic school because I believe it is the best environment for teenagers to develop into good, caring, positive adults. It is fulfilling because of the student teacher rapport that develops even after there is conflict to be dealt with. I would recommend a job at a Catholic school to anyone who wishes to have not just a job but a vocation outside of the religious communities.

Derrick Levine (Union Catholic alumnus)

I enjoy my work at Camden Catholic because I believe Catholic schools provide a solid foundation and structure for our students. As a student, I also attended Catholic schools and I believe in our mission.

It is fulfilling to work in a Catholic school because I am involved in constantly helping students grow and become better individuals.

I would recommend this job to others because of the family environment and great students. 

Sam Hardy

I work in a Catholic school because I support and love the Catholic Church. I want to help in any way I can to further the mission and evangelize the world. This job is fulfilling because I know I am helping others in a Catholic Christian way.

I would recommend this job to others for many reasons. A few of them being: it brings peace and joy to my everyday life knowing that I am doing what I am called to do at this point in my life.

Ann Clinton

I work in Catholic Schools because I believe that faith is intrinsic to learning all other subjects since the subjects have the fingerprints of God all over them.  I believe that Catholic Schools are the heralds of Good News in teaching their students and serving their communities (both local and global).

Our jobs as Catholic educators are fulfilling when we look to the future and see our students go one to be great mothers and fathers, raising children in the Church, serving their communities with Catholic Christian values, being moral people of faith.

I would recommend this job to those that thrive in a trench-like environment where mission completion and taking care of people is high on their list of priorities.  I would recommend it to those that want to have influence on the future and have a real call to serve the Lord.

Jim Crawford

I work in a Catholic High School because I believe in the product. I believe it makes you a more complete person (touches on academics, activities, clubs, teams, community service and spirituality). I believed in the product enough to send our four children through Catholic schools.

The job is fulfilling because there is a daily self-reward to be surrounded by good kids from good families.

I would recommend this job to someone for the above reasons. However I must warn you have to hustle to make ends meet. You would soon come to the conclusion that this is a sacrifice….but that is what Catholic schools are about, sacrifice.Personal note: my mom and dad put me on a bus in September of 1956 to go to Christ the King (Haddonfield). After kindergarten, grades 1-8, then four years of Catholic High School (Eustace), followed by four years of a Catholic College (LaSalle), then taught two years at a Catholic school in Philadelphia (St. Barnabas) and the last 45 years at Camden Catholic High School. One very long, rewarding, bus ride.

Jeff Bruckner

Nothing can impact a student’s ‘forever’ more than having a personal relationship with Jesus.  The fact that I get to play a small role in their spiritual journey is humbling and incredibly rewarding.

Noemi Merenyi

I work in a Catholic school because I believe in teaching the whole person and developing great citizens.

I love working with students who want to learn and having the support of their parents.  When I teach something to a student and they have a “light bulb” moment, that makes me realize why I teach and the knowledge that I want to keep sharing for many years to come.

Joann Rell

I work in a Catholic school because the atmosphere and overall environment is respectful and friendly. Students behave well and are always quick to help out.   The best thing about Catholic School students is that they will do everything we expect and will persevere.

In thanking God for our gifts every day students are reminded that they are being taught not just how to earn a living but how to live a life God has intended for them.  Wherever I go I run into alumni who stop to say hello, ask how we are doing here, and share a few memories of their time at CCHS.  I often thank God that I didn’t get that first public school job and accepted the job here as it has become my passion and vocation to help young people through their ups and downs each day, which is much more satisfying than money.

Nicole Barry (St. Peter School ‘92, Camden Catholic ‘96, Mount St. Mary’s University B.A. ’00)

I work in a Catholic School because I was afforded the opportunity for the foundation of not only my faith but my education to be rooted in Catholic education.  I attended Catholic school from kindergarten straight through a Catholic University.  Catholic education is a huge component to my identity, it has steered me in my life.  It is important for me to pass on not only my knowledge in my field but my experience in faith to my students.

Being in a Catholic school is fulfilling and unique in that we not only have an opportunity to work with our students in their faith but to continue building our own. Having the opportunity to go to Mass, go on retreat, gather as a community in our day to day life is such a comfort and a blessing.  I remember beginning to really notice in high school while sitting in Mass that is was a great opportunity for reflection and I know what that time has evolved in to for me now and I credit my Catholic education for that development.  I enjoy watching our students have that same opportunity to explore their faith and watch how they weave it in to their lives. 

 It’s very difficult to explain to people how special our opportunity to work in a Catholic High School is.  We are able to impact our students on so many more levels than ‘just in the classroom’.  We are able to challenge them, comfort them, guide them in ways that we would never be able to in a public school setting.  

Jennifer LaRosa (Our Lady of Mount Carmel ’84, Camden Catholic ’88, Saint Joseph’s University ’92 BS, ‘85 MS)

There is a warmth in knowing that Christ is present in everything we say and do working in a Catholic school and knowing this helps me to guide my students in being the heart, voice and hands of Christ. 

Our campus ministry department provides the opportunities for our students to grow closer to God within the liturgies offered, our unique retreat experiences and through Christian Service. My greatest joy is serving alongside the students and being a witness to the joy they feel when they give back to those in need.  It’s pure joy!

Campus Ministry in a Catholic school is a place where the students can come and decompress from their academic courses. It’s a place of prayer, rest and rejuvenation. It’s the best job and I am so lucky!

An Nguyen

My first exposure to teaching was as a teaching assistant for my parish’s Sunday School program as a teenager.  Later, I became the head teacher for 4th grade, moved to teach Confirmation to middle school grade levels, and then to a post-confirmation class that targeted high school students.  I always enjoyed the connections I was able to make with students both in the classroom as a teacher, as a Christian role model, and with the sports programs I led too.  I found that I enjoyed teaching older students because of the deeper connections and conversations.  It was nice to see them transition from learning about the faith as a list of facts to an experience.  My own conversion from a Catholic who inherited her faith to one who owned her faith came through a retreat experience, so I also find a lot of fulfillment helping out with retreats. 

My degree is formally in Biomedical Engineering but throughout my undergraduate and graduate years, I led the youth group at my church.  I always found connections between what I was learning, studying, and researching with the faith.  Learning about science at the higher levels actually helped me understand God more and it was a shame I wasn’t able to share this as I was teaching at Drexel University and TCNJ.  Additionally, as rewarding as it was to develop relationships with some students, being an adjunct (to focus on teaching rather than being concerned with publishing papers) didn’t allow me to have that deep connection and influence I yearned. 

I feel like I use my engineering degree all the time to design lessons that will help students truly learn the material.  I love the challenge of breaking students out of the habit of memorizing facts and being minimalists when it comes to learning.  I really enjoy praying with the classes, to see what’s going on in their lives or to share with them how learning about biology has really helped me understand God more.  I feel like I am able to express the depth of my faith here and it feels really right.  This is only my second year so I’m not sure how much influence I have had just yet, but I think it’s nice to guide students on their way when they haven’t decided what to do with their lives (in contrast to all of the declared majors I work with at the college level).  Since this is a full-time position, I spend most of my time preparing and evaluating my work and am able to see what I can do when I put my mind to it.  Before this, I did many little things instead of focusing on one task.  In this sense, it is fulfilling to feel that I am where I am meant to be.  There are certainly ups and downs but I feel that I have the support of my family, friends, and coworkers here at Camden Catholic, especially during my current pregnancy.  I also want to throw a special mention out there to the J-term program—it has enabled me to do some things I never thought I’d be able to do.  Building prosthetic limbs has always been an interest of mine but with everything else that I do, it never earned a top spot in my list of priorities. I am so glad that Camden Catholic allows teachers to grow along with their students too.  I really enjoyed preparing for J-term, teaching in a non-traditional environment, planning a trip, and connecting with the students.

Although teaching at a Catholic school certainly isn’t for everyone, I have found that teaching at Camden Catholic helped me become my best self.  It is a goal I still actively find ways to fulfill everyday, but being in this environment really helps.  High school students can detect authenticity, preparation, and passion very acutely.  This pushes me to be my best every day.  They also work extremely hard and I never expect anyone to work harder than myself (lead by example!).  In this way, I have motivation every day to be my best self.  And again, I have the support when I fall short or when it becomes exhausting.

Jennifer VanEs

I work in a Catholic School because of the community it represents, a place that shares the same values that my family does and that I know genuinely cares about the students, faculty and staff.

It is very fulfilling to see students enter in 9th grade and follow them throughout their four years as they grow into responsible, caring, and grateful adults. I am truly touched by the school spirit that stays with alumni over the years.  Their loyalty and pride is amazing to witness.

I would recommend this job to others because CCHS is a community that supports and understands that a school is only as good as the people who work and sacrifice each day to make CCHS this welcoming, supportive, academically challenging, and faith filled community for past, present and future students.

THURSDAY: DISCOVER OUR FAITH COMMUNITY 

Today, as we celebrate our strong faith-based community, CCHS would like to introduce you to three individuals: 

Rev. Edward Kennedy, Director of Catholic Identity

1. Describe your role here at CCHS (and provide some background of where you came from, past work, etc.)
I am the director of Catholic identity. Essentially I serve the spiritual needs of the students, faculty, and staff at CCHS. Before coming to CCHS I was the parochial vicar at Our Lady of Hope in Blackwood. 
 
2. In your own words or experiences, how is CCHS an exceptional faith-based community?
I’m amazed every day by the spirit of our school. I see kids who support each other, who care for each other, and who truly care for each other. Our Catholic identity is at the heart of our identity as the Camden Catholic Family and I see that lived in our school and I see that carry over to the greater communities we serve. 
 
3. In your short time here at CCHS how have you seen our students exhibit their faith?
One of the greatest ways I’ve seen our students live their faith was in our most recent Catholic Athletes for Christ retreat. The student leaders expressed how their faith helps them to be better athletes and it was truly inspirational to see high school seniors articulate their faith in this way. 

Mrs. Jennifer LaRosa, Campus Ministry Director

1. Describe your role here at CCHS (and provide some background of where you came from, past work, etc.)
I am the Campus Minister and Director of Christian Service at Camden Catholic.  Most of my background is in Health Administration where I ran my dad’s and my husband’s practices. I loved working with them but knew I was called to do more, and I wanted to work with our youth. About ten years ago I decided to go back to school to be a teacher. Helen Persing, Principal at Pope John Paul Regional School in Stratford had a job opening for a Pre-K 4 teacher. I took it and I spent three years working in Pre-K before accepting the position at Bishop Eustace as the Director of Pallottine Ministry. I am very happy to be here at my alma mater, and I am more excited to be serving alongside the students, faculty, and administration at Camden Catholic. We are going to do a lot of meaningful work together!

2. In your own words or experiences, how is CCHS an exceptional faith-based community?

There is a spirit alive at Camden Catholic that is deep-rooted in faith and steeped in the Catholic tradition, and it’s very special.  Our faith is infused into all we do. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the field, within the clubs, or at the various service projects we do, everything begins and ends with Christ. It’s profound and very authentic. 
 
3. In your short time here at CCHS how have you seen our students exhibit their faith?
The students at Camden Catholic enthusiastically participate in the planning of our masses, they lead our retreats with deep spirituality, and they joyfully serve in the community. More importantly, what I have seen the most is that they are kind, gentle and accepting human beings to each other. They love one another and that message comes shining through to me every day.

Colleen Tanzola, Senior, Class of 2020

“I love using my talents to help others and the feeling of serving others is very rewarding to me,” says Colleen, who is touching the lives of many people in the community with her big smile and joyful spirit! She’s been helping at the ARC of Camden County, Cathedral Kitchen and many other local organizations. She is also one of the Rectors for our upcoming Kairos retreat.

Thank you, Colleen, for the blessings you give to all of those you encounter.