Photo by James A. McBride
Sixth graders raise their hands in Karl Miller’s class at St. Anthony of Padua School, Camden.
The final in a series of profiles of the five Catholic Partnership Schools, the others being St. Joseph, Sacred Heart, Holy Name and St. Cecilia. The stated goal of the Partnership is to develop “already good schools into great schools” because education holds the greatest promise for breaking the cycle of poverty.
Celebrating its 50th year, St. Anthony of Padua School on River Road in Camden bills itself as an “oasis, a place to be refreshed by prayer, learning and recreation,” said principal Anna Mae Muryasz.
With 162 students, St. Anthony of Padua is predominantly made up of Hispanic children, the rest a mix of African-American and Caucasian students.
St. Anthony is a member of the Catholic Partnership Schools initiative, which aims to revitalize the five Camden-area schools with “increased enrollment, funding, and emphasis on excellence.”
During the school day, students engage in classes such as science, algebra and English. After-school programs include choir, and soccer and basketball, both led by young adult Franciscan volunteers. In the second grade, students cultivate a “Community Garden,” and host frequent salad parties.
As an anchor in the community for the past 50 years, St. Anthony of Padua is supported by its neighbors and organizations. Campbell’s Soup Company’s “Volunteers Engaging Neighbors” helps Spanish-speaking school parents with understanding important documents such as tax forms and legal contracts, and helps their students with homework.
With the “Adopt-A-Class” program, benefactors can adopt a class, providing money for school supplies and class trips.
“I’m very proud of the work of the staff and volunteers,” noted Father Jud Weiksnar, OFM, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church. For the past 25 years, the parish and school have benefited from the support of the Franciscan Fathers of Holy Name Province. Every week, Father Weiksnar checks in on each class for 15 minutes, making sure every student knows he is there for them.
With the Catholic Partnership Schools initiative, Father Weiksnar sees new opportunities for Camden’s youth.
“I can really see a difference; it means better education for our children,” he said.