Parish has Fighting Irish alumni on its side

CAMDEN — For the past four years the Notre Dame Alumni Club of South Jersey has worked with St. Anthony of Padua Church and School to raise funds for the school and parish through various events and affairs.

“We’ve been doing service projects over the years,” said Lori Springer, development director for St. Anthony. ”The projects include, among others, painting and repairing buildings. On Sept. 12 the alumni club served at St. Anthony with a Mass at 8:30 a.m. and service beginning at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.”

Father Jud Weiksnar, pastor at St. Anthony, is a Notre Dame alumnus (the new principal of the school, AnnaMae Muryasz, is an alumna) and he contacted Steve Klug, president of the South Jersey club, to create a partnership that has lasted four years. Father Weiksnar gets so involved with this partnership that on Sept. 12, for instance, enthusiasts got together in the friary to watch Notre Dame football and to eat the pastor’s locally famous buffalo wings.

The 25-year-old club with its 300 members is the local chapter of the larger Notre Dame Alumni Association. There are 267 Notre Dame clubs worldwide that connect alumni and friends with one another and the university. In addition to each club’s fund-raising programs they also focus on scholarships for current students, community service, camaraderie, spirituality, continuing education, career networking, and lectures featuring ND faculty and administrators.

The local Alumni Club has sponsored interns from the Notre Dame Summer Service Learning Program for the past two years. The club also hosted three “Notre Dame at the Shore” fund-raisers for St. Anthony and it’s one of the sponsors of the St. Anthony of Padua School annual gala, a much appreciated and anticipated event.

One of the ways that the Alumni Club helps St. Anthony is through joint service work.

“We’ve been holding a service day each spring for the past four years,” said Steve Klug. “At the 2009 service event, the Notre Dame alumni and the members of the St. Anthony’s community were joined by students from Gloucester Catholic High School and Bishop Eustace.”

Klug pointed out that Notre Dame clubs depend in a large measure on the number of alumni within a proximity to club activities, the club’s distance from South Bend, Ind., home to Notre Dame University, and whether the club is in an urban location or in the suburbs or if its rurally located. He also noted that the clubs try not to get involved in political controversies, such as President Barack Obama’s invitation to speak at the university at the start of the fall term. His pro-choice stance drew heat from many alumni.

“There was mixed reaction from members of the South Jersey Club,” said Klug. “The most vocal ones were a small group on campus. But the majority of those on campus supported the university’s stand in inviting the president.”

The local clubs “are here to support the community and all the club presidents didn’t want to get involved in politics. Those against the president’s speech sent e-mails to the university and those in favor, did the same thing.”

Klug noted that what the Notre Dame Club does with St. Anthony is special “and we try to do more things each year.”

For more information about the Notre Dame Clubs, call Klug at 856-371-5275.

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