This month, Our Lady of Hope will say farewell to three individuals that have served for many years at the Blackwood school.
For the past 26 years, Sister Paula Randow has served as the principal. Rose Shustack has taught language arts for 39 years, and Debbie Bigos has been the school nurse for over 20 years. (All three worked at Saint Jude School, which was merged with Saint Agnes to form Our Lady of Hope.)
Shustack, the middle school language arts teacher, says her greatest reward has been seeing former students visit and claim they are successful in high school and in life … “because I taught them” she commented. “Very humbling.”
She will miss the common bond that holds Our Lady of Hope together in the school faith community. “We pray, work and play, as a family.”
When Bigos began working at the school, it was a temporary assignment that began with a connection with Sister Gemma, a nun living at the Blackwood convent. She had met Sister Gemma when she first arrived in the United States and spent time in her first grade classroom at Saint Teresa’s in Runnemede. “Sister Gemma would get upset that I didn’t have time to have lunch, so she would send me home with pepper and egg sandwiches. Many good memories I have had, and the pleasure of working with many wonderful people.”
Bigos has enjoyed taking care of the students in a variety of ways; sometimes a listening ear, other times a serious injury, and varying degrees of illness in between. “My goal was to be helpful, caring, and make a positive difference,” she said.
Sister Paula Randow entered the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia in 1961 and she began teaching in 1964 in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She was principal of Saint Francis De Sales School in Aston and Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Morton, both in Pennsylvania before arriving in Blackwood.
She has many fond memories, including the time the marketing video was made; when kindergarten teacher MaryAnn Kiessling was chosen Non-Public School Teacher of the Year for New Jersey; and when Rose McNally was nominated as the Teacher of the Year for the Camden Diocese.
Sister stated that having the opportunity to begin each day with prayer helped to focus the school day. She is thankful for a wonderful faculty and staff and owes so much to them for their support over the years.
“God blessed me with wonderful parents, whom I believe were instrumental in fostering my vocation to enter religious life. My father did not live to see this reality, but my mother was always so proud to introduce me as Sister Paula, her daughter,” she said.
“Once the announcement was made about my retiring, countless people personally or through emails, notes and cards expressed their gratitude to me. That to me is a humbling experience because when you follow what God has called you to do you take your responsibility seriously. I am grateful to God and the Blessed Mother for all the graces and blessings I have received.”