EAST VINELAND — Saint Mary’s here could not have picked a more appropriate theme for 2018-19: “For with God, nothing shall be impossible” (Lk 1:37).
On Friday, Sept. 21, the school community gathered for Mass and the blessing of the school’s state-of-the-art Buono Family STREAM lab, named for primary benefactor Robert (Bob) Buono Sr. and his family. Students lined the halls singing “Nothing is Impossible” as Father Robert E. Hughes, Vicar General of the Diocese of Camden, prepared to bless the lab.
First came the blessing of donors, listed on a large, artistic wall plaque just outside the lab. Next came the sleek room: half lecture hall with wheeled desks, and half experiment space with contemporary lab tables and stools. Video monitors, bright walls, lab equipment, sinks and visuals invite scholars of all ages and interests.
“Our STREAM lab is called the Buono Family STREAM Lab because of the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Buono,” said principal Steve Hogan as he addressed the school community and visitors before the blessing. Hogan said that in his eight years as principal the Buonos have been generous not just with treasure, but also with time and talent. Bob is a former school board member and his wife, Rosemary, a steadfast volunteer. Their three sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren share their love for Saint Mary’s School and Saint Padre Pio Parish, also in Vineland.
At a reception in the lab, complete with cookies decorated and arranged to form the periodic table, Bob Buono praised Saint Mary’s community and its academic excellence. Eight of the Buono’s nine grandchildren attend Saint Mary’s. The oldest graduated from the school and is now at Saint Augustine’s Prep in Richland. “We’ve got to keep Catholic education alive,” he said.
Nick Buono, the youngest of Bob’s three sons, agrees that Saint Mary’s is a special environment for learning. “It’s more than just a school. It’s a family,” he said. Nick and his wife, Barbara (a Saint Mary’s alum), are the parents of three Saint Mary’s students.
As principals and pastors work to manage budgets and keep schools affordable, Mary Boyle, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Camden, appreciates every dollar donated on behalf of South Jersey Catholic Schools. “There are so many ways to contribute,” she said. “There are living legacies, such as capital improvements. And there are also scholarship funds and tuition assistance. So many families want a Catholic school education but can’t afford it.”
In South Jersey Catholic elementary schools, approximately 70 percent of the income is generated by tuition. The remaining 30 percent comes in small part from gifts and donations. “Every donation helps our schools deliver on our promise,” said Boyle, concurring that “nothing is impossible with God.”