Camden Billboards Feature St. Anthony’s Quality Education

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Camden community ihad been seeing five larger-than-life students from St. Anthony of Padua School for the past month. The students appear on 10 billboards, donated by Clear Channel to help advertise the school and increase enrollment.

The billboards, five in English and five in Spanish, say: “Yes, you can! (Si se puede).  St. Anthony of Padua — Affordable, Quality, Catholic Education.”

The extra publicity seems to have helped. Enrollment is up by 20 students over last year, despite competition from a new charter school, said William “Jud” Weiksnar, OFM, pastor.

Volunteers Clean Up Abandoned Lot

Twenty volunteers from St. Anthony’s and the Cramer Hill neighborhood recently descended on an overgrown back yard with chainsaws, machetes and trash bags for a giant clean-up day. Sponsored by Camden Churches Organized for People (and their St. Anthony’s representative Jerry Hudson, OFM), they cleaned up a hazardous area behind an abandoned house next to the parish school. Local residents reported that drug use and prostitution were becoming prevalent in the lot, just 28 feet from the school.

Church Offers ESL Classes
Approximately 60 parishioners and neighbors are packing St. Anthony of Padua basement on Monday and Tuesday nights for ESL classes organized by John Coughlin, OFM. It is the only ESL program offered by a Camden parish. With the help of Franciscan Volunteers Joanne Lannan, Kelly Zientek and Yvelisse Taveras, it has expanded this year from one to two nights a week, and now includes several different tracks as well as childcare. In addition, several volunteers and staff members are attending Spanish as a second language (SSL) classes held in the friary in an effort to better serve the growing Latino population in Camden.

Francis House, the outreach ministry to people living with or affected by HIV, is once again under the auspices of St. Anthony, after several years under Catholic Charities direction. Director Sue Piliro, SFO, is working full time, and the traditional Francis House ministry now takes place three days a week. The building is used at other times for meetings of the Youth Group, RCIA, Parish Council and parish staff and houses the offices of the Development Committee, Youth Group and Religious Education Program, as well as two new guest rooms for friars’ guests.

“If you can’t get a guest room at 31st Street friary, come visit us in Camden,” Jud laughed.

 — Jocelyn Thomas is the Province’s director of communications.