“In my 42 years teaching at Cardinal Newman, one of the most profound things I’ve heard a student say was ‘There’s a veil between heaven and earth. When you go to Mass, God takes away the veil,’” said Ann Frearson, a campus minister at the West Palm Beach high school.
These moments of student insight were seconded by David and Peggy Skantar—husband and wife—who have also established a legacy in Campus Ministry leadership at the high school.
Ann, David and Peggy are retiring from their decades-long careers in Catholic education and, amid packing up classrooms and planning summer vacations, reflected on their fruitful journeys through Cardinal Newman High School. Despite the unusual circumstances surrounding schools transitioning to virtual instruction, the three educators shared fond memories of students and school activities.
Ann has held a variety of positions at the high school in addition to her role as a campus minister. She taught Math throughout her career and was the head of the Math department. For the past 25 years, she facilitated the school’s blood drive which, she shared, has saved more than 10,000 lives through the collection of plasma and platelets for cancer patients and burn victims. In the early nineties, Ann established the Learning Strategies program at the school for students who needed support in academics and development in life skills. Her voice brightened when she mentioned that all the students who have entered the program successfully completed college and moved onto promising career paths.
However, her involvement in Campus Ministry has been the most memorable for her. “I have found such joy in walking with students through their faith journey. To see their relationship with God blossom is extraordinary,” said Ann.
One could say that her influence on students has been extraordinary indeed, considering the fact that she has led students in their training to be Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, as well as lectors at school Masses, participants in the March for Life in Washington D.C., the Catholic Days at the Florida state capital, and the yearly demonstration against Roe v. Wade at the Palm Beach County Courthouse.
“These activities encourage students to chip away at the social evils—abortion, the injustice of capital punishment, environmental conservation—that affect human rights. Pope Francis has called on us to act on these issues as Christians and the Campus Ministry team strives to be the example,” said Ann.
In describing all that she does at the school, Ann was quick to shine a light on Peggy, fellow campus minister and head of the Religious Studies department. Among the spiritual programs Peggy has expanded at the school are class retreats like Emmaus, organizing time in the campus chapel for each religion class, school-led rosaries, and the incorporation of lessons on Cardinal John Henry Newman upon his canonization to sainthood in 2019.
Peggy shared that she was proudest of the spirit of community service exuded by the Campus Ministry department during her time there. “The students accumulate community service hours as a school requirement and as a qualification in order to receive the Bright Futures Scholarship,” said Peggy. “But, you can tell that they have a genuine spirit to serve others outside of the requirement. The service projects over the years have grown so much because of student enthusiasm that we’ve upgraded to a digital program in tracking the service hours.”
A specific moment of service that left an impression on Peggy was shortly after the Parkland school shooting. “To see the Newman community come together was incredible. Our students created and led a beautiful all-school prayer service for the Parkland students, among other activities, in their memory. To accompany our students through their experience of the Parkland tragedy—a time of great grief and shock for all students—and to be able to walk with them and bring the hope of our faith to these experiences, were very powerful moments for me. ”
Throughout her Cardinal Newman career, Peggy was delighted to have her husband, David, active in the school’s Campus Ministry. David, a long-time educator and guitarist, brought his love for music liturgy to the school through the strengthening of the choir program. In addition to directing the Spring musical, David successfully integrated the choir program into the school’s curriculum as an elective and expanded the choir’s community outreach. The choir regularly visits local nursing homes to sing for the elderly and performs at Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery for Christmas every year as part of the cemetery’s remembrance program for those who have died.
David’s favorite part of teaching choir, he shared, was seeing the Mass ensemble grow. “Getting students involved in the Mass can be a challenge at times. The Mass ensemble was a way to encourage students to use their talents for performing for a spiritual purpose. Once we had a few strong singers and musicians, more students showed interest and joined us—good liturgy breathes good liturgy.”
Since opening the Mass ensemble to the whole school and not just the choir students, the group has grown to 40 students and counting. “I think students join the Mass ensemble to show off their talents, but they quickly learn that this is a ministry like all others. They enjoy learning about the music as liturgy, choosing hymns and developing a strong worth ethic. Talent comes from God, but choir teaches them how to use that talent for his glory,” said David.
David mentioned that the most rewarding part of assisting with Campus Ministry has been discovering students’ talents in unexpected ways. “The most unlikely students will come out of their shell and engage with the residents at the nursing homes or reach out to a grieving family at the cemetery. It’s really incredibly to watch,” said David.
Deacon Serge Dubé, religion teacher and the new Religious Studies Department chair, will continue to assist and guide Campus Ministry as he has done for the past six years. “Peggy, Ann, and David are tremendously dedicated individuals,” said Deacon Dubé. “They are open to collaboration and sharing of how best to guide our students in living their faith in practical ways in their everyday experiences. Each are truly compassionate and empathetic individuals who make themselves present to the students.”
Although Ann, Peggy and David leave behind numerous spiritual programs and activities, they leave behind so much more. “The strongest thing we leave for the school is students who are empowered evangelizers themselves,” said Frearson. “Students who witness faith to other students is powerful; ours is a peer ministry.”
To learn more about Cardinal Newman High School, visit cardinalnewman.com or follow the school on Facebook and Instagram @cncrusaders.
While the Cardinal Newman High School family is saddened to say goodbye to those teachers and administrators who are retiring, the school is pleased to announce new additions to the administrative team for the 2020-2021 school year:
Brother Thomas Zoppo, FSC - President
Mrs. Katie Gomez Kervi - Principal
Mr. Wes Logsdon - Vice Principal
Mr. Scott Powell - Academic Dean