By MICHAEL WOJCIK
BUTLER - Who knew that the quiet morning of Sunday, Jan. 29, would get so busy. Just listen to the traffic report on the radio - "It's backed-up on the BQE [Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York City]. In New Jersey, it's bottlenecked in Butler at Bartholdi Ave. for Catholic Schools Week celebrations at St. Anthony's."
Yes, parked cars did jam both sides of Bartholdi Ave. at St. Anthony of Padua Church here for Mass to open the parish school's Catholic Schools Week (CSW) festivities. But rattling off that rather "made-up" traffic report from the altar after Mass was a smartly dressed woman - and 1976 St. Anthony's alumna - as a way to introduce herself to parishioners not familiar with her recognizable radio voice.
"This is Debbie DuHaime for On Time Traffic on WABC," announced DuHaime, a traffic reporter heard on the Imus in the Morning radio show weekdays.
Sunday morning, the congregation clapped in recognition of DuHaime, who knows her way around snarled traffic. Yet, she ascended the church's lectern to talk about how her Catholic education helps her and her 30-year-old son, Brian, a 1996 St. Anthony's graduate, navigate life's challenges and develop character.
"At St. Anthony's School, I felt at home. The teachers were wonderful," said DuHaime, the oldest of five children from neighboring Bloomingdale, who attended the school, supported by the Franciscan-run parish. "St. Anthony's gave me a wonderful base in life. Faith is not only taught in the classroom but also lived day in and day out. St. An_thony's starts the day with prayer. That's what helps me get through the day," she said.
Celebrating its 130th anniversary, St. Anthony School couples its rich spiritual traditions, which include monthly Masses, with strong academics. Administrators and teachers also encourage service to others, said DuHaime, also host of the "Meet the Leaders" TV show on Cablevision. She was graduated in 1980 from DePaul Catholic High School, Wayne, where her son Brian was graduated from in 2000.
"At St. Anthony's, students learn to succeed in the classroom, so they can succeed in life," said DuHaime, who continues to serve St. Anthony's Parish, using her radio-friendly voice to proclaim the Word of God at Masses as a lector. "Catholic education is a gift of a lifetime," she said.
With the kick-off Mass, the 170-student St. Anthony's joined other Catholic schools in the Paterson Diocese and around the U.S. in celebration of CSW, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5, under this year's theme, "Catholic Schools: Faith. Aca_demics. Service."
The Mass at St. Anthony's featured participation from students in uniform and their families. Students sang in the parish's children's choir, including a few soloists, while others led the weekly Intentions. A school family brought up the Offertory Gifts to the presider, Franciscan Father Michael Jones, pastor.
At the Mass, Father Jones honored the school's past with an award that recognizes the Franciscan Sisters, whom its believed served the school for more than 100 years. Franciscan Sister Mary Elaine Sullivan, St. Anthony's principal from 1976 to 1987, participated. In addition, Sister Ann Matthew Carlone of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and Sister Jeanne Gilligan of the Franciscan Sisters of Peace received the Franciscan Medal.
"Catholic Schools Week creates memories and an appreciation among parishioners of the many sacrifices made to keep St. Anthony's going," said Sister Ann Matthew, who noted that St. Anthony's had been founded under an apple tree in 1882.
Before DuHaime spoke after Mass, fifth-grader Peter Majors talked about all that makes "St. Anthony's the place to be." He outlined the school's curriculum, extracurricular activities and spiritual dimension. Then he invited churchgoers to the school's open house that took place after Mass.
Dozens of churchgoers - including parishioners, school families and prospective students and parents - filed into the busy parish hall for the open house. They viewed students' artwork, talked to staff and families, watched a video about the school created by eighth-graders and toured the facilities, led by the St. Anthony's Scholars and Stewards. Also attending was DuHaime, who fondly recalled her teachers and classmates and the time she sang the song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" on stage during a school production.
"We hold our students to high academic standards. We encourage them to have a relationship with God. Also, we teach our students how to serve and be good citizens," said Lynn DeLuca, principal, who noted that St. Anthony's had earned a Star School designation from the diocesan School Office.
One of the tour guides that Sunday afternoon, eighth-grader Catherine Kluge, has studied at St. Anthony's for six years, after the closing of St. Joseph School, West Milford, which she attended previously. Her brother Robert was graduated St. Anthony's in 2009.
"St. Anthony's is like home," said Kluge, a St. Anthony's Scholar and Steward, who plans to attend DePaul in the fall. "Classes are small, but not too small. You really get to know your teachers. You're comfortable asking them questions. They are there for you," she said.
In an effort to meet the needs of the local communities it serves, the school plans to expand their preschool program next school year. They will offer a five-day, full and extended day program, for 3-year- olds.
[Information: (973) 838-0854 or www.stanthonyschool.com.]