The following account is an abridged history of Aquinas Academy, formerly Saint Philomena School. The name Saint Philomena School was changed to Saint Philomena Academy in 1982 and changed again in 1987 to Aquinas Academy, in honor of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Dominican scholar, philosopher and patron of Catholic schools. Our name reflects the love of truth and the pursuit of knowledge espoused by Saint Thomas.
In 1949, Reverend Monsignor William McCann became the fifth pastor of Saint Philomena Parish. He was advised by Bishop McNulty that while planning the new church complex, he was obliged to build a school for the education of present and future generations of young Catholics. Saint Philomena School opened its doors in 1952 to its first pupils. The setting of the original parish was in the old stone building, which was formerly the Orange Rest Home. Today, it is known as McCann Hall.
After Monsignor McCann successfully arranged to purchase the property, he was eager to begin the task of educating the young people of his parish family. In cooperation with the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, he arranged for six grades of the school to be opened to parish children in the remodeled rest home. There were 274 students enrolled in the initial 1952 semester. Sister Dorette, who was appointed the first principal, served from 1952 to 1956. In 1954, a convent was added to the parish compound.
Sister Mary Dorothy, OP, a school administrator whose reputation was well known and respected, became principal of Saint Philomena School in 1963. Sister Mary Agnes, OP, who succeeded Sister Mary Dorothy as principal, was responsible for many of the changes that now exist in the present school structure.
In 1975, Sister Mary John Kearney, OP, was appointed principal of Saint Philomena School. She was responsible for initiating the state-certified preschool for children aged three and four years old. The Archdiocesan Self-Evaluation was undertaken by Sister Mary John and the faculty.
In 1973, Reverend Edward Kavin was appointed administrator of Saint Philomena Parish. He held this position until 1975 when Monsignor William J. Daly was made pastor. A former Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Newark, Monsignor Daly also held the position of Vicar of Education in the Archdiocese.
During the academic year 1980-1981, Sister Patricia Brennan, OP, assumed the administrative leadership of Saint Philomena School. As principal, Sister Patricia instituted the following programs: Day Care, Aftercare and Gifted and Talented. A guidance counselor was also added to the faculty. Efforts continued in the areas of physical plant improvements, academic excellence and enrollment.
In 1981, Sister Lena Picillo, OP, was appointed principal. As principal, Sister Lena was responsible for expanding the following programs: Aftercare, Day Care and full-day Kindergarten.
In 1987, Sister Patricia Tavis, OP, assumed the responsibilities of principal when Sister Lena was appointed principal of Saint Catherine School in Spring Lake, New Jersey. Sister Patricia initiated a before-care program and offered childcare services during the Parent Guild meetings. In 1989, Aquinas Academy began the initial Middle States Self-Study and was awarded its Certification of Accreditation in April 1992.
Upon Monsignor Daly's retirement after twenty years, Saint Philomena Parish welcomed a new pastor, Monsignor Edward Eilert, in 1995. In 2002, Monsignor Owen Hendry was named Administrator until 2004 when Father John Laferrera was named pastor of the parish.
In 2006, Sister Lena Picillo, OP, returned to become principal of Aquinas Academy. Since her return, she has begun many programs such as the Builders' Club and Principal's Council. She has also successfully enhanced the school's technology program. In 2011, Monsignor Kevin Hanbury, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese, was named the administrator, and in July 2012, Monsignor Thomas P. Nydegger was named the parish's ninth pastor.
On September 24, 2013, Aquinas Academy was recognized by the United States Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. According to the United States Department of Education, this award "affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content. The National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing an entry or flying overhead is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning." ( Blue Ribbon Schools Program )
In October 2014, Monsignor Robert Fuhrman became the parish's tenth pastor when Monsignor Nydegger was named Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Archdiocese.
In July 2016, Mr. John Cohrs started as our principal and i s the first lay administrator of Aquinas Academy. Mr. Cohrs is a life-long product of Catholic Schools within the Archdiocese of Newark; he is a graduate of Aquinas Academy and Caldwell University and has a Masters Degree from Seton Hall University. Mr. Cohrs came to us with many years of experience in both the classroom and administration positions.
Mrs. Gloria Castucci is currently the director of Aquinas Academy Preschool. An adjunct professor in the Education Department of Caldwell University and Seton Hall University, she is also Director of Early Childhood Programs for the Archdiocese. Aquinas Academy's preschool expanded in 1981 to offer a full-day program. The enrollment doubled to 100 with a staff of twelve, including teachers and aides. Currently, year-round services are provided.
Aquinas Academy continues under the guidance of the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey. As the only Catholic elementary school in Livingston, the Academy blends traditional and innovative learning and assists each student in developing his or her fullest potential in an environment that fosters the growth of the whole child.