NORTH WILDWOOD – What is success? How can we make a difference in people’s lives while preserving traditions for the next generation? These questions are no stranger to Ron Simone and Janice Schumann.
With roots deep in the faith of their fathers, Schumann and Simone were glad to share their stories of faith.
“I learned what is right and what is wrong,” Simone, 29, told the Herald May 6.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Simone attended St. Christopher’s Parish with his family. Simone is North Wildwood's city administrator and says his upbringing plays an important role in his life. Simone filled former Administrator Kevin Yecco’s position Jan. 2, 2019.
“The Roman Catholic Church builds a sense of morals,” Simone said.
While attending Holy Ghost Preparatory School, Simone enjoyed athletics and began the journey into public service. The journeys of ancestors also helped mold him.
His mother's side has Irish blood, by way of Canada, and his father’s ancestors hail from Italy and Ireland, as well. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, thousands of Irish and Italian immigrants crossed the Atlantic Ocean, going to ports in Philadelphia and New York City. Many found their way to New Jersey, enduring hardships while seeking a better life.
Simone attended The Catholic University of America (CUA), where he ran track and was an intern in U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady’s (R-Texas) office. Simone said this first-hand experience in politics would not have happened if he hadn’t attended CUA.
As a young professional, Simone said he wishes to help others as citizens and government officials. His definition of success is “different."
“I don’t attend Mass every week,” Simone said, “but I’m still very much a believer.”
Every Christmas Eve, Simone attends service with his mother and family, at St. Christopher’s.
Navigating the modern world poses challenges to faith, especially when asked hard questions about life and its complexities. Janice Schumann, a literature and religion teacher, at Wildwood Catholic High School, strives to integrate her faith in every aspect of life.
“It’s humbling to stand before teenagers and discuss matters of faith,” Schumann said May 14, during a phone interview.
An educator since 1980, Schumann lives in Wildwood Crest with her husband, “Capt. Schumann,” who operates a whale-watching service, in Wildwood.
“Students need to know that they are loved,” Schumann said.
One of her pleasures is helping students find a “relationship with their Creator.” In a private school setting, not every student is Catholic or identifies as Christian, but Schumann is committed to helping each one along the journey.
“I’m non-judgmental,” she said.
Recently, the Diocese of Camden announced that Wildwood Catholic will permanently close June 30. Lack of fundraising and declining enrollment were cited as reasons for the decision.
Now Schumann helps students cope with the “new normal” during the COVID-19 outbreak and the possibility of their beloved school closing (See Herald story online ‘Wildwood Catholic Hopes for a Second Save’). Yet, most students are “open-minded,” Schumann said, and remain hopeful that adequate funds can be raised.
“Students and parents have been so passionate about the school,” Schumann said. “We are a close-knit community.”
Faith and community go hand in hand, and Schumann continues to live out her mission regardless of global and personal crisis.
“God is good all the time,” she said.
Self-described as a “cradle Catholic,” Schumann serves the churches as a cantor, who leads the congregation in song.
“It’s humbling to share our gifts,” she said.
Catholics in Cape May County make up the collective immigrant story. From Ireland, Italy, Poland, and Latin America, these hardworking souls passed on their heritage and traditions. According to historical records, the first Catholics settled in New Jersey in 1672, near Salem.
In Cape May, Catholic services were first held in 1803, under Rev. Michael Hurley. Eventually, the congregation became Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, incorporated in 1878.
Those with a story of faith to share for this ongoing series should contact the writer at: firstname.lastname@example.org.