SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- As a Catholic school, Union Catholic's faith-based education emphasizes the teachings and values of the Catholic faith within the school environment through a strong Religion Department and an unwavering commitment to Social Justice.
UC has six religion teachers, and offers nine religion courses. Each student is required to take a religion course during each semester.
The school also has a very active Peer Ministry Club, which is involved in several Social Justice initiatives throughout the community, and a Junior/Senior Retreat, and a Day of Recollection for each grade is held each school year.
Religion courses offered (Freshmen - Juniors take two courses each year)
- Freshmen: Revelation of Jesus and Jesus: Mission & Ministry
- Sophomore: Jesus: Source of Salvation and Church
- Juniors: Sacraments and Life in Christ
- Seniors: Christian Life (full year; seniors may also be a Religion TA in addition)
- Virtual High School offerings (elective)
Full course descriptions are here
Religion Teachers: Mr. John Becht, Mrs. Patti Caffrey, Mr. Elito Tanyag, Mrs. Nancy Saggio, Mr. Frank Araneo, and Mrs. Rebecca Rotondo.
Peer Ministry Coordinators/Campus Ministers: Mr. John Becht, Mrs. Patti Caffrey, and Ms. Elisa Maguigad
Peer Ministry: A program that offers opportunities to the entire student body to strengthen one's spiritual connection to God. The members of the Peer Ministry program are responsible for planning and running many of these events, such as days of recollection and school wide liturgies. In addition to spiritually based events, Peer Ministers also embark on social justice initiatives that help the greater community.
Mr. Becht, who just finished his 13th year as a religion teacher and Peer Ministry coordinator at UC, said the UC religion program is impactful in several ways.
“The UC Religion program is so impactful because we have the ability and the opportunity to make extremely strong and meaningful connections with students,’’ said Mr. Becht. “We approach the courses in an academic structure, but have the flexibility to incorporate a truly genuine and authentic spiritual component. It's through this spiritual component where we can make a real connection with our students. We give them the chance to grow in their faith. In addition, we also have the opportunity to introduce religion and spirituality to our students. Our program is dedicated to the growth and development of the whole student, not just the academic aspect.’’
With the school year fast approaching, Mr. Becht said the Religion Department is focused on helping students in every way possible.
“We are preparing for all scenarios,’’ said Mr. Becht. “We want to ensure our students receive the most productive and efficient academic experience possible. We are preparing for remote learning as well as in person learning. In addition, we have been paying special attention to increasing the role of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in our courses. Our students' mental health and emotions are going to be a major aspect of what we will be addressing alongside curriculum. The stresses and uncertainty of this pandemic can not be avoided. We want to be there for our students - Academically, Spiritually, and Emotionally.’’
Mr. Becht is very proud of all the great work the Peer Ministers have put in over the years to make its presence felt in the school and the entire UC Community.
“It's extremely rewarding to see the Peer Ministers in action,’’ said Mr. Becht. “Seeing them year in and year out stepping up to provide for the less fortunate and needy really speaks to our school culture here at UC. The fact that we have teenage students wanting to do more for those around them in their communities and beyond.’’
Mr. Becht said the Religion Department is devoted to the academic and spiritual development of every student.
“I can't put into words how dedicated and devoted our Religion Department is to the students of Union Catholic,’’ said Mr. Becht. “Like the entire faculty, staff, and administration here at UC, the teachers who make up the Religion Department always put the students' needs first. We will do whatever it takes to allow each and every student to become All God Calls Them to Be.’’
Why should young students choose UC?
“UC is where you should be,’’ said Mr. Becht. “There is something special about this place that words can't fully describe. It is a feeling of companionship and love. A genuine care for one another in a safe environment that will allow each and every person to grow and reach their full potential. I did not attend UC as a student, but I thank God every day that I have been given the opportunity to be a member of this very special community. It certainly has touched my life in a way that I am forever grateful.’’
Mr. Becht can't thank the UC administration, and the staff at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church enough for their steadfast support.
“As a member of the Religion Department, it is reassuring to have great support from the administration, faculty, staff, and especially from our neighbor across the street, the pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Father Michael Ward (UC Class of 1982), and his staff. It truly is a community, and to have that support strengthens what we can accomplish in the classroom as Religion teachers.’’