Deacon Joseph G. Rafferty Sr., a lifelong teacher and administrator who views Catholic education as “essential,” is poised to take on the role as principal of St. Paul School, Burlington, this September.
“There is a rigor and grit in Catholic schools,” Rafferty, a resident of Gloucester City in the Diocese of Camden, said frankly. “It is vital we support who we are and what we are about.”
Deacon Rafferty attended Rutgers University as a Division I Football scholarship student and earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the New Brunswick university in 1983. He began his career in education as a social studies teacher in Gloucester City Catholic High School, then the city’s public high school, before assuming the role of assistant principal in Gloucester City Junior/Senior High School in 1997.
In 2003, after two years as assistant principal in one of Gloucester City’s middle schools, Deacon Rafferty first became principal of a middle school in Haddon Township, then served three years as superintendent of schools of the Mount Ephraim School District. He became superintendent of schools in the Gloucester City School District in 2012 and will retire from that position Aug. 31.
Deacon Rafferty has been married to his wife, Barbara, for 29 years, and has three grown sons: Joseph, a New Jersey state trooper; Michael, who is preparing for a career as a funeral director, and Patrick, who is studying to be a physical therapist.
Over the years, the community-minded educator has also served as a coach of football, Little League and basketball, as well as holding memberships on the Gloucester City charter study commission and Lion’s Club.
Deacon Rafferty is eager to assume the mantle of principal of St. Paul School Sept. 1, just one day after his retirement from the Gloucester School system. His goal for the upcoming school year is simply stated.
“I want to continue the Catholic vision of the school,” he said. “It is important to recognize the great work the faculty and staff and [former principal] Mr. Robbins did to grow the school.”
Deacon Rafferty earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Rider University, Lawrenceville, in 1999, and has completed course work for a doctorate in the same field at Immaculata University, Immaculata, Pa., as he was studying for the diaconate for the Camden Diocese.
Deacon Rafferty was ordained a permanent deacon in 2012 and serves in his home parish, St. Mary in Gloucester City. He is a member of the parish council and Knights of Columbus. As a deacon, he has celebrated the Sacraments, assisted at Mass, preached homilies, supervised youth group activities and led adult spiritual study groups, as well as assisted with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
The deacon’s respect for Catholic heritage is evident as he remarked on the beauty of the massive stained glass windows of St. Mary Church, founded in 1848. He drew a parallel between it and the Catholic school in Burlington he will soon call home.
“[The parish] is a great place to sit and contemplate,” he said. “It’s the same with St. Paul’s School: they both date back to the 1800s. We can stand on the shoulders of all who came before us. I want to give back what I gained from my Catholic education.”