Clarksville parish rings the bell on Catholic Schools Week

Archbishop William E. Lori leads a Jan. 26 blessing at St. Louis Church in Clarksville for a new bell tower. At left is Monsignor Joseph Luca, pastor. (CR Staff/Kevin J. Parks)

CLARKSVILLE – St. Louis Parish and School had plenty to celebrate Jan. 26.

Archbishop William E. Lori joined Monsignor Joseph L. Luca, pastor, and his faith community by celebrating the 11:15 a.m. Mass. Afterward, the archbishop dedicated a new bell tower, and stopped by a reception hosted by St. Louis School – just in time to begin Catholic Schools Week.

The annual observance runs through Feb. 1.

At St. Louis School, an open house Jan. 29 will include student-produced artwork that speaks to its faith heritage.

The Jan. 26 liturgy included students distributing prayer cards, with original prayers and illustrations, award-winning efforts in a contest that is a St. Louis School tradition.

Asked about the origin of the contest, Assistant Principal Mary Ewachiw said, “It’s been a tradition as long as I can remember. It’s a vibrant way for the children to reflect their faith and share it with the parish community. We use them (the prayer cards) as part of our open house, to welcome new families, show them the deep faith of the children.”

Lara Miller teaches religion to fifth- and sixth-graders.

“They were so excited to creatively engage in something like this,” she said. “I’m continuously talking to my students about how art and creative processes like that connect us to God and can be a way of prayer.

“I didn’t have to give much instruction at all. They ran with it, because it (faith) is so engrossed in the culture here.”

The contest winners, with grades, were: Ava Ramirez kindergarten; Alexandra Ialeggio, first; Asha Rami and Michelina Mamana, fourth; Jillian Rosenberg, sixth; and Tess Kelly, Patricia Kolb and Genevieve Birrane, eighth.

“It’s hard to pick winners, because all the prayers just touch your heart,” Principal Terry Weiss said.

Kaitlyn Shipley, a third-grader at St. Louis School in Clarksville, distributes an original prayer card created by students as part of the festivities for Catholic Schools Week. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

More than 520 students attend St. Louis School, which was honored by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon school of distinction in both 2010-11 and 2026-17.

In October, it received STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) accreditation from Cognia, a “global network” formerly known as AdvancedED. According to the school, curriculum favorites include “3D design, printing and coding.” The current focus for Weiss and her staff is on increasing female participation in its Robotics and Cyber STEM afterschool programs.

Monsignor Luca, meanwhile, describes St. Louis School as “kind of the heart of the parish.”

“I’m a great proponent of Catholic schools,” he said, “I’ve seen, in all my years, what a great blessing it is for the parish.”

The pastor recounted parents enrolling their children, learning more about the faith, and then converting to Catholicism.

“Many of the parents end up becoming parishioners,” Monsignor Luca said. “We’ve received them into RCIA because their children came to the school or we’re about to receive sacraments. It’s brought the parents to a deeper relationship with the Lord, and deeper practice of their faith.”


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Kevin J. Parks

Kevin J. Parks

Kevin J. Parks joined the Catholic Review in 2016 as its visual journalist following a lengthy career at Mercy Medical Center, where he shot photography and video for internal communications, marketing and media relations for local and national media.

Kevin has been honored by the Maryland Delaware D.C. (MDDC) Press Association, The Catholic Press Association and the Associated Church Press for his work. One of his career highlights is documenting a medical mission in Peru, which received two national awards.

A Baltimore native, Kevin is graduate of Archbishop Curley High School and the University of Baltimore. He is a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales, Abingdon.