Cardinal Keeler tours burgeoning Gambrills school
Feb 02, 2007
While walking through the foyer of the School of the Incarnation yesterday, Cardinal William H. Keeler went without one of the items usually carried by an archbishop.
(The Capital, February 01, 2007) "I don't need a crozier when I visit schools. I use a cane," he said, moving toward the library at a slow but steady pace, a crooked wooden stick in his hand.
The cardinal's visit to the Gambrills school comes at a time when Roman Catholic schools in urban areas are closing, but suburban campuses like the School of the Incarnation are receiving more applications than administrators can handle.
"Some are bulging at the inner seams, but they are closing in the cities," Cardinal Keeler said. "It's economics. It's pure economics."
Since 1997, eight schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, most in the city of Baltimore, have closed. Three others, also in Baltimore, have consolidated into one building. At the same time, three other schools have opened - one in Parkton and one in Baltimore, along with the School of the Incarnation.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore includes Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Howard and Washington counties, as well as Baltimore city.
"We have more applicants than we can handle," said the Rev. Jeff Dauses, pastor of the Church of the Holy Apostles, whose office is in the school.
The school is affiliated with six parishes, which means students come from a large, well-populated community. This has helped to keep desks filled while other schools have closed, the Rev. Dauses said.
"This is an inter-parish school," he said. "The trouble with inner-city schools is that it's one church, one school," he said.
The school originally opened in 2000 at Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville and moved to its current site a year later.
Since the first day, it was apparent that there was more interest in the school than there was space, Principal Barbara Edmondson said. In the fall of 2004, a wing just for middle school students was built, allowing the student body to expand from two to three classes per grade.
"It's the growth in the area," she said. "It's so populated with young families."
Currently 660 students are enrolled, but the school isn't filled to capacity, Ms. Edmondson said.
Because of the series of closings and struggles that some schools are enduring to stay open, Cardinal Keeler said he's encouraging the state legislature to support Catholic schools financially. Private schools do their part in educating students with private funds, relieving some of the strain on public systems. Catholic schools should receive funds for their work, he said.
The cardinal toured the school as a part of Catholic Schools Week, an event to "build support for the almost 8,000 Catholic schools nationwide" and encourage enrollment and support for the schools.
As part of Cardinal Keeler's visit, sixth-graders sang "Ave Maria" and "It's A Small World," both in Italian.
Cardinal Keeler explained to the students how "Ave Maria" also is called "Lourdes Hymn," a reference to a reported appearance of the Virgin Mary to a child in Lourdes, France, now a popular destination for pilgrims.
"You sing the song related to our Lady of Lourdes, and that's very good," he said.
The students received Italian lessons from kindergarten through fifth grade from Lisa Pitocco, a parent volunteer and native of Italy. Italian is no longer part of lesson plans, but some students have joined an Italian club. Students might travel to Italy in the summer of 2008, Ms. Edmondson said.
Cardinal Keeler also stopped at a third-grade class. He didn't ask the students questions, but they peppered him with their own.
One girl asked, "What's it like to be cardinal?"
"You know, I haven't really reflected on that," he said.
But being a cardinal has afforded him some interesting opportunities, like electing a pope, he added.
"It was truly an exciting event," he said. "To sit in the Sistine Chapel, to sit in all that history and all that art, to know it had witnessed the election of all those other popes was amazing. It was something I will never forget."