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    A Place to Call Home

    By Kelly Medinger


    St. Clare Parish uses Catholic activities grant to renovate convent for Baltimore area Catholic school teachers to live in a community of faith and friendship

    ND_4-26-15_Community_01.jpg“Our mission is the spread the Word of God and be the Light of Christ for the Essex community in this day in time,” proclaims Father Richard Gray, Pastor of St. Clare Parish in Baltimore County.


    To further that mission, St. Clare Parish goes beyond offering Mass, sacramental rites, and fellowship programs.  Each year, up to ten graduate students who are teaching in Baltimore-area Catholic schools call the Parish’s convent “home.”


    “It’s great to have them on our campus,” shares Fr. Gray.  “They bring youth and energy to our 11:00 a.m. mass every Sunday, and from a practical perspective, their presence means we don’t have an empty building on our property, and the parish benefits from the added rental income.”


    About St. Clare Parish

    Opened in 1956, St. Clare Parish serves over one thousand families in the Essex community.  The church has been renovated twice – once after a massive fire in 1970, and again in 2016, partly with funds from the Knott Foundation. 


    In 2018, the church received another Knott grant to upgrade various features of the convent where the graduate education students are housed.  The renovation improved the kitchen, added a full bathroom, and addressed some longstanding maintenance issues. 


    About Operation TEACH

    Operation TEACH is a two-year post-graduate service program at Notre Dame of Maryland University, with the goal to develop a corps of highly committed educators to meet the needs of children in Baltimore area Catholic elementary and secondary schools.


    Students in Operation TEACH live on a stipend of $14,000/year, teach full-time in a local Catholic school, attend graduate classes on evenings and weekends, and live in community with their fellow teachers.  There are currently 16 students in the program who live at St. Clare Parish and St. Thomas Aquinas Church.  They teach first grade through high school at 14 different Catholic schools in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Harford Counties. 


    “Operation TEACH participants have lived in a lot of old convents throughout our 20-year history,” reflects Angela Simmons, Director of Operation TEACH.  “St. Clare Parish’s convent is among the best residential facility we have be able to utilize.  The facility is in good shape, especially with the recent renovations, and the location is convenient to an abundance of schools across the Archdiocese.”


    A Convent Called Home

    Monica is from Scranton and teaches middle school language arts at St. Joe’s Fullerton.  She describes Operation TEACH as a “bundle deal – with housing, education, a job, and a support system on top.”  This is her second year in the program, and when she reflects on the recent convent renovations, she remarks, “My favorite thing is that there’s always someone cooking in the kitchen this year – it’s a great joy to see and makes it feel more like home.” 


    Fr. Gray concludes with a serendipitous connection to his own life story:  “I was a teacher before I was a priest.  I taught for eight years in Delaware before going to Seminary.  If a program like Operation TEACH had been around back then, I would have been in it.”