For Whom the Bell Tolls – St. Luke Church restores noontime tradition to celebrate Downeyville grads

Students hold a bell rope in a church

June 16, 2023

For more than 100 years, the bell at St. Luke’s Catholic Church would ring at noon, reaching farmers in their fields up to five kilometers in every direction and calling local residents to prayer.

The faithful would stop their tasks and chores to pray the Angelus.

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

The bell is still heard throughout the community to call parishioners to church on Sunday morning and to solemnly mark funeral masses, but the noontime tradition ceased about 20 years ago. 

That is until this month, when the 12 p.m. ringing filled the air for the first time in two decades. At the helm of the ropes, Grade 8 students at St. Luke Catholic Elementary School have been making that bell toll again.

Throughout the final weeks of June, each graduating student will have the opportunity to pull the rope and activate the church bell. In response, parishioners and local residents have been called upon to take a moment once again to silently pray the Angelus for the graduates as they begin their journey to secondary school.

Parish priest Father Israel notes that St. Luke’s is a closely connected school and parish community, deeply rooted in its faith. As the Grade 8 students launch into the next stage of their lives, he hopes they “carry the prayers and love of the whole parish with them to guide through difficult times they may encounter.”

Principal Matthew Bowen said the school and parish have been working closely to increase church engagement. The idea to celebrate the students’ graduation while connecting them more closely to their church and local history developed through that process. 

“Each time that bell rings at noon it really lifts our spirits. To hear the bell toll in this community like that after more than 20 years, and to know local parishioners and residents will be taking a moment each day to pray for our graduates is so gratifying and heartwarming,” Bowen said. 

“We are so grateful to partner with the parish on this engagement effort and to facilitate this learning and connection between our students, their faith and local history.”

Each student who has participated has been provided with an old rosary or crucifix from parishioners that have been passed down over generations as a reminder of the past, their church and their community. 

Photo Caption: St. Luke CES Grade 8 students Jackson Drinkwalter and Anna Falls ring the bell at St. Luke’s Church in Downeyville.