School had been out for the summer for several weeks when the rainstorms hit.
No one was around to notice that the lower level of St. Clement School in St. Clement had taken on water, or that the pump installed long ago to handle such matters had failed.
The standing liquid had begun to climb the walls. Mold had sprouted.
Every book in the library was ruined.
The cafeteria and kitchen were in shambles.
“It was an unholy sight,” said Father Bill Peckman, who had been pastor for eight years but was on his way to lead the parishes in Boonville and Fayette.
“A perfect disaster,” described Father Jason Doke, who arrived to succeed him in 2017, shortly after the entire basement was gutted and the mold removed.
Brad Copeland, diocesan director of buildings and properties, helped file an insurance claim and lay the groundwork for restoration of the lost space.
“This could actually turn out all right,” Fr. Doke said at the time. “With just a little extra investment, we could wind up with something much better than what we had.”
He was right.
A full year passed as people who practice various trades probed the building’s foundation and pursued solutions to unforeseen problems.
Sewer lines were modified. New drains, two sump pumps and updated wiring were installed.
Plumbing for two downstairs restrooms for students and one for the cafeteria staff was added.
Students ate lunch in the nearby parish hall and had music, art and study hall upstairs while the foundation walls were being sealed on the inside and outside.
“So there isn’t any water in there, and it’s perfectly dry and air-conditioned, so the humidity stays down,” said Fr. Doke.
Insurance covered a large portion of the renovation and reconstruction. The diocese provided a small loan, and the parish paid for the rest.
Students returned to school last fall to find everything downstairs sparkling-new and ready to enhance the learning experience for generations of students to come.
“So it turns out that our prayers were answered,” said Fr. Doke, who moved to Jefferson City this June to become the diocese’s moderator of the curia.
He noted that St. Clement School, one of 37 Catholic elementary schools in the diocese, has been a cultural and spiritual touchstone for generations.
“Chances are, if you’re Catholic and you’ve lived there most of your life, you probably went to St. Clement School,” he said.
He said offering an excellent education in an energetic, faith-infused environment helps the parish lead young people and their families to Christ.
“Sometimes, you get parents whose kids are in school, and now (the parents are) getting their marriages validated or getting confirmed when that might not have happened otherwise,” said Fr. Doke.
This Easter, the parish welcomed an entire school family into the Church.
“A Catholic school is one of a parish’s best tools for evangelizing — not just by offering good catechesis to the students but also their parents and the broader community,” he said.
St. Clement School enjoys strong support among parishioners, and its vitality is reflected throughout the community.
“It really is a focal point within the greater Bowling Green area,” said Fr. Doke.
He noted that the school’s mission is not just to provide a strong academic foundation and help prepare children for adulthood — although it does do those things well.
“Passing the faith to students, reinforcing it for their families and keeping the mission of Christ going — that’s why we have Catholic schools,” he said.
Why? “Because we want everyone to go to heaven.”
Until then, “we want to help them become productive members of society — responsible, upstanding, moral people,” he stated.
In that way, “our schools are forming leaders who make the community better,” he said.