New cornerstone for Washington school, gift from Class of 2021, dedicated

Bishop Louis Tylka sprinkles holy water on the new granite cornerstone at St. Patrick School in Washington. The plaque above it commemorates the occasion. The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems

WASHINGTON — Cornerstones are markers that designate a space. More importantly, they let people know what we want to do and what we want to be, said Bishop Louis Tylka.

As he prepared to bless the new cornerstone at St. Patrick School here on March 15, he explained that sometimes they fade as the building gets older, but it doesn’t change the purpose and significance of what the building is about.

The new granite cornerstone at St. Patrick School in Washington makes it possible to read that Bishop William Cousins blessed the original sandstone cornerstone on Nov. 2, 1952. The plaque above it notes that Bishop Louis Tylka rededicated and blessed it on March 15, 2023. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“Thankfully there are those who were generous to raise the money to put in a new cornerstone,” he said, referring to the members of the Class of 2021. “Because it’s a reminder to us, again, of our purpose, of why we’re here and what we’re about.”

The bishop also told the students sitting before him in St. Patrick Church that you build off of cornerstones.

“Jesus, the cornerstone of God’s love, is the one who says, ‘Build off of me. This is your purpose. This is why you are here — to fulfill and embody the law that I have fulfilled and embodied for you,’” Bishop Tylka said.

“We live because of God’s love. That is our cornerstone and that’s what we renew, not only in our school, but mostly in our hearts,” he said.

After Mass, the students, staff and parents processed to the new granite cornerstone for the blessing. Before sprinkling it with holy water, Bishop Tylka asked for God’s blessing on the school and that those entrusted with the education of children and young people would teach the truth of the Gospel.

“May the all-knowing God who is Lord show us his ways. May Christ, eternal wisdom, teach us the words of truth. May the Holy Spirit, the blessed light, always enlighten our minds so that we may learn what is right and good,” he prayed, before blessing all who were present.


Principal Doreen Shipman said each class chooses whether or not to give a gift to the school. The Class of 2021 wanted to replace the original sandstone cornerstone because the wording had faded and much of it couldn’t be read anymore.

There was plenty of applause and smiles when Bishop Louis Tylka visited St. Patrick School in Washington to bless the new cornerstone, a gift of the Class of 2021. But to make certain he knew how thankful they were, they left this sign with all their signatures in the school lobby. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Class members earned enough funds to make the purchase, but it took two years to get it because of supply chain issues, she said.

The new granite cornerstone has a plaque above it that notes who made the gift and that it was rededicated by Bishop Tylka.

It also allowed Shipman and Father Johnathan Steffen, pastor, to open the time capsule inside the original cornerstone. What they found were photos of the founding pastor, Father Henry Schubert, and members of the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation, who staffed the school, as well as some artifacts from the dedication of the school.

Inside the new cornerstone is a time capsule that includes class rosters and a yearbook for the 2020-21 school year, a sample face mask worn during the pandemic, and a 2012 Blue Ribbon Medal each child and faculty member received for the national recognition. In addition, there are photos of Father Steffen, Shipman and the faculty and staff, a World Mission Rosary, and holy cards.

The celebration means so much because of the love parishioners feel for their school, the pastor and principal said.

“St. Patrick School has just been so valued by this parish ever since its founding. There’s great pride in the parish,” Father Steffen said. “It’s just been such an integral part of the parish.”

“It is family oriented. It has a lot of character,” said Shipman, the principal since January 2013. “I have four daughters who graduated from here and I’d send them again.”

Questions and answers with Bishop Lou

Wearing the new fleece hoodie with the logo of St. Patrick School in Washington that he received at the end of Mass, Bishop Louis Tylka visits with the students, who gathered in the gym for refreshments after he blessed and dedicated their new cornerstone. He would take their questions for 25 minutes, which covered a wide range of questions. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

After blessing the new cornerstone at St. Patrick School, Bishop Tylka joined the students, staff and parents in the Sister Mary Ann Schmitz Gymnasium for refreshments and to answer questions. The 25-minute session was fun, as well as educational.

The students asked him everything from how old he was, where he lives, and what he does as a bishop, to his favorite saint and prayer.

“Becoming a bishop is not like a job where you put an application in. You get chosen,” Bishop Tylka told them. “It’s kind of a surprise and quite shocking because you simply get a phone call from the pope’s representative. . . . Then they ask if you will accept the appointment.”

While he was nervous, he prayed about it and felt the Holy Spirit’s urging to say “yes.”

“I was very happy being a priest,” he said. “That’s all I aspired to and hoped for in my life. But when the Lord calls, the church calls, you have to say ‘yes.’”

Why does he change hats during Mass?

The “beanie” or zucchetto is a symbol that the Holy Spirit rests on him. He said the miter is a symbol of his role as chief shepherd of the diocese, so he wears it when he talks to the people. “When I talk to God in prayer, I take it off,” Bishop Tylka explained.

His favorite job as bishop?

“Celebrating confirmations,” he said. “I believe the power of the Holy Spirit is really important to us to live out our faith as good disciples, so celebrating the fact that we have that gift with our young people is really a lot of fun for me.”

His favorite saint?

St. John the Baptist, because he spent his entire life pointing away from himself and pointing to Jesus.

His favorite prayer?

“Come Holy Spirit.” Bishop Tylka told them he says that many times during the day, because he depends on the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance.

His confirmation saint?

St. Joseph. It was the name of his childhood parish in Homewood and the name of his sponsor, as well as the name of Jesus’ foster father and protector of Mary.

How many churches has he visited?

The bishop said he has been to 110 of the Diocese of Peoria’s 157 churches, and plans to visit five more by June.

How many times has he blessed a cornerstone?

While he has been present for blessings of churches and buildings, this was his first cornerstone.

Who is his favorite Transformer?

Optimus Prime.

“Good questions,” Bishop Tylka said. “I had fun — did you have fun?”

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