A life of service

St. Luke parish in Washington honors long-serving staff for commitment

By Ariana Cassard

Successful parishes need a dedicated staff. At St. Luke Church in Washington, D.C., two men were recently honored for more than four decades of service to the parish community.

John Quarles joined the staff at St. Luke Church over 40 years ago. As director of St. Luke’s Community Center, Mr. Quarles showed up every day to care for the center and the programs that take place there.

St. Luke’s Community Center is the social arm of the parish. It is home to a number of community programs, such as youth basketball, social activities, Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous programs, and CSOSA, a program run by the U.S. Justice Department to re-integrate those returning home from incarceration. Mr. Quarles cared for each of these activities.

“He lifts up his Catholic faith and understands the meaning of service,” said Josephite Father Cornelius Ejiogu, pastor of St. Luke Church and personal friend to Mr. Quarles.

When Father Cornelius began his pastorate at St. Luke, Mr. Quarles was one of the first men he met. The other was Eugene Russell.

Mr. Russell is described as a quiet, dedicated man who has devoted his life to doing the background work at St. Luke.

Mr. Russell began working in maintenance at St. Luke 23 years ago, as an assistant to the maintenance supervisor. By the time of his retirement, he had been promoted to maintenance engineer.

His duties included ensuring the church is properly taken care of both on the inside and outside, as well as welcoming groups at the church for parties and meetings. Father Cornelius praised Mr. Russell’s dedication to the church, saying he cared for it as he would his own home.

Mr. Russell told The Harvest that in his retirement, he misses the parishioners the most. “I love interacting with the parishioners of the church. It was very helpful for me with my job,” he said.

The legacy of these two men was celebrated with a retirement party in the church hall in January. Over 300 parishioners, friends and family members gathered for a Mass of Thanksgiving, followed by a luncheon in St. Luke Center. Each retiree was awarded a plaque in appreciation of their years of service.

Both Mr. Quarles and Mr. Russell will be remembered for the impact they had on St. Luke Church. “These men loved St. Luke with all their heart, and I think that’s the genesis of all their sacrifice,” said the pastor.

While they have retired from their duties, Father Cornelius said he would not miss these men, because he will still see them at Mass every Sunday.

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