St. Rita, N.O., begins ‘king cake chain’

Top photo: Miesha Juluke, assistant principal at St. Rita School in New Orleans (left), delivers the first king cake in a program she created to bring Catholic schools together during the Carnival season. Resurrection of Our Lord School (represented above by Vanessa Chavis, dean of students) was the lucky recipient of the tasty confection. (Photo courtesy of Neauxla Catholic Schools King Cake Love Challenge)

By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald

Realizing that nothing but joy comes from a circle of dough doused in purple, green and gold sugar, Miesha Juluke had a great idea.

Why not set up a chain delivery of king cakes – New Orleans’ most famous icebreaker – as a fun way in which Catholic schools across the archdiocese could get to know one another better?

So, in mid-January, Juluke, the assistant principal at St. Rita School in New Orleans, launched the inaugural “Neauxla Catholic Schools King Cake Love Challenge.”
“The theme just popped in my head,” Juluke said. “There are a lot of Catholic schools here in New Orleans, but sometimes it can feel disconnected – and who doesn’t want a king cake?” she said, smiling.

Setting up the chain was relatively easy. Juluke placed the name of every Catholic elementary and high school inside a jar and randomly pulled the name of the first recipient – Resurrection of Our Lord – and surprise-delivered a king cake to Resurrection’s school office. Resurrection then had two days to pull the name of another school from the jar and do the same. Every school that delivers a king cake is asked to upload a video or photo of their school spreading love on social media and tag it with @StRitaNOLA and @New OrleansCatholicSchools.

Shannon Culotta, head of Ursuline Elementary, delivers a king cake to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Westwego’s Carl Dermady, assistant principal. (Photo from Instagram)

The king cake chain can be followed by typing in hashtags such as #Nola CatholicSchoolLove, #King CakeChallenge, #Spread Love and #MardiGras.
“Our older kids (at St. Rita) are always asking, ‘Where’s the king cake now?’ But it’s not just one king cake. They get eaten and a new one is bought,” Juluke explained.

Another benefit of the Love Challenge has been acquainting various areas of the archdiocese with bakeries outside their usual orbits. For example, St. Rita purchased its cinnamon-laced king cake at Chris’ Bakery in New Orleans East, Juluke’s favorite doughnut shop.

“Their king cake melts in your mouth!” she said.

Another “division” bridged by the program is the one that often exists between elementary and high schools. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be coming together for an occasional Mass or a community project,” Juluke said, referring to a recent joint liturgy celebrated between St. Rita and St. Mary’s Dominican High.

Meanwhile, the king cake program is making positive waves. Said Juluke: “It’s just fun. It’s unity. It’s king cake!”

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