Faith in Baltimore Event
Center Stage, Baltimore
Jan. 15, 2020
The warmest of welcomes to all as we gather on this [cold] January evening to join with you in friendship and celebration of the Catholic Church’s partnerships with so many in our beloved City of Baltimore. In particular, we are honored to be joined by many elected officials and other City leaders, including Mayor Young, City Council President Brandon Scott, Chief Harrison, and so many others from our City Council and City delegation in the Maryland General Assembly. Thanks so much to all of you for taking the time to be with us this evening.
Today, of course, is the actual birthday of one of our country’s greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. What a fitting day to come together to celebrate our shared commitment to unity and our legacy of service in the City of Baltimore.
As our opening video briefly demonstrated, for more than two centuries, generation upon generation of Catholic institutions, together with so many other partners, have woven their faithful service into the heart and soul of Baltimore City. For 230 years, before the City was even constituted, the Church has stood firmly in the center and in every corner of the City. The historic imprint of the Church that lives on today is felt everywhere, even here at the beautiful Center Stage, which was once the original location of Loyola College and Preparatory School, now Loyola University Maryland.
And we are here to say to you tonight – our faith partners, nonprofit and business leaders, and elected officials – you have our unequivocal, heartfelt, and sustained commitment to stand by Baltimore. In the midst of what may seem sometimes like overwhelming challenges, we proudly stand together tonight to rededicate ourselves to the City of Baltimore and renew our pledge to make this City a beacon of hope, opportunity, and unity that embraces each and every one of its citizens. In short, we are here to proclaim our Faith in Baltimore; we are not just the Archdiocese of Baltimore, we are the Archdiocese FOR Baltimore!
At a time when we have just marked the tragically sobering milestone of nearly 350 homicides this past year, these words may sound naïve, even foolish. But I for one – and I hope I speak for so many here tonight – know that crime statistics and grim headlines only tell part of the story of Baltimore. We are here tonight to tell the other one – the one of amazing service, commitment and impact on the part of countless leaders, workers, volunteers and everyday residents who refuse to give up hope in the face of our challenges. It is on behalf of all of these people that we wanted to hold this celebration tonight – at the start of a New Year, when we need to ignite hope in the future that together we can move our City forward. If nobody else wants to celebrate what’s good and what’s working in our City, we will!
No doubt we have amazing and well-known leaders in our City – some bright stars, some selfless servant-leaders. I can’t even begin to acknowledge them all by name. Their contributions and dedication give us hope for a better tomorrow. But tonight I’d like to draw our attention to people like them in our Catholic institutions and beyond – people who serve our City from the ground up – whether they be priests or teachers, nurses or front desk receptionists. Our pastors of our City parishes and principals of our City schools, who are pillars in their neighborhoods. The workers in our shelters, food pantries, employment centers, and recovery clinics. My wonderful colleagues and employees at the Catholic Center who keep the Archdiocese going 365 days a year. The violence interrupters, youth outreach workers, and caretakers for the elderly and those with disabilities. In the words of Dr. King, “Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
We’ll introduce you to some of them tonight, but I can think of no one who embodies this spirit more beautifully than our inaugural Faith in Baltimore recipient, Ray Kelly. His heroic yet humble commitment to bringing unity to this City is an example that shines for us all, and gives us hope even when our challenges seem overwhelming. You probably won’t see Ray in the news, because stories like his—and there are many—don’t get clicks, they don’t generate ratings. But if more people knew about the Ray Kellys of Baltimore they would realize it’s a city that can overcome its deficiencies and would be inspired to join them in the work we must all do together if Baltimore is to realize its great potential. These are the people who believe in Baltimore – those serving in Catholic institutions and so many other nonprofits, businesses and government entities – people who are keeping our City together day in and day out. From the bottom of my heart I offer you my thanks – and ask all of you to show your gratitude as well [ask for applause].
Among our Catholic institutions, we all know we have a giant in our midst by the name of Bill McCarthy. Bill, under your leadership, Catholic Charities continues to be the largest nonprofit social service provider in the City and the entire state of Maryland, and we can’t imagine where we would be without the myriad services your programs provide. We are thrilled to have so many of those program directors, workers, volunteers – and clients – here with us tonight, and salute you all for your service to Baltimore.
But again, there are so many others represented here tonight who quietly bring hope and comfort to those most in need in our City. As you saw from both the video and the beautiful banners in the foyer, there are countless other programs such as those operated by St. Vincent de Paul, the Caroline Center, the Franciscan Center, hundreds of parish and school neighborhood ministries, outreach programs run by various religious orders, and so many others, who serve in every neighborhood in Baltimore, every day. Our 45 parishes, 17 elementary and high schools, three Catholic hospitals and three Catholic universities, continue to sustain the 230 years of service the Catholic Church has devoted to the City. Frankly, it is hard to imagine what the City of Baltimore would be like without the presence of the Church. Rest assured that I will do everything in my power as the Archbishop of Baltimore to continue to find the resources needed to maintain and even increase that service, and hope we can continue to rely on the support of all of all of our partners to support our efforts together to lift up our City.
It is so clear that the answer to our challenges can only come about through joining hearts, hands, and voices to support our City. I think of just one small example here in our Mt. Vernon and Charles Street neighborhood, where many Catholic entities are meeting regularly with so many iconic institutions all within blocks of each other – the Enoch Pratt Library, the Walters Museum, the Peabody Institute, Annie Casey, Downtown Partnership and so many others to share common concerns and successes, and in particular, to seek together solutions for how best to reach out to our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
Another new project with great local potential is the partnership between Nativity Parish in Timonium and the Southwest Partnership to renovate and staff a local recreation center, supported generously by funds raised by the parish and hundreds of volunteers.
One block, one neighborhood at a time, we can turn this City around if we only believe in the power of working hand in hand.
As we look ahead to the New Year, there is much on the horizon to celebrate. We are well along the road to opening in September 2021 the first new Catholic elementary school in the City in nearly 60 years. We are so grateful to the countless donors who have helped us raise the nearly $25 million needed to build and sustain the school, and to provide the financial assistance to ensure accessibility to the school for families of all economic backgrounds. Thanks to them, the new Mother Mary Lange Catholic School offers the promise of bringing a state-of-the-art educational facility, along with many surrounding services, to close to 500 children in the community along the Martin Luther King corridor in the heart of our City. We are grateful as well to the members of the General Assembly for their support of the state-funded BOOST scholarship program, which will be a lifeline to so many families attending the new school.
We also look forward to showcasing our City and our schools to the thousands of Catholic school educators and administrators from around the country who will attend the annual National Catholic Educational Association convention this April at the City’s convention center. We hope many of you will join us during the convention as we welcome the nation’s Catholic school community to the City where the Catholic school system in the United States first began.
I’d also like to make it abundantly clear how urgently we recognize the need to support the future of ALL school children in Baltimore, most especially those attending our public schools, during this year’s legislative session in Annapolis. None of us should rest until every child in this City, regardless of what school they attend or where they live, has the opportunity to attend excellent, safe and well-resourced schools that meet their individual needs.
We cannot achieve this goal without increased investment in our City’s public school students and teachers, coupled with sound measures of accountability. To that end, we pledge our full and vocal support to measures recommended by the Kirwan Commission that promise to achieve those goals. We stand ready to be champions and enthusiastic partners to our public schools in advocating for their interests in Annapolis in the coming weeks.
In closing, I ask all of you, to do two things. First, I urge you to share the good news you’ve heard tonight. Let people know about the tremendous good going on in Baltimore – in our Catholic institutions, and among so many others who believe in our City.
And finally, regardless of your faith tradition, I ask you to consider the importance of relying on a power that transcends our individual human nature in achieving the dreams we all share for peace and justice in our City. I firmly believe that the quiet faith that inspires so many large and small good works in our City has been – and will be – the ultimate saving grace that brings us forward. May each of us keep alive that Faith in Baltimore throughout 2020, and for many generations to come.