If Ray Kelly can turn things around, so can Baltimore City.
That was among the takeaways Jan. 15 at Center Stage, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Catholic Charities of Baltimore were host to a “Faith in Baltimore” program that highlighted the impact of Catholic institutions in the city, with Archbishop William E. Lori noting, in a play on words, that “we are the Archdiocese for Baltimore.”
Kelly, vice chair of the Executive Committee at St. Peter Claver in Sandtown and lead community liaison for the Consent Decree Monitoring Team, was the inaugural recipient of the Faith in Baltimore Award.
His history includes dealing drugs and serving a prison sentence for his involvement in a murder conspiracy. Kelly has been clean since 2008, however, and a positive influence in the community, first as the founder of the No Boundaries Coalition, now as a leader in the reform of policing in the city.
The award, Kelly said, “recognizes my commitment to walking in the way of our Lord, as best I can. I may have been a late bloomer, but I am thankful for the seed of faith planted in me so many years ago.”
“The foundation of all the outreach I do,” he added later, “is modeled after the things I’ve been seeing done at St. Peter Claver since I was a child … Thankfully, I learned the lessons of ensuring the beatitudes, of taking care of those in our community in need.”
He was introduced by Josephite Father Ray Bomberger, his pastor, who earlier noted Kelly’s constant citing of the beatitudes, which Jesus delivered in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Ray spoke at last year’s (archdiocesan) Social Ministry Convocation, and he simply went through the beatitudes, to explain his approach,” Father Bomberger said. “It all flows from the Gospel. No matter what he does, Ray sees everything coming from his faith.
“He’s come a long way in his life.”
Addressing a gathering that included Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, other elected officials and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Archbishop Lori acknowledged the realities confronting the community.
“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. …
“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,” he continued. “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.”
Master of ceremonies William J. McCarthy Jr., executive director of Catholic Charities, offered multiple reminders of that legacy, starting with the historical footnote that Center Stage is on property that once housed what are now Loyola University Maryland and Loyola Blakefield.
A slideshow recounted the reach of Catholic schools, Catholic Charities programs and other institutions.
“Frankly, it is hard to imagine what the City of Baltimore would be like without the presence of the church,” Archbishop Lori said.
The “Faith in Baltimore” video that was presented at the Jan. 15 event follows. Story continues below.
He also emphasized support of public schools during the current Maryland General Assembly 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,” the archbishop said. “We cannot achieve this goal without increased investment in our city’s public school students and teachers, coupled with sound measures of accountability.”
The archbishop pledged “support to measures recommended by the Kirwan Commission that promise to achieve those goals.”
Guests climbing Center Stage’s Calvert Street steps heard the adult choir from Historic St. Francis Xavier Church, the oldest black Catholic parish in the United States, which had even caterers stepping outside to hear their voices.
Its leader is Kenyatta Hardison, better known as the teacher behind the Cardinal Shehan School choir, which makes another appearance on national TV Jan. 20, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on “The View.” Hardison closed the program with a solo rendition of “They’ll Know We Are Christians (by our love).”
Her students are among the more than 5,000 being educated at 17 Catholic schools in the city. The biggest contributor to that figure is Mount St. Joseph High School, whose president, George Andrews, chatted with Jesuit Father Timothy Brown of Loyola University Maryland, an old friend from Wheeling College in West Virginia.
“We’re all in this together,” Father Brown said.
That commitment will grow next year, with the scheduled opening of Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, the first Catholic school to open in the city in six decades.
The event included priests, educators, staff members and parishioners. Margaret Fulcher attended parish schools at St. Peter Claver and Historic St. Francis Xavier, and graduated from St. Frances Academy. A retired accountant and resident of Fells Point, Fulcher worships at St. Ignatius, on the same block as Center Stage.
“What I like is that I see a lot of outreach to people, whether they’re Catholic or not,” Fulcher said.
A video tribute to Ray Kelly follows.
Email Paul McMullen at pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org