By Maureen Cromer
As the Hispanic choir from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Columbia sang in both English and Spanish, many attendees of the 37th annual Archdiocesan Social Ministry Convocation stood to dance along with them.
The annual convocation, with a theme of “Care for our Common Home,” was held at The Seton Keough High School in Baltimore March 5. Borrowing its theme from “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, attendees took part in a social ministry fair and a solidarity walk.
Dr. Carolyn Woo, president and CEO of Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services, gave the keynote address.
Woo, who will be a keynote speaker at the third Annual Voices of Faith event in Rome March 8, informed the crowd of about 250 that “Laudato Si” means “praise be to you.”
“This earth is God’s greatest gift to us,” Woo said. “It is the only home we have. We breathe the air, we eat the food, the soil sustains us.”
Woo described Laudato Si as a document outlining our relationships on this earth. Our relationship with God, to our neighbors, to the earth – they are all interconnected.
“We must live a simple life,” Woo said. “Buy less, use less, recycle. Because this home is all we have and we must protect it.”
Bishop Dennis J. Madden, an auxiliary for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, presided over a closing prayer service and presented awards.
Twenty four parish leaders were recognized. In addition, the Doris Johnson Award went to Rosemary Thompson, the International Peace and Justice Award went to Molly Corbett and the John Hook Award went to Marge Trenkle.
A parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Columbia, Trenkle received an honor that goes to an individual who has shown an outstanding, lifelong commitment to social justice ministry through a parish setting.
A longtime member of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Trenkle has assisted with many social justice efforts, including prison ministry; ministry to a returning citizen; and hosting interfaith dinners and activities for those in need of affordable, adequate housing in Howard County.
“It’s a recognition of all the people who have worked so hard,” Trenkle said. “I am just a representative of all those who work for social ministry and social justice. The people that I work with, both the people that we serve and the people that work with me, are such witnesses to the Gospel.”
A retired Baltimore City schoolteacher, Trenkle hopes to bring more resources to underprivileged students, in both the city and the state. She is currently working with My Brother’s Keeper, an outreach based in Irvington, to start a homework club. Trenkle is also working to connect students with technology.
Asked how she plans to continue her work in social ministry, Trenkle said, “We just need to feel the sense of being loved by God, and act out of that.”