Amen: No place like the Archdiocese of Baltimore

October 19, 2016

By Paul McMullen

pmcmullen@CatholicReview.org

Between writing jobs in the early 1980s and considering teaching, the family trade, I had the privilege of coaching the distance runners for Old Mill High School in Millersville.

Ron Evans, the head track and field coach, outfitted his boys and girls in what he called “brag shirts,” which listed the many years in which they had won state team championships.

It is not his style, but 10 days in September had me thinking that Archbishop William E. Lori could make his own brag shirts, highlighting the individuals, institutions and outreaches unique to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Schools events bookended the stretch, the first a Sept. 7 breakfast touting the Partners in Excellence scholarship program. While the news was a $1 million gift from Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, the takeaways included appreciation for the vocal talents of the children of Cardinal Shehan School and a man old enough to be their great-grandfather.

The honored guest was Raymond A. “Chip” Mason, a giant in financial and philanthropic circles, which includes helping launch the PIE program 20 years ago. Chatting up Chip, it was fascinating to learn that he was born in Lynchburg, Va., in the heart of the Bible Belt, and wasn’t exposed to Catholic schools until his father died and he moved to Bethlehem, Pa.

Raise your hand, meanwhile, if you were in the throng waiting to enter Kelly Field at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson Sept. 16, for the 15th annual Bernie Reif Cup, its soccer showcase against Archbishop Curley High. Nearly 3,000 saw the Cardinals’ 2-1 victory.

Sept. 9 had us at St. Peter Claver in Sandtown-Winchester, where the archbishop led a prayer walk for peace and took in a listening session in which calls to action outnumbered laments about 5-to-1, with Cassie Boykin of St. Gregory the Great getting in the last word.



Josephite Father Ray P. Bomberger, pastor of St. Peter Claver and St. Pius V, left, Deacon Willard Witherspoon, Bishop Denis J. Madden, community activist Ray Kelly and Archbishop William E. Lori lead members of the community in prayer during the Prayer Walk for Peace in West Baltimore Sept. 9. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

“Despite the murders and violence, there are a lot of people fighting for justice and peace,” Boykin said. “Only the Holy Spirit could bring religious leaders and politicians and people together, to resurrect this city.”

Out for a buoyant jog the next morning, I bumped into Ben, the unofficial greeter of Bauernschmidt Manor on Middle River. The therapy dog is not on the payroll, but he is an asset of Catholic Charities of Baltimore.

There are 20 metropolitan areas in the U.S. larger than Baltimore, but its Catholic Charities is the third-largest in the nation, which speaks to the outsize ambition here – and the outsize need.

There remain people who are homeless or hungry, citizens and newcomers alike who are frightened, and unborn who are endangered. We are also awash, however, in the Holy Spirit that Cassie Boykin invoked.

Never underestimate the challenges in our community, nor the opportunities therein. The October issue of the Review was the largest issue the Catholic Review has produced since we went to a monthly format last December, but it will never be thick enough to contain all of the Good News occurring in the archdiocese.

This piece started with an athletic reference, and will end with one. Lately I’ve made my newsroom mantra a phrase popularized by Jack Harbaugh, whose offspring include John, the coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

“Who’s got it better than us?” 

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