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Most popular stories, commentaries and podcasts of 2021 on CatholicReview.org

Here are the most-read local stories, commentaries and podcasts on CatholicReview.org for 2021.

Local Stories

1. Our Lady of Victory School to close at the end of 2020-21 academic year (April 16, 2021)

Students at Our Lady of Victory School in Arbutus form the initials of their school’s name in an undated photo. (CR file/Courtesy Our Lady of Victory School)

Citing years of declining enrollment exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and a deficit approaching half a million dollars, leaders of Our Lady of Victory School in Arbutus announced April 16 that the Catholic elementary school will close at the end of the current school year.

— George P. Matysek Jr.

Read the full story here.

2. As he prepares to retire, Father Muth says welcoming is a hallmark of St. Matthew Parish (May 26, 2021)

Since his ordination as a priest in 1974, Father Joe Muth said his favorite part of parish ministry has been “suddenly and intimately” connected with people’s lives. 

“Somebody gets sick and somebody dies unexpectedly, even couples getting married or having babies baptized, you really get right into a couple’s or a family’s intimate, personal life and you really get to know them that way,” he said of his role as a parish priest. “Whether it’s a joyous occasion or a sorrowful occasion, they don’t know you, but they trust you with their emotions and their feelings and their story.”

— Christopher Gunty

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3. Archdiocese of Baltimore relaxes social distancing for Masses (May 14, 2021)

Catholics in Baltimore attend the episcopal ordination of Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski as a Baltimore auxiliary bishop at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen Aug. 18, 2020. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced May 13 that, effective immediately, parishes would be allowed to reduce social distancing in churches from 6 feet to 3 feet between congregants from different households.

The move came after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order May 9 lifting capacity restrictions for houses of worship and another May 12 lifting remaining capacity restrictions for all other venues.

The announcement said that in light of these orders, “the Archdiocese of Baltimore is taking an incremental approach to increasing the capacity of our churches..”

— Christopher Gunty

Ready the full story here.

4. Mount de Sales graduate elected a successor to Mother Angelica (Aug. 18, 2021)

Mother Mary Paschal of the Lamb of God, pictured in 2011, was elected abbess of the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Alabama July 29, 2021. She is a graduate of Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville. (Courtesy Amy Donahue)

When Theresa Buck was still in high school at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, she took a standardized assessment test meant to give some indication of the kind of career that would best suit her talents, personality and interests.

Topping the list of potential careers, according to the assessment? Ministry as a nun.

An exercise completed more than two decades ago turned out to be more than prescient. Not only did the former parishioner of St. Agnes in Catonsville enter the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration at the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in rural Alabama, she has now been entrusted with leadership of the internationally known monastery.

Buck, whose religious name is Mother Mary Paschal of the Lamb of God, was elected abbess July 29, taking on the same post that was once held by Mother Angelica, founder of both the monastery and the global Catholic communications network known as EWTN.

— George P. Matysek Jr.

Read the full story here.

5. Archdiocese of Baltimore cuts staff to balance budget (Feb. 15, 2021)

The Catholic Center is located in downtown Baltimore.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Feb. 10 the elimination of 25 positions at the Catholic Center, its administrative headquarters in downtown Baltimore. Among the positions, 14 were vacant and will not be filled; 11 people were laid off, although some may be transferred to other positions within the archdiocese. 

All those laid off will be offered a severance package of up to 20 weeks’ pay, health insurance through the severance period and outplacement assistance. The layoffs will be effective Feb. 26.

— Christopher Gunty

Read the full story here.

6. Archdiocese of Baltimore schools issue mask guidance for fall (Aug. 16, 2021)

Students at St. Augustine School in Elkridge wear masks as they participate in an outdoor religion class March 2021. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore Department of Catholic Schools issued guidelines Aug. 16 for mask usage for the opening of schools this fall.

A memo to parents and guardians notes that Catholic schools in the archdiocese operate in nine jurisdictions/counties within Maryland. All the jurisdictions within the archdiocese except Garrett County have at least one Catholic school. 

“Over the past 30 days, all jurisdictions have experienced the impact of the COVID-19 delta variant. The result of that impact has been an increase in positive cases across all age groups, with nearly 20 percent of the cases found in individuals between 0-19 years of age,” the memo said.

All archdiocesan Catholic schools will follow the case count in the county or Baltimore City in which the school is located, regardless of where the student lives. 

— By Christopher Gunty

Read the full story here.

7. New policy: No contribution needed for annulment cases in Baltimore Archdiocese (Aug. 10, 2021)

Dominican Father D. Reginald Whitt, from left, Father Gilbert J. Seitz, judicial vicar and Father Hamilton Okoke, advocate, meet Aug. 5, 2021 in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Office of the Tribunal. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

The Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Baltimore will no longer request a contribution to process an annulment case. 

Archbishop William E. Lori implemented the policy change, which went into effect July 1. It was in response to a request by Pope Francis in 2015 to make the annulment process quicker and less expensive for couples. 

— Christopher Gunty

Read the full story here.

8. Hard hit by pandemic, St. Pius X Montessori Catholic School will close after current school year (March 26, 2021)

St. Pius X Montessori Catholic School in Rodgers Forge is pictured March 26, 2021, the day leaders announced that the school would be closing after the current academic year. (George P. Matysek/CR Staff)

Facing declining enrollment and financial difficulties, St. Pius X Montessori Catholic School in Rodgers Forge will close at the end of the 2020-21 school year, parish and school officials announced March 26.

The school was already struggling to attract students when the pandemic hit, the officials said.

“The daily operating costs and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have made the sustainability of our school impossible without going further into substantial debt and jeopardizing our ability to provide the quality Catholic education that our parents expect and our students deserve,” Father Jose “Jojo” Opalda, pastor of St. Pius X and St. Mary of the Assumption in Govans, wrote in a letter to parents.

— Tim Swift

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9. Approaching retirement, Monsignor Luca leaves monumental legacy of parish expansion and pastoral sensitivity (May 27, 2021)

Archbishop William E. Lori lifts a shovel as Monsignor Joseph Luca, pastor, applauds at a 2013 groundbreaking ceremony for a new activities center for St. Louis in Clarksville. (CR file)

As he prepares for his July 1 retirement and continues a two-decade, on-again-off-again battle with cancer, Monsignor Luca said all the physical improvements at St. Louis were the result of the “tremendous support and cooperation” of his parishioners. Although he described shepherding those projects to completion as “a real joy,” the mild-mannered priest said they aren’t what he considers the most important part of his priesthood.

“Yeah, we’ve had the opportunity to create a large campus with many wonderful new buildings,” said Monsignor Luca, who since 2018 has also led the 800-family parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Fulton as part of a single pastorate.

“But when it’s all said and done,” he said, “I don’t think people are going to care who did it. I think they’re going to care about who ministered to them in their time of spiritual need.”

— George P. Matysek Jr.

Read the full story here.

10. School Sisters of Notre Dame face challenge of closing facilities (Dec. 8, 2021)

The Schools Sisters of Notre Dame Villa Assumpta retirement community is a staple presence along North Charles Street in Baltimore County. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

During a property stewardship study conducted from 2012 to 2016, the provincial council decided to close the Maria Health Care Center at Villa Assumpta on North Charles Street. The sisters were moved to Stella Maris in Timonium in June. The council is still considering options for the remaining 40-plus sisters at Villa Assumpta. The facility is for sale and will close once the remaining sisters find a new home.

Two other convents, one in Canada and the other in Connecticut, are also closing. The sale of Notre Dame Convent in Ontario will be completed by the end of December. An international school will occupy the first two floors while sisters will move to leased space on the top two floors. The school is in keeping with the S.S.N.D. mission and it is hoped the sister residents will have some kind of ministry with the students, according to Sister Charmaine.

— Mary Tilghman

Read the full story here.


1. Welcome back to Mass: Five benefits of receiving the Eucharist (May 20, 2021)

Worshippers pray during a May 16, 2021, outdoor Mass at St. Stephen in Bradshaw. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)

Will the decline in Mass attendance which began as a health concern became a permanent habit? Will healthy and able-bodied individuals continue attending virtually or not all even after the pandemic?

These questions will be answered in the coming months, and it would be a shame if a decline in in-person Mass attendance was an outcome of the pandemic. While virtual Masses and spiritual communions were a wonderful way to bridge the gap, they do not represent the fullness of the sacrament.

The Year of Eucharist begins on the Feast of Corpus Christi and offers us an option to reflect on the immeasurable graces that flow from regular reception of Holy Communion

— Hanael Bianchi

Read the full commentary here.

2. You have something in common with Justin Tucker (Sept. 28, 2021)

Justin Tucker is a kicker for the Baltimore Ravens. (Tom McCarthy Jr./CR Staff)

The crowd was cheering as Justin Tucker got into position to take the kick. The distance the ball had to travel made a positive outcome seem impossible. But there’s always hope, and he’s quite a kicker.

Time seemed to pause as the football sailed toward the end zone, bounced off the goal post, and went over. History happened—and maybe a miracle—and the Ravens won the game.

You can’t watch a moment like that and not be full of awe. Justin Tucker, a practicing Catholic who makes the Sign of the Cross on the field, was born to kick—and kick far and accurately. When I see someone so clearly in their element, using talents given to them by God, I find myself thinking about how each person has a vocation.

God gives us gifts to use on this earth. He has something in mind for us that only we can do. God didn’t likely mean for you or me to kick a football that far and that way. But just as He gave Justin Tucker that ability, He gave us talents to use in certain ways that can have a dramatic impact on others’ lives.

— Rita Buettner

Read the full commentary here.

3. Celebrating St. Joseph the Worker – and all workers (April 30, 2021)

A painting by Gerard van Honthorst shows St. Joseph in his carpentry shop with the child Jesus. (CR file/public domain photo)

During this year that Pope Francis has dedicated to St. Joseph, let us ask this great saint’s intercession for our daily work of heart and hand. St. Joseph the Worker is an appealing role model for breadwinners seeking to balance the demands of the workplace with the vocation of establishing a secure, peaceful and faith-filled home. St. Joseph, who worked as carpenter and imparted his skills to Jesus, helps us understand the dignity of our daily work and the contribution God is calling us to make to our world and, indeed, to his Kingdom.

— Archbishop William E. Lori

Read the full commentary here.

4.Do you want to be a saint? Seven daily habits for the new year (Jan. 11, 2021)

If you want to be a successful athlete, you have to spend years practicing, working out and learning the game. If you want to be a star musician, you also need to spend hour after hour practicing, working on the craft and learning music theory. You need a plan, strong work ethic and determination to be successful. You cannot just desire to be an athlete or musician.

Everyone wants to be a better person. Everyone tries to be good, but no progress towards holiness will be made without a plan. My personal experience is that without making an intentional effort towards holiness, my spiritual life declines and I fall into sinful habits.

— Hanael Bianchi

Read the full commentary here.

5. Banana bread, coming home, lucky odometer numbers, and more (7 Quick Takes) (July 24, 2021)

We go through many bananas. Many of them we eat, and others go brown slowly as I say, “Don’t throw them away yet. I might make banana bread.” Then I never get around to making banana bread, and we have to discard the bananas.

This week, though, when I saw we had four bananas that were nearing the end of their time, I decided to make banana bread—and then actually followed through. The bread was delicious. I used this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, though I used chocolate chips instead of cinnamon. I’m not sure that’s technically an acceptable substitution, but it worked for us.

— Rita Buettner

Read the full commentary here.

6. Take me to Padre Pio (Aug. 10, 2021)

St. Padre Pio Shrine is located in the Landisville section of New Jersey. (Suzanna Molino Singleton/For the Catholic Review)

St. Padre Pio was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy. He was a priest and is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. He was born into a devout Catholic family and at the age of 5, consecrated himself to Jesus. He is noted for having the stigmata of Jesus’ wounds on his body: marks, bleeding and pain corresponding to the wounds Jesus suffered during crucifixion. Typically, many Italians are devoted to the saint and own Pio statues and icons.

In Jersey or Little Italy, take me to Padre Pio, where I will “pray, hope and don’t worry.”

— Suzanna Molino Singleton

Read the full commentary here.

7. Encountering Christ together through the synodal process (Oct. 6, 2021)

A newly established Archdiocesan Pastoral Council meets for the first time Sept. 14, 2019, at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City. (CR file)

The theme of the synodal process is threefold: “participation, communion, and mission.” It is designed to be neither a planning meeting nor a platform for agendas but rather a time of prayerful listening and discernment, reaching out to those who currently participate in the Church’s life as well as those who do not.

The diocesan phase will include meetings in our pastorates and regional meetings. It will also involve religious communities, healthcare ministry and higher education, to name a few. This process will culminate in a diocesan level gathering sometime early in the spring of 2022. Bishop Bruce A. Lewandowski, together with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and members of the archdiocesan Senior Leadership Team, will oversee the process. 

— Archbishop William E. Lori

Read the full commentary here.

8. Divine cancel culture (April 14, 2021)

Happily, though, there is such a thing as a “good” cancel culture. It does not originate on social media or the airwaves. Rather, the good cancel culture comes from the heart of God. It is the stunning truth that God, in his mercy and love, has cancelled our sins.

St. Paul puts it this way: “And you who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive, together with him, having forgiven all our trespasses, having cancelled the bond which stood against us … nailing it to the tree” (Col 2:13-14 RSV). Indeed, we celebrate this “divine cancel culture” with special solemnity and joy throughout Holy Week and Easter.

— Archbishop William E. Lori

Read the full commentary here.

9. ‘Petook: The Rooster Who Met Jesus’ makes Easter story accessible for children (April 1, 2021)

Parents looking to introduce their children to the Easter story in a loving, gentle way have a great resource in “Petook: The Rooster Who Met Jesus.”

Written by Caryll Houselander, Petook ostensibly tells the tale of a first-century rooster, his wife, Martha, and their brood of chicks.

Much of the religious symbolism contained in this book will be lost on younger readers. Even adults will have to read the tale multiple times to catch and appreciate all the biblical references and subtleties. The joy of this enchanting story, however, is that with every reading, new details emerge in word and image, giving parents repeated opportunities to open up conversations about faith with their children.

— George P. Matysek Jr.

Read the full commentary here.

10. St. Tarcisius and Reverence for the Eucharist (Aug. 4, 2021)

Elevation of the Eucharist is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Anthony’s Church in North Beach, Md., July 15, 2021. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Would you give your life to protect the Blessed Sacrament? St. Tarcisius, made this tremendous sacrifice, and today he is venerated as a great martyr.

During the Roman persecution of Valerian in the third century, Christians across the empire were arrested and killed for their faith. A group of imprisoned Christians sent a message to their community requesting to receive Holy Communion one last time before their execution.

St. Tarcisius, who was merely a boy, volunteered to carry the consecrated hosts to the prisoners as it was not safe for the clergy to visit those in prison. St. Tarcisius assumed that his young age would prevent any suspicion, but that proved not to be the case.

— Hanael Bianchi

Read the full commentary here.

Catholic Review Radio/Podcasts

1. So you’re getting a new priest? (June 27, 2021)

CatholicReview · June 27, 2021 | So you’re getting a new priest?

2. After his death at 21, Isaac Scharbach continues to touch lives (Aug. 15, 2021)

CatholicReview · Aug. 15, 2021 | After his death at 21, Isaac Scharbach continues to touch lives

3. Interview with an Exorcist (Oct. 24, 2021)

CatholicReview · Oct. 24, 2021 | Interview with an Exorcist

4. The Rosary (Oct. 17, 2021)

CatholicReview · Oct. 17, 2021 | The Rosary

5. The Year of the Eucharist (June 6, 2021)

CatholicReview · June 6, 2021 | Year of the Eucharist

6. Seminarians in the Archdiocese of Baltimore (March 28, 2021)

CatholicReview · Mar. 28, 2021 | Seminarians in the Archdiocese of Baltimore

7. Importance of Fathers/New book by Tony Pagnotti (June 20, 2021)

CatholicReview · June 20, 2021 | Importance of Fathers/New book by Tony Pagnotti

8. The Eucharist; Changes at Catholic Review (Nov. 7, 2021)

CatholicReview · Nov. 7, 2021 | The Eucharist; Changes at Catholic Review

9. St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises (March 21, 2021)

CatholicReview · Mar. 21, 2021 | St. Ignatius Loyola and the Spiritual Exercises

10. Racism Coordinating Council and World Synod (Oct. 10, 2021)

CatholicReview · Oct. 10, 2021 | Racism Coordinating Council and World Synod

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