Maryland Catholic Conference

2021 General Assembly

Prayer | Testimony | Catholic Advocacy Network

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    BOOST & MD 529 Match Deadlines and More


    In this issue: New bishop, BOOST and Maryland 529 Match deadlines in May, and Foster Care Month

     

    New Bishop for Wilmington

    Pope Francis appointed a new Bishop of Wilmington last week to succeed Bishop W. Francis Malooly, who has led the diocese since 2008. A priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York, Bishop-elect William Koenig has been rector of the cathedral and vicar for clergy in that diocese.

    He has worked in parish ministry, vocations, and pastoral work with seminarians and clergy throughout his priesthood.

    “The Maryland Catholic Conference welcomes the appointment of Bishop-elect Koenig, who brings deep pastoral experience to Wilmington. We look forward to working with him as a member of our Board of Governors in our advocacy in the areas of economic and social justice, Catholic education and respect for life,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference.

    She added, “I want to thank Bishop Malooly for his leadership, kindness and support of the Maryland Catholic Conference. For the past 21 years he has shared his wisdom, insight and experience as a member of our Board of Governors. He will be greatly missed.”

    His episcopal ordination and Mass of Installation will be held in Wilmington on July 13. Bishop Malooly will serve as the apostolic administrator until that time.


    Maryland 529 Plans for K-12 Tuition

    You may be familiar with 529 savings plans that offer federal and state tax incentives for college tuition, but did you know that Maryland 529 plans also can be used to pay up to $10,000 annually in Catholic school tuition? And that Maryland will match up to $500 in contributions to a 529 plan through the State Contribution Program?

    The Maryland Senator Edward J. Kasemeyer College Investment Plan (MCIP), one of the state's 529 investment plans, can be used both for college tuition and for K–12 educational expenses, including tuition. In addition to federal tax benefits, Maryland taxpayers who contribute to an MCIP may be able to receive up to $2,500 in deductions off of their state adjusted gross income per beneficiary (so up to $5,000 if you set up 529 plans for two children, etc.).

    Learn more about the 529 program at the Maryland 529 website and download and share the flyer.

    Grandparents, godparents, friends and family can contribute to your child’s 529 and get tax benefits. Contributions can be as low as $25.

    Get a state $500 contribution match through May 31. The State of Maryland matches up to $500 through the 529 Match Program. Account holders must apply annually to receive the match and the beneficiary must be a Maryland resident. The account holder’s Maryland taxable income cannot exceed $112,500 as an individual or $175,000 as a married couple filing jointly (based on the previous taxable year). The deadline to apply for this year’s State Contribution Program is May 31, 2021.

    Note: Nothing herein constitutes tax advice. You should consult a tax professional for more information.


    BOOST Scholarship Deadline is May 17

    The deadline to apply for a state BOOST scholarship is coming up fast. Applications must be received by May 17. Scholarship funding for the fall academic year is 40 percent higher than the current year, thanks to the Maryland General Assembly approving the full $10 million that Governor Larry Hogan put in the state budget.

    Scholarships are income-based and applicants must have filed their 2020 federal income tax return or submit alternative documentation of income, if eligible to do so.

    Please encourage low-income families in your parish, family or neighborhood who might be interested to apply. Learn more and get a link to the state application (in English and Spanish) at www.marylandboost.org.


    May is National Foster Care Month

    More than 4,000 children in Maryland are in foster care. Many are survivors of abuse or neglect from their family of origin. When youth age out of foster care without a family, they are at increased risk of homelessness and 60 percent of trafficked youth come from the foster care system.

    Consider becoming a foster parent to provide these vulnerable children a stable, loving home or volunteer to help struggling families be able to stay together in a healthy way through programs such as Building Safe Families for Children.

    Check your diocesan news site soon for a column about foster care by Molly Sheahan, associate director for respect life advocacy and download English and Spanish resources, including intercessions and a blessing for those involved in foster care, plus bulletin announcements.


    Of Note 

    COVID Vaccines: All Marylanders, age 16 and older, are eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine. New sites have been added around the state and getting an appointment is easier than ever. Visit the Maryland COVID Link website to find locations near you, schedule an appointment at a mass vaccination site, get answers to common questions and more.

    Tax Deadline: Federal tax returns for 2020 must be filed by May 17, 2021 and Maryland tax returns by July 15, 2021.

    Join the Marathon of Prayer this May: In this month of Mary, Pope Francis has invited shrines around the world to pray the rosary daily, at 6 p.m. Rome time (12 noon here), in a “marathon” of prayer for an end to the pandemic and the ability to return to a regular life. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, will lead the rosary on May 17. See the daily intentions and shrines here and the liturgical guide to join in this international prayer effort.

    Year of the Eucharist: Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori has called for a Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Read his pastoral letter and explore the many resources to help “connect with the Lord and experience his never-ending light.”

    Laudato Si’ Week: Laudato Si’ Week 2021 will be celebrated May 16-24. Learn more about daily observances at the Laudato Si’ Week website and consider using the discussion guide from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to reflect upon this encyclical and our call to care for creation.

    Celebrating Mother’s Day times five: As we wish all mothers a blessed Mother’s Day, we share this heartwarming story of the Eze family, who just had quintuplets – yes, five babies – baptized at St. Matthias in Lanham. The little ones also have a big sister. The babies were born at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, which has the state’s largest neonatal intensive care unit and delivers more babies than any other hospital in the state. Read the story in the Catholic Standard.  

    Finally, please keep in your prayers our school graduates and the new priests who will be ordained in May and June here in Maryland.


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    Maryland Catholic Conference Congratulates New Bishop-Elect of Wilmington

    The Maryland Catholic Conference congratulates Bishop-elect William Koenig, whom Pope Francis today appointed as the new Bishop of Wilmington. The diocese includes the eastern shore of Maryland. He succeeds Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

    “The Maryland Catholic Conference welcomes the appointment of Bishop-elect Koenig, who brings deep pastoral experience to Wilmington. We look forward to working with him as a member of our Board of Governors in our advocacy in the areas of economic and social justice, Catholic education and respect for life,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference.

    Bishop-elect Koenig has worked in parish ministry, vocations, and pastoral work with seminarians and clergy in the Diocese of Rockville Centre throughout his priesthood.

    Kraska said, “I want to thank Bishop Malooly for his leadership, kindness and support of the Maryland Catholic Conference. For the past 21 years he has shared his wisdom, insight and experience as a member of our Board of Governors. He will be greatly missed.”

    __

    The Diocese of Wilmington has set up a webpage here for the transition. Bishop-elect Koenig will be ordained as a bishop and installed as Bishop of Wilmington at a Mass on July 13, 2021. The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington was established in 1868 and comprises 56 parishes, 18 missions and 27 schools serving the State of Delaware and the nine counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There are over 240,000 Catholics in the diocese.

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    Session Wrap Up | April 16, 2021


    Session Round Up

    It was a wild end of session as both the Senate and House of Delegates convened on-site in Annapolis, working through the weekend and until midnight this past Monday to negotiate and vote. Their presence in town was notable after three months of Zoom hearings.

    The legislators tackled major issues, from an override of the Kirwan Commission veto, which means a significant expansion of funds for Maryland schools (including funding for non-public pre-kindergarten); scholarships for low-income families; police reform; juvenile justice; immigration; and new support for at-risk pregnant and parenting women.

    Out of 2,771 bills introduced during the 90-day session, a minority of which were passed into law. Our staff has spent this week reviewing the final text of some of the bills as amendments came fast and furious in the final days.

    “We were uncertain how the session would turn out given the realities of COVID-19. That changed how everyone engaged with issues and each other. I’m really proud of the team at the Conference for adapting to the remote session and to parishioners who contacted legislators and responded when we sought people to testify. A lot of wonderful things came out of this session,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

    While we can’t go through all of the nearly 200 bills the Conference weighed in on, we wanted to thank everyone who participated in Advocacy Day and responded to our action alerts, and to share some of the highlights with you.



    BOOST scholarships: After intense debate, the BOOST Scholarship Program was fully funded in the state budget at $10 million for the 2021-22 school year (Operating Budget SB 492/HB 588). This is a 40 percent increase over last year and the highest funding since the program’s introduction in 2016.  Families with low incomes in 2020 are encouraged to apply as soon as possible! The deadline is May 17 (2020 tax returns must be completed) so time is short.

    Support for non-public schools: Two programs, the Nonpublic Aging Schools Program and the Nonpublic Safety Improvements Program (Capital Budget SB 492/HB 590) were funded at $3.5 million each. Another $6 million was allocated for the Nonpublic Textbook and Technology Programs (Operating Budget SB 491/HB 588) for the upcoming year.

    Repeal of life without parole for juveniles: Individuals charged while under 18 years old and sentenced to life in prison will now be eligible to go before a parole board after 20 years to seek a shorter sentence (SB 494 / HB 409).


    RELIEF Act: In response to the devastation the pandemic has had on low-income Marylanders, the RELIEF Act expands the Earned Income Tax Credit, repeals taxes on unemployment benefits, and provides a state stimulus payment, among other provisions.

    Environment: The passage of SB 674/HB 1207 means meaningful reforms to the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, while SB 121/HB 51 requires an environmental justice analysis for certain zoning requests, and a mandate for the Commission to recommend strategies for oversight of local zoning decisions that have environmental justice concerns.

    Homeless services: The Mobile Laundry for the Homeless Pilot Program (HB 189) will provide funding for non-profit organizations to develop free mobile laundry services for individuals and families who are homeless, which addresses their human dignity.

    Housing: The Right to Counsel bill, to ensure that low-income tenants have legal representation in eviction proceedings (HB 16), passed. Unfortunately, the companion funding bill did not so this is an unfunded mandate, but a good step in the right direction.

    Immigration: The legislature approved and funded a new Governor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs (SB 85/HB 15), to develop neighborhood-based centers for immigrant services, assist in combatting crimes against immigrants and supporting civic and economic participation among immigrant communities. SB 478/HB 16, the Dignity Not Detention Act, passed, prohibiting the State or any local jurisdiction from entering into agreements facilitating immigration-related detention by private entities.

    Legal services funding: Funding for the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (SB 413/HB 514) was expanded from $2 million to $8 million. The funds come from unclaimed money from judgments of restitution. The Legal Services organization works with non-profits to support legal aid programs statewide.

    Police reform: An important part of the discussion on police reform was SB 74/HB 88, which requires law enforcement agencies to provide officers access to confidential mental health services, such as counseling, peer support, crisis counseling and stress management.

    Diaper donation tax credit: Marylanders may receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 for donations of diapers or feminine hygiene products (or funds for these products) made to pregnancy centers, diaper banks and shelters that distribute these items to families in need (SB 622/HB711). Over 50,000 of the state’s infants and toddlers live in low-income families.

    Pre-natal care grant expansion: The state’s Prenatal and Infant Care Grant Program is being expanded to $1.1 million in 2023 and up to $3.1 million in 2025 (SB 777/HB 1349). Hospitals and qualified health centers, including Catholic providers, are now eligible for grants to be used solely for prenatal care to help ensure a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby. This program will be especially important for low-income mothers who are less likely to receive adequate prenatal care.

    Perinatal hospice information: Unfortunately, SB 891/HB 1112, legislation to require easy access to information on perinatal hospice services for parents facing a terminal diagnosis for their unborn child did not pass this session, the first year it was introduced. However, the bill, drafted by Maryland Catholic Conference staff, had a very strong showing for a first year and received widespread interest and bipartisan support so we are looking forward to continue to advocate for families in this difficult situation.


    Pray with Mother Mary Lange

    The staff of the Maryland Catholic Conference placed its work under the intercession of Mother Mary Lange throughout the session. In fact, throughout the year, we start our staff meetings praying for her beatification. As we wrap up the session’s work, we invite you to join us in praying to this holy woman whose deep Catholic faith transformed her adopted city of Baltimore and, in many ways, our Church nationally. Mother Mary Lange, pray for us.

    Prayer for the Beatification of Mother Mary Lange

    O Almighty and Eternal God,

    You granted Mother Mary Lange extraordinary trust in Your providence.

    You endowed her with humility, courage, holiness and an extraordinary sense of service to the poor and sick.

    You enabled her to found the Oblate Sisters of Providence and provide educational, social and spiritual ministry especially to the African American community.

    Mother Lange’s love for all enabled her to see Christ in each person, and the pain of prejudice and racial hatred never blurred that vision.

    Deign to raise her to the highest honors of the altar in order that, through her intercession, more souls may come to a deeper understand and a more fervent love of You.

    Heavenly Father, glorify Your heart by granting also this favor (mention your request) which we ask through the intercession of Your faithful servant, Mother Mary Lange. Amen.


    Of Note 

    The Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a today opposing the FDA’s decision to expand access to chemical abortion pills by not enforcing the “in-person dispensing” requirement in place since the presidency of Bill Clinton. 

    Novena for Moms in Need starts April 19: Join Catholics across the U.S. for a Novena for Moms in Need. The St. Gianna Novena starts on Monday, April 19. Get the details, resources and more here on the USCCB website. 

    Earth Day: April 22 is Earth Day and a great opportunity to reflect upon Laudato Si: Caring for Our Common Home, the landmark encyclical from Pope Francis. Starting in May, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will launch the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, engaging the Church in a journey to sustainability. Read the encyclical and use the resources here

    April is Child Abuse Prevention Month: The (arch)dioceses serving Maryland have had child protection policies in place for decades. These include mandated prevention education, reporting and background checks, as well as pastoral care. Learn more here about statewide efforts, join Cardinal Wilton Gregory for a Mass on April 21, 12 noon (live-streamed here), and learn the signs of abuse and tips for prevention from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.


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    Catholic Voice Update | April 5, 2021


    Countdown to Sine Die

    Sine die - the adjournment of the Maryland General Assembly session - is almost here. The legislature will wrap up its regular session next Monday, April 12.

    “This final week can become very intense as the House of Delegates and Senate advocate for bills and try to work out solutions to their differences,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director for the Maryland Catholic Conference.

    “Most of the legislation we have advocated for remains active. This includes police reform, juvenile justice, immigration, pregnancy support, housing, and more. We are being very vigilant as bills move through conference committees and votes,” she added.

    “The most important thing Maryland Catholics can do this week is keep the work of the General Assembly in their prayer intentions. One easy way to do this is to pray along with Archbishop Lori, who is our video prayer leader this week. We also encourage prayers to Servant of God Mother Mary Lange.”

    We will have a session wrap up in an upcoming Catholic Voice email so stay tuned. Both chambers did vote last week to drop the official Maryland state song. Written during the Civil War, “Maryland, My Maryland” became the state's official song in 1939. The Catholic Review took a look at the issue from a Catholic perspective.


    Pray with Archbishop Lori

    The Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the Board of Governors of the Maryland Catholic Conference, offers a message and prayer for the General Assembly in this final week of session.

    Click the image above or visit our prayer page, where you can access all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer (in English and Spanish). The prayer also is posted on Twitter and Facebook (@mdcatholic) on Monday at 10 a.m.


    Support for Seafarers

    The Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay mean shipping and fishing are major industries for Maryland. The Catholic Church has an active apostolate of prayer and support for the workers. A partnership of several organizations, including the Stella Maris National Office and the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking, of which the Conference is a member, has just released new resources:

     


    Of Note: Celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday

    Divine Mercy Sunday, when we focus in a special way on God’s mercy, is next week. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a number of resources for the observance, including the origins of this devotion from private revelations to Polish Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.

    Just last year, Pope Francis said in his homily for Divine Mercy Sunday:

    “At one time, the Saint, with satisfaction, told Jesus that she had offered him all of her life and all that she had. But Jesus’ answer stunned her: ‘You have not offered me the thing is truly yours.’ What had that holy nun kept for herself? Jesus said to her with kindness: ‘My daughter, give me your failings’ (10 October 1937). We too can ask ourselves: ‘Have I given my failings to the Lord? Have I let him see me fall so that he can raise me up?’ Or is there something I still keep inside me? A sin, a regret from the past, a wound that I have inside, a grudge against someone, an idea about a particular person… The Lord waits for us to offer him our failings so that he can help us experience his mercy.”

    The Divine Mercy devotion was particularly dear to Pope Saint John Paul II; he canonized the Polish Sr. Faustina on April 30, 2000. In celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday you can celebrate by making a favorite dessert of the Holy Father, Papieska kremowka (“Papal” cream cake).


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