Catholic Voice Update | March 2, 2021 - Maryland Catholic Conference

Catholic Voice Update | March 2, 2021

BOOST Applications May Open Soon


While we continue to advocate with the General Assembly to expand funding for the popular BOOST scholarships (thank you to everyone who sent our BOOST action alert!), we also anticipate that the Maryland State Department of Education will open up the application process as early as this week. They have done this in prior years, even before the budget was set, so applications could be received and reviewed in time for parents to enroll their children in a school.

“Maryland families want and need more funds for BOOST,” said Maryland Catholic Conference Deputy Director Garrett O’Day, the lead BOOST advocate for the Conference. “It is a very small part of the overall budget, but one that has an incalculable impact on the lives of low-income children and families by empowering them with educational options they did not have before. BOOST is an important complement to the world-class education system Maryland is building, particularly for low-income and minority kids.”

BOOST recipients include children from 21 of 24 Maryland counties. The average household income for a BOOST family is under $36,000. 

Featured Legislation


The Maryland General Assembly’s session is more than halfway over and days are packed with hearings.

Prenatal Grant Program Hearing

Last week, Melissa Pelaez, a parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown, provided compelling personal testimony regarding the benefits of prenatal care in a hearing for Senate Bill 777, the Maryland Prenatal and Infant Care Grant Program Fund, which we highlighted last week.

This bill would expand funding for prenatal care and allow federally qualified health centers, such as Catholic hospitals, to participate in the grant program. As many as 30 percent of women in Maryland receive inadequate prenatal care according to recent data, with those numbers much worse for Black and Latina mothers.

Mrs. Pelaez became pregnant after marrying in 2016. She found a Johns Hopkins prenatal mobile clinic near her that offered pregnancy testing and prenatal care, and she applied for financial aid. “It gave me peace of mind because it was something I didn’t have to worry about,” she said. The program included a range of services, including wellness checks and information on what mothers will need, from diapers to car seats, to help mothers and babies thrive.

Juvenile Justice Reform

Senate Bill 853, sponsored by Senator Jill Carter (D-41) and supported by the Conference, would enact new measures to shift the focus on juveniles accused of crimes from retribution to restorative justice. Among the bill’s proposals, the minimum age to file criminal charges would be raised to age 13. The bill also provides for the use of alternative remedies and rehabilitation, and the development of model policies for youth diversion. In the House of Delegates, the bill (HB 1187) is sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger (D-46).

Legal Representation for Immigrants

The Conference is submitting testimony in support of House Bill 750. “Our legal system rests upon the principle that everyone is entitled to due process of law and a meaningful opportunity to be heard,” said MJ Kraska, associate director for social and economic justice advocacy.

He notes that this bill would ensure a right to legal representation in some immigration proceedings and calls for a coordinator in the Attorney General’s office to manage resources and services, ensuring covered individuals have this access. The coordinator also would designate community-based organizations to provide outreach and education.

Testimony on bills is posted after the hearings here.

On Pilgrimage for Women's History Month

Maryland may be a small state, but it is one with a deep history of saintly women. The first saint born in the United States, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, ministered here, as did Servants of God Mother Mary Lange and Mary Virginia Merrick, both of whom are in the canonization process.

Why not make a mini-pilgrimage (in-person or virtually) to the sites where they prayed, during Women’s History Month? (Please check websites before visiting regarding access, or to make a virtual pilgrimage.)

Stop 1: St. Mary’s Spiritual Center & Historic Site, 600 N. Paca St., Baltimore

“Paca Street,” as it’s known, is not only the headquarters for the Sulpician priests and home of the original St. Mary’s Seminary, but the birthplace of three congregations of women religious: Sisters of Charity; Oblate Sisters of Providence; and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Mich. and Pa.).

The existing Seton House was Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s first Maryland home, in 1808, and the place where she decided to take vows as a religious. The historic church was the faith home to Servant of God Mother Mary Lange. A Caribbean immigrant and woman of color, she was encouraged in her deep faith by Sulpician Father James Joubert to found the first religious order for women of African descent, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, in 1829.

Stop 2: National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg

It was here after her year in Baltimore that Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Sisters of Charity, the first religious order for women religious in the United States, and the Catholic school that became the seed for Catholic education in the US. The extensive shrine includes a Basilica with her tomb, museum and historic buildings from her life in Emmitsburg.

Stops 3 & 4: St. Paul, Ellicott City, and Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Washington, DC (on the DC-MD line)

Servant of God Mary Virginia Merrick, founder of the National Christ Child Society, has ties to Ellicott City and Chevy Chase. “Miss Mary” spent summers at a family home in Ellicott City, where a fall as a teenager in 1880 resulted in lifelong paralysis. Her disability never stopped her from a life dedicated to helping children. A window at St. Paul, Ellicott City, was commissioned by her in memory of her father. As an adult, she lived in Chevy Chase and attended daily Mass at Blessed Sacrament, where she sat near the statue of the Blessed Mother that is at the front right of the church. (Please check parish websites before visiting in person due to COVID restrictions.)

Join Sr. Marilyn Bouchard in Prayer

The Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Salisbury also has had Maryland roots from its founding in 1974. This week the superior, Sr. Marilyn Bouchard, LSJM, leads us in praying for our state elected officials. The sisters’ ministry, The Joseph House, provides critical support for people in need on the Eastern Shore, including financial assistance with utilities, rent, etc.; food pantry; soup kitchen (suspended during COVID); and a day shelter and other programs for the homeless.

Join Sr. Marilyn by clicking the image above or visiting 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) every Monday at 10 a.m.

Of Note

In the news: Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore was featured in the Baltimore Sun last week. The parish, led by its pastor, Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR, is on the front lines of the COVID vaccine effort within the immigrant community, and the site of a pop-up vaccination clinic.

National advocacy alert: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued an action alert regarding the COVID relief bill before the US Senate. The House version would allow COVID funds to be used for abortion. The alert asking that the Hyde Amendment policy preventing this be included in the legislation. You can send an alert here

Prayers: Please keep in prayer the adults coming into the Catholic Church at Easter. Lent marks the final stage in their journey. The Archdiocese of Washington announced that more than 800 people are preparing to become Catholic during the Easter Vigil; many more also will in the (arch)dioceses of Baltimore and Wilmington.


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