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What do the recent Supreme Court decisions say?

Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States issued a number of opinions at the end of this year's session that directly impact Catholic entities or have been followed closely by the Church. Our staff summarized the issues and what the decisions mean: 

Little Sisters of the Poor Win on Religious Freedom    

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a “contraceptive mandate” requiring the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptives in their healthcare plan against their religious and moral objections. After a number of challenges, these women religious made their third appearance at the Supreme Court earlier this year in a case about religious freedom and conscience protections. In a 7-2 decision in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the Court upheld the authority of a government agency to promulgate rules exempting employers with religious or moral objections from providing contraceptive coverage. The Little Sisters hope this will bring finality to their right to conscience protections on the issue.

Faith-Based Organizations May Employ Those Who Uphold Their Mission

In two cases consolidated into one for the Supreme Court’s decision, St. James School v. Biel and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, the Court upheld and expanded upon constitutional protections for faith-based organizations in employment decisions. In both cases, Catholic schools were sued by teachers for employment decisions made relative to whether the teachers were effectively carrying out the schools’ mission and identity as faith-based institutions. The Court had previously ruled that the “ministerial exception” could apply in instances where a person was in fact considered a “minister.”  In a 7-2 decision, the Court expanded upon that principle, ruling that faith-based schools may hire those who agree to carry out their faith mission and beliefs.

States Cannot Prevent Faith-Based Schools from Educational Choice Programs

Rooted in 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry, “Blaine Amendments” in state constitutions that prohibited aid to faith-based schools have been used to block state-funded assistance to families and faith-based schools. In Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, Ms. Espinoza, a single mother working three jobs, used a state-funded scholarship program to provide her children with the best education for their needs. The program was invalidated under Montana’s Blaine Amendment because it allowed families to choose a faith-based school. In a decision for educational choice and religious freedom, the Court invalidated the Blaine Amendment and ruled that it is unconstitutionally discriminatory for states to prohibit the participation of faith-based schools in state-funded programs simply due to their religious affiliation. Maryland does not have a Blaine Amendment.

Louisiana Abortion Regulations Struck Down

June Medical Services v. Russo dealt with a challenge to a Louisiana law requiring physicians to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to perform abortions. The Court held that its 2016 precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt applied. There, an almost identical Texas law was struck down as an unconstitutional impediment to abortion. Though Chief Justice Roberts disagreed with the 2016 decision, he indicated that he was bound by the principles of legal precedent in concurring in the 5-4 decision. 

DREAMERS Handed Victory in DACA Case

Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program has postponed the deportation of those brought into the United States as children. The program was created largely to ensure that students (a/k/a “DREAMERS”) who were by and large raised in the United States could continue their education and not be subject to deportation. In Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, the Court considered whether it was lawful for the current administration to phase out the DACA Program. The Court ultimately decided that the current administration did not have the authority to phase out the program in the manner that it did, and the program was thus upheld. 

Clean Water Act Victory for Environmental Conservation

An environmental case of interest here in Maryland also was decided. In County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, the Court considered the just how far the Clean Water Act was intended to go toward protecting oceans and other navigable waters from harmful waste discharge. In a 6-3 decision, the court upheld a significant expansion of the instances where a permit is required for pollutant discharge into those waters, thus further protecting against harmful pollutants finding their way into our waterways. 

 

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July 15: Taxes, Scholarships & Health Care!

July 15 deadline

 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 is an important deadline in three areas: 2019 taxes must be filed; it is the last day for uninsured Maryland residents to take advantage of a special window to enroll in health care and it is the deadline to apply for a Maryland state BOOST scholarship for your children to attend a non-public school this fall.

The state will be awarding $7.5 million in need-based scholarships. The application deadline was delayed due to the pandemic and change in tax filing date. The state has indicated plans to start reviewing applications later this month. 

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Maryland Bishops Release Letter on Racial Justice

racial justice letter

Building Bridges of Understanding and Hope

Download PDF: English | Spanish |
French | KoreanVietnamese 

 

June 15, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For centuries, our country and our State have been plagued with problems of racial inequality and injustice. Although many people have acted in good faith in service and prayer to bring about just change, to acknowledge the dignity of each life, and to love one another, our current crisis causes us to reflect on how much we still must do together to make impactful progress. We vividly recall our own Church’s past sins and failings and admit to them freely.

With regret and humility, we must recognize that as Catholic leaders and as an institution we have, at times, not followed the Gospel to which we profess and have been too slow in correcting our shortcomings. For this reason, it is incumbent upon us to place ourselves at the forefront of efforts to remove the inequalities and discrimination that are still present in Maryland and our nation today.

Despite our painful history, the Church in Maryland has been deeply enriched by the gifts of Black Catholics. We think of Mother Mary Lange, who founded the first Catholic school for Black children in the United States, in Baltimore in 1828. One year later, she founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious order for women of African descent. Today, she is a Servant of God, in the process to be canonized a Catholic saint, a cause for which all Catholics should pray.

Maryland is also home to the National Black Catholic Congress, which acts as a witness and guide to the realities of the Black Catholic experience across the United States. It is also home to the Josephite priests and brothers, whose mission is to serve the African American community.

At a time when school segregation, sadly, was the norm in Maryland, two of our predecessors – Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle and Cardinal Lawrence Shehan – began the process of desegregating Catholic schools and parishes.

On March 12, 1950, in a homily on race relations, then-Archbishop O’Boyle said, "Unless the full resources of the Church are placed at the disposal of every single member of the church and made available to every man, there is no Catholicism worthy of the name. Our Sacraments, and our societies, our Mass and mysteries of the Faith are a common possession. Just as God is Our Father What is Catholic is ours; it is all of us united as one."

This history provides the context for us today and should act to animate our prayers, thoughts and actions for an end, finally, to the sin of racism that remains with us and in us. The unjust killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans, and the subsequent protests, rallies and vigils that continue to take place make it clear that the conscience of our nation is on trial as questions of race and equality confront each and every one of us.

We must recognize that all of us share the same human nature and dignity because we are all created in the image and likeness of God; this is why human life is sacred. We call all people of good will to prayer to root out any hatred and animosity that has taken hold in one’s own heart. Inspired by Jesus’ command to “love one another as I love you” (John 15:12), we must seek to know and understand one another and to work to break down barriers through listening, prayer and a commitment to change hearts and minds.

However, prayer and dialogue, alone, are not enough. We must act to bring about true change. United, we seek healing, harmony and solutions that recognize that every person has been created in the image of God and that every person possesses human dignity. Over the years, the Catholic Bishops of Maryland have stood firmly in our support of laws that sought to bring about justice and an end to unequal treatment based on race.

This includes access to health and maternal care, meaningful educational opportunities, prison reforms, restorative justice initiatives, housing anti-discrimination efforts, juvenile justice reforms, and ending the grossly disparate practice of capital punishment. We commend the efforts of our state lawmakers to convene working groups to discuss legislative initiatives that are needed for reform, transparency, and racial equality. We look forward to playing an active part in these conversations on both a state and national level, and to lending our voices to those whose own have been stifled or altogether silenced by those who seek to quiet them.

We continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten the minds and hearts of our elected representatives so that truth and justice will prevail over the falsehoods of discrimination and injustice.

We pray that God will guide us during these difficult times and give us the courage to act with conviction in our duty to seek racial equality, heal divisions, and build bridges of understanding and hope.

In Christ,

Most Reverend William E. Lori                  
Archbishop of Baltimore
Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Washington
   
Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly
Bishop of Wilmington
Most Reverend Roy E. Campbell Jr.
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
   
Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville-Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
Most Reverend Michael W. Fisher
Auxiliary Bishop of Washington
   
Most Reverend Adam J. Parker
Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore
Most Reverend Denis J. Madden
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Baltimore
   
Bishop-designate Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR
Auxiliary Bishop-designate of Baltimore
 

 

 

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Ecuador needs our help with COVID relief

Ecuador covid relief

Ecuador needs our help. Join us in supporting our brothers and sisters in need today!

The Maryland Catholic Conference is joining with a coalition of leaders to send 20 tons of medical and cleaning supplies to help relieve the suffering from the coronavirus in our sister state of Ecuador.

Donation date extended to July 18!

Our brothers and sisters in Ecuador have suffered terribly from the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 40,000 confirmed cases and 3,500 deaths, more than any South American country except Brazil. The most populous city, Guayaquil, has been especially hard hit. Frontline workers are facing overwhelmed hospitals, little personal protective equipment, families are lacking access to health care, and the government is struggling to collect the bodies from the staggering death toll.

Our neighbors are in need, and we as the Catholic community want to reach out in solidarity. As the body of Christ, let's open our hearts to our sister state of Ecuador.

Collect Donations

Hospitals and frontline workers desperately need personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical and cleaning supplies including

  • Surgical or N95 masks
  • Exam and surgical gloves
  • Dishwashing gloves
  • Disposable and reusable surgical gowns
  • Face shields
  • Shoe covers
  • Vitamins (prenatal, kids, elderly)
  • Clorox wipes
  • Liquid bleach
  • Liquid soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant supplies
  • Unopened bedsheets
  • Unopened blankets
  • Unopened pillows


Supplies can be dropped off at the following business locations by July 14 (click the location for directions) 

Mr Car Locations


Toro Taxes
Silver Spring

An Ecuadorian military plane will deliver the donations on July 14; items must be dropped off prior to this date to make it on the plane.

Donate to the Ecuadent Foundation

You can make a secure donation through Paypal to the Ecuadent Foundation which is organizing these efforts. Ecuadent has directed medical missions to Ecuador for the past 30 years, providing excellent medical and dental care to impoverished children in the country. Each donation will go directly to providing medical supplies, cleaning supplies and food to those in need.

Relief supplies are being organized by a coalition including the Maryland Secretary of State, Ecuadent Foundation, Ecuadorian Consulate in D.C., Ecuadorian Armed Forces, Maryland’s Sister State Program and the Healing Hands Foundation.

Thank you for opening your hearts to our brothers and sisters in Ecuador. For more information, please contact Molly Sheahan at the Maryland Catholic Conference, molly@mdcatholic.org.


Ecuador necesita nuestra ayuda. ¡Acompáñanos a apoyar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas necesitados hoy!

La Conferencia Católica de Maryland se une a una coalición de líderes para enviar 20 toneladas de suministros médicos y de limpieza para ayudar a aliviar el sufrimiento del coronavirus en nuestro estado hermano de Ecuador.

Nuestros hermanos/as en Ecuador han sufrido terriblemente por la pandemia Covid-19, con más de 40.000 casos confirmados y 3.500 muertes, más que cualquier país sudamericano excepto Brasil.

La ciudad más poblada, Guayaquil, ha sido especialmente afectada. Los trabajadores de primera línea se enfrentan a hospitales abrumados, poco equipo de protección personal, las familias carecen de acceso a atención médica y el gobierno está teniendo dificultades para recoger los cuerpos de los muertos por la asombrosa cifra de víctimas del virus.

Nuestros vecinos están necesitados y nosotros como comunidad católica queremos acercarnos en solidaridad. Como el cuerpo de Cristo, abramos nuestros corazones a nuestro estado hermano de Ecuador.

Colecciona Donaciones:

Los hospitales y los trabajadores de primera línea necesitan desesperadamente equipo de protección personal (EPP) y suministros médicos y de limpieza, incluyendo: 

  • Mascarillas quirúrjicas
  • Guantes quirúrjicos y para examinación
  • Guantes para lavar platos
  • Batas quirúrjicas desechables y reutilizables
  • Protectores faciales
  • Cubiertas para zapatos
  • Vitaminas prenatales o para niños y ancianos
  • Toallitas húmedas con Cloro
  • Blanqueador
  • Jabón líquido
  • Desinfectantes
  • Sábanas, cobijas, y almohadas nuevas
  • Otros suministros médicos (consulte la lista)


Los suministros se pueden dejar en las siguientes ubicaciones antes del 14 de julio (haz clic para indicaciones):

Mr Car concesionarios


Toro Taxes
Silver Spring

Un avión militar ecuatoriano entregará las donaciones en el 14 de julio; artículos deben ser dejados antes de esta fecha.

Dona a la Fundación Ecuadent

Se pueden donar de forma segura por Paypal a la Fundación Ecuadent que organiza estos esfuerzos.  Ecuadent han dirigido misiones médicas a Ecuador durante los últimos treinta años, proporcionando excelente atención médica y dental a niños pobres en el país. Cada donación se destinará a proporcionar suministros médicos, suministros de limpieza y alimentos a los necesitados.

Los suministros de ayuda están siendo organizados por una coalición que incluye al Secretario de Estado de Maryland, la Fundación Ecuadent, el Consulado Ecuatoriano en D.C., las Fuerzas Armadas Ecuatorianas, el Programa de Estado Hermanas de Maryland y la Fundación Healing Hands.

Gracias por abrir sus corazones a nuestros hermanos/as en Ecuador. Para obtener más información, contacte a Molly Sheahan en la Conferencia Católica de Maryland, molly@mdcatholic.org.

 

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Pope Francis Names New Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore

Bishop-designate Lewandowski

The Maryland Catholic Conference congratulates Father Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., who was named an Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore today by Pope Francis.

Bishop-designate Lewandowski, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesus Parish in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood and the archdiocesan delegate for Hispanic ministry, will continue in these roles as Auxiliary Bishop.

He has been a strong advocate for immigrants and the marginalized. While at Sacred Heart, he worked with agencies in Baltimore City to develop two major initiatives addressing pressing needs in the Spanish-speaking community.

These included the creation of a parish ID for undocumented residents. City agencies recognized these as verification of residency so individuals could receive emergency and other services. 

The Bishop-designate also recently partnered with the Baltimore City Health Department and Johns Hopkins Medical Center to create a COVID-19 testing site at the parish, which is located in a predominantly Latino neighborhood.

“The Maryland Catholic Conference is elated at the appointment of Bishop-elect Lewandowski, who has been a steady and pastoral voice on behalf of Baltimore’s Hispanic community, as well as an advocate for their dignity,” said Jenny Kraska, Executive Director of the Conference.

She noted, “He has demonstrated a willingness to work with public and private partners alike to improve the lives of others, especially the marginalized. We look forward to welcoming him to the Conference’s Board of Governors and to the addition of his voice as we represent the public policy interests of Catholics across Maryland.”

Bishop-designate Lewandowski was ordained in 1994 as a priest for the Baltimore Province of the Redemptorists

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Outdoor Rosary Feeds Hunger for Prayer during COVID Pandemic

Drone photos of a large-scale rosary on church drive

Sally Rico was looking for a new way to keep parishioners connected with their faith after churches closed as part of the statewide COVID-19 precautions. Her idea, an outdoor, walkable rosary, soon went viral on social media.

Rico, coordinator for religious education at St. Lawrence Martyr parish in Hanover, Md., and Father Victor Scocco, OSST, the pastor, noticed that parishioners would park outside the church to say their prayers, while neighbors, who now were working from home, were using the park side of the 29-acre church property for exercise.

The parish, which is the faith home for nearly 800 families, has a circular driveway that could be blocked off while the building was closed. The idea for a walkable rosary was born.

Logistics of creating the rosary

The challenge was how to make it happen. The rosary could not be permanent since the driveway would need to be used by cars once the church reopened. Working with the Ayoub family, including their five children, Rico found a cornstarch and flour recipe for the paint and together they measured the driveway — 102 feet — and worked out the size of each bead.

On a cold and windy day, the team gathered for more than 10 hours to lay out and paint the rosary, using the feet of 11-year-old Grace to measure out the placement of each bead. They placed signs to help people pray.

“We put the prayers of the rosary close to where they would be prayed for those who don’t know how to pray the rosary. We picked joyful mysteries. We need to be joyful regardless of our situations,” said Rico.

Then Rez LaBoy got a call, asking if he could come over. LaBoy, a recreational drone operator, recently joined the parish with his wife, Karen, after moving to the area. He has been preparing to become Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Hugh of Grenoble in Greenbelt, his wife’s longtime parish, where they received marriage preparation and have been helping livestream Sunday Masses this spring.

Within minutes of the call, he headed to St. Lawrence with his drone and took photos of the rosary, which the parish posted on social media. That’s when things took off. Calls and emails have poured in from around the country. 

People really have a hunger for Christ

At the parish, Scocco said that “over the last weeks, we have seen people quietly walking and making use of the rosary.”

They have come not only from the parish, but from other parts of Maryland, and a neighbor who is not Catholic asked Rico to walk through the rosary with her. Rico explained that the rosary is a meditation on the life of Christ.

“The beautiful part of this story is that many parishioners were hurt in not being able to come into the church. No one ever thinks about the church having to close its doors,” LaBoy said, noting this was a “creative and unique way” for parishioners to still come to church, although outside.

While the past two months have meant many changes for the parish, Scocco said, “What I’m amazed about is the cohesiveness of the parish. We have managed to stay together.”

“While people are of varying opinions on how and when we should open up, one thing is clear: they have an obvious hunger for the sacraments,” he continued. “People really have a hunger for Christ.”

In speaking about the changes, Fr. Scocco noted that he has acquired more digital skills and said parishioners write daily and have been grateful for online Masses. The parish’s young adult lectio divina group moved their meetings to Zoom and, using the parish directory, coordinated outreach to seniors in the parish. Online Adoration has drawn strong numbers and when Fr. Scocco offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation outdoors, following social distancing guidelines, people came for 2-1/2 hours.

Parishioners also have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nine families, including the father-in-law of an RCIA participant, affected.

Fr. Scocco expects some online ministry will continue after restrictions are lifted. The parish looks forward to worshipping in-person again, welcoming their eight RCIA participants into full communion, and to celebrating an ordination to the priesthood that will be held in the fall. Brother Josh Warshak, OSST, has been assisting as a transitional deacon at St. Lawrence while preparing to become a priest.


Please note: The Rosary was not designed to be permanent as the driveway will be used for cars again soon. The parish may create another outdoor rosary next May. Photos by Rez LaBoy, recreational drone photographer.

Sally Rico provided the recipe used to create the Rosary: 

Chalk paint

  • 1:1 flour to water
  • 1:1 cornstarch to water 

(1/2 c. of cornstarch + 1/2 c. of water) + (1/2 c. flour + 1/2 c. of water) = just over a cup of solution

Food dye for approximately 1 cup of solution

  • 10 drops blue
  • 2 drops pink
  • 2 drops black

 

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Health Ministry and Safety during COVID

Health care ministry during COVID-19

With a hospital and several assisted living, rehabilitation and nursing home facilities nearby, health care ministry is an important outreach at St. Peter Parish in Olney.

“We may have as many as 75 to 100 people at a time who have an extraordinary health care need, for whom we provide accompaniment and sacraments,” said Fr. Tom Kalita, pastor at St. Peter’s. “Often, they are feeling lonely and bereft, which affects their ability to heal.”

The restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for carrying out this ministry. Parish volunteers, priests, and deacons who once brought the Eucharist weekly, and prayed and visited with patients and residents have not been able to go into local medical care facilities and retirement residences for the past two months. The parish continues to pray for those who are ill or elderly, but in-person visits are on hold.

Fr. Kalita has been allowed one visit, to minister to a woman nearing death. He had to wear proper protective gear and follow strict protocols, which included using a Q-tip dipped in the sacred oil to anoint her.

“It took as long to get suited up as the time I was there praying. I think of the people who need to put on and take off the protective gear. It is hard,” Fr. Kalita noted.

Another day, a call came into the parish from the hospital across the street. Two Catholic patients were nearing death. The hospital was closed to visitors, but could something be done? Armed with the patients’ room numbers, Fr. Kalita stood in front of the hospital and, one-by-one, turned in the direction of each of the rooms, gave conditional absolution, and said the prayers for the dying.

Across Maryland, clergy and volunteers are finding new ways to be present for those who are medically fragile and elderly, and to continue to do what they can to serve.

As Father Mike Tietjen, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Mechanicsville, recently told the Catholic Standard about his own ministry with COVID patients, “We are going in there because Jesus asked us to do this. We are being prudent, we are being smart, but we are doing what we always have done … We are coping with this situation. The Church has coped with pandemics before. It's the first time for us, but not for the Church.” 

Catholic Hospitals in Maryland


Ethics of Vaccines

Several U.S. bishops, who chair committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently urged the FDA to to ensure that vaccines for COVID-19 are developed ethically and are free from any connection to abortion. READ THE LETTER HERE

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Prevention 

Advocates and lawmakers in Maryland have expressed concern over a rise in domestic violence and child abuse incidents during stay-in-place orders. If you are being abused or if you suspect someone is being abused, please get help now.


Mental Health Services

  • Maryland Department of Health Mental Health crisis helpline: 211, press 1, or text 898-211
  • A short video on managing anxiety during coronavirus (Saint Luke Institute)
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June 2 is Maryland's Primary. Learn where the candidates stand on key issues.

To help voters know more about the candidates running for Congress in Maryland's June 2 primary, the Maryland Catholic Conference surveyed the candidates on issues ranging from education to caring for the poor. The survey results are now available on the Conference website at www.mdcatholic.org/elections.

Maryland’s Primary Election day is Tuesday, June 2, and due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the state will conduct the primary by mail. All eligible voters will be mailed a ballot, which can be returned via mail or dropped off at select locations throughout the state starting on May 21 and continuing through primary election day on June 2. Limited in-person voting locations will be available on June 2. Voters can also register to vote online through election day. 

Catholics are called to participate in political processes like voting to work for the common good and be a voice of the Christian faith in the public square. 

To help voters make an informed choice when voting, the Maryland Catholic Conference surveys candidates each election on a number of key issues and allows each candidate to make a brief statement. For the 2020 election, the Conference surveyed the candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland's eight congressional districts.

The Conference asked candidates whether they agreed or disagreed with positions on topics including: caring for the poor, immigration, healthcare, educational options and conscience protections. Many candidates touched on other important issues in their brief statements, including abortion. 

"We encourage every Catholic voter in Maryland to visit our site and read the results of the survey before they vote," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference. "Our goal is to help voters understand more about the candidates and know where they stand on issues that are of importance to our Catholic faith. While we cannot gather together at the polls this primary election day, each one of us still can participate in this important political process and make our voice heard."

The Maryland Catholic Conference does not endorse candidates or political parties.

To learn more about why these issues matter to the Church, please visit the Issues page on our website.

To register to vote in the June 2 primary, visit: elections.maryland.gov/voter_registration.

 

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COVID-19 and Prison Release

prison

WHAT IF STAY-IN-PLACE COULD MEAN RISK?

Stay-in-place orders are meant to reduce contact between people and control the spread of COVID-19, but what happens when stay-in-place leaves people vulnerable?

Chaplains and volunteers with Catholic prison ministry across Maryland have been concerned about the risk of COVID-19 for incarcerated youth and adults.

The order by Governor Larry Hogan in mid-April to allow expedited release of inmates who are considered not to pose a threat to public safety, such as those who are elderly, pregnant, or non-violent, was welcomed to reduce crowding and health risks.

“My office has received so many calls concerning their incarcerated family members that I was overwhelmed. It was truly a blessing,” Deacon Seigfried Presberry said after the governor's order was enacted. He is the coordinator for prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The Maryland Catholic Conference participates in two state coalitions that focus on reforms to the system of justice. Garrett O'Day, deputy director for the Conference, noted, "The Maryland Catholic Conference has taken positions previously on legislation that is in line with Gov. Hogan’s order, such as commonsense measures allowing for geriatric parole and protection for pregnant inmates.”

On April 27, the Maryland Department for Juvenile Services announced that 200 youth being held for non-violent or misdemeanor reasons had been released. Five young people and 11 staff previously had tested positive for COVID-19.

Fr. Mike Bryant, who has worked in prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington since the 1980s and who continues to serve as a volunteer chaplain, said the reason prisons are a particular concern is that “COVID-19 is a deadly virus and people living in confined spaces are at high risk for contracting this disease, whether they are in nursing homes, jails, prisons or half-way houses. Prisons are often unsanitary places, and sometimes lack basic means by which residents can maintain personal hygiene and social distance from one another.”

While restrictions are in place in Maryland’s prisons, Deacon Presberry noted the two full-time chaplains in the Archdiocese of Baltimore continue to serve these correctional institutions and are allowed to go inside as essential workers. He noted that the work right now “has been challenging, to say the least.”

Prison ministry volunteers and other visitors, however, are not permitted to enter prisons at this time. Deacon Presberry said he is getting requests from parishes and others asking how they can help or donate.

“I remind them to pray and after we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, I will be contacting them because the institutions are not allowing anything to come in” during this crisis, he said.

LEARN MORE about prison ministry and re-entry programs: Archdiocese of Baltimore | Archdiocese of Washington

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From School to Screen

Photo: St. Martin School in Gaithersburg, MD, via Twitter

Moving 54 elementary schools online in a matter of days takes a lot of work, but Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington were online as soon as schools were ordered closed as part of state health precautions.

 “We took off and started distance learning immediately. Our families deserve the same quality of education whether the campuses are closed or not,” said Vicky McCann, Director for Curriculum and Instruction for the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Schools.

Technology that already was in place (with iPad or laptop loans made to families where needed), ongoing training for teachers, parent surveys, and flexibility by principals, teachers, and parents have been key factors in making the transition a success, McCann said. Data collection and assessment have helped schools adapt as the online experience has continued.

“There were some bumps,” said Ms. McCann. “We figured out what was working and not working. Now, we have a system down and the schools are really taking off.”

For example, live classes are recorded so students who are not able to attend at the scheduled time can watch later, projects may include offline and online options, and teachers are encouraged to schedule assignments so students can work over a weekend. This has turned out to be important with the complexity of family schedules during "stay in place."

She said schools continue to share daily announcements, celebrate birthdays and follow traditions they already had. The day and classes start with prayers, and religions classes continue to be held.

“We have to give thanks to our priests. They’ve been offering online Masses for the children,” Ms. McCann noted, as well as leading online Stations of the Cross and praying the rosary with students.

Community service is an important part of the day, also. Students at Cardinal Hickey Academy in Owings worked on thank you notes for first responders this week, and the principal at St. Francis International School in Silver Spring not only is overseeing an online school, but also is coordinating food distribution for low-income families.

It’s all part of what a Catholic school community offers. As Ms. McCann said, “None of this could have been possible without our teachers and parents.”

The Catholic schools in the Maryland portion of the Archdiocese of Washington make up Maryland's 13th largest school system, public or private. The Archdiocese is home to 92 archdiocesan and independent schools in five Maryland counties and Washington, DC.

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