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Back to school, environment and opposing assisted suicide

Back to School

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A student and sisters from the Oblate Sisters of Providence following the dedication ceremony for Mother Mary Lange Catholic School.

Families received notification about BOOST scholarship awards from the State of Maryland earlier this month. The 40 percent increase in BOOST funding passed by the General Assembly during last winter’s session is having a big impact for low-income families.

Students in elementary schools are receiving slightly larger awards while those attending high schools, where tuition tends to be higher, are receiving a $3,000 scholarship on top of the regular award.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is celebrating the opening of Mother Mary Lange Catholic School (District 40), which is welcoming more than 400 students. Many of them rely on BOOST scholarships. Incoming students joined Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, school leaders, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, State Senator Antonio Hayes and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott for a dedication and blessing earlier this month. Read more in the Catholic Review.

The Jesuit USA East Province and St. Ignatius parish in Baltimore are expanding an early learning center into The Loyola School, a pre-K to grade four elementary that eventually will offer a free education to 200 low-income Baltimore City children. Grades will be phased in, with kindergarten starting this fall. This school joins other Jesuit schools in Baltimore focused on educating low-income students, including St. Ignatius Loyola Academy for boys in grades 5-8, and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a coeducational school where students also gain work experience.

With the Delta variant and rising infection rates, our Catholic schools once again are implementing careful protocols for the return to school. Here is the latest from the Archdiocese of Washington, Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Diocese of Wilmington. Please thank our school teachers, staff and administrators for all they are doing for their students.


New Resource for Catholics on the Environment


The Archdiocese of Washington has released a comprehensive Laudato Si Action Plan, just in time for the annual Season of Creation that starts on Sept. 1, World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and culminates on Oct. 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

The new plan, available in English and Spanish, offers resources and practical tips that individuals, groups, schools and parishes can take to protect our environment.

In his introductory letter, Cardinal Wilton Gregory notes, “This Action Plan contains small and big ways for us to exercise stewardship over God’s creation. I invite each of you to study this Action Plan and be challenged to protect and restore our fragile Earth and our natural resources.” Read more in the Catholic Standard.


Deadly, Not Dignified: Fighting Physician-Assisted Suicide in Maryland

Out-of-state activists are expected to be back for the next state legislative session, trying to force physician-assisted suicide into law in Maryland.

Learn about the issue, negative effects in other states where this has been legalized, and resources to help fight it here in Maryland.

Please note: Spanish-language materials are coming soon!


Emergency Rental Assistance

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has launched an Emergency Rental Assistance Data Dashboard. The dashboard tracks the progress local jurisdictions in the state are making in distributing relief funds for tenants and landlords affected by the pandemic.

The department also has advised tenants and landlords to visit rentrelief.maryland.gov or call 877-546-5595 to connect with rental assistance programs. In addition to local programs, tenants in certain properties may qualify for the department’s Assisted Housing Relief Program. Tenants in that group of properties should contact their property management company for application information.


Of Note 

U.S. Bishops Support Pregnant Worker Fairness Act: The chairmen of three committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, recently wrote Congress to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, SB 1486. The Act would require reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, protect pregnant workers from being denied employment opportunities and more.

Action alert on immigration: The USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants initiative is asking Catholics urge their U.S. senators and representative to support the enactment of immigration reform this year. Learn more and sign the alerts.

Art of Mother Mary Lange: Servant of God Mother Mary Lange not only has a new school named after her, but you will find her legacy reflected in other parts of her adopted home of Maryland. Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Takoma Park commissioned a painting of her to grace the outside of the the community food pantry the parish opened last year. Learn more about this work of this sacred art from the perspective of the Hyattsville-based artist: “We are portraying Christ in that saint and making Christ present in that community.”

Events of interest

CANCELLED: Sept. 26: Catholic Coalition for Special Education (CCSE) fall family gathering. Contact 301-933-8844 ext 102 for more information on this and CCSE.

Oct. 2: Maryland Catholic Women’s Conference, featuring Katie Prejean McGrady as the keynote speaker

This month’s recipe is in honor of the Maryland State Fair. We chose a zucchini bread recipe that is a past winner at the fair. This year’s fair is Aug. 26-Sept. 6.

 

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New Maryland laws, respect life update and a new bishop

New Laws in Effect July 1

Image of the State seal from the Miller Senate Office Building

Hundreds of new laws are on the books in Maryland as of July 1. These include a repeal of the Civil-War-era state song, support for low-income and at-risk students to continue their education; tax credits for diaper donations; crisis support for service members, veterans and their families; expanded funds for legal aid; and more. Additional laws will go into effect later in the year, for a total of 809 resulting from the 2021 legislative session.

Among the July 1 laws are a number supported by the Maryland Catholic Conference, including:

  • Income tax modification to cover costs of living organ donors (SB 48/HB 10)
  • Establishment of a task force on oral health and availability and access of dental services (SB 100/HB 368)
  • Expansion of higher education tuition exemption for foster care recipients and homeless youth (SB 155)
  • Support access to healthy food in certain areas that are food deserts (SB 365)
  • Include crisis center helpline on higher ed student identification cards (SB 405)
  • Increase distribution of abandoned property funds for the Maryland Legal Services Corporation fund to assist with pro bono legal services (SB 413)
  • Require public schools provide free feminine hygiene products in women’s restrooms (SB 427/HB 205)
  • Provide support to pregnant and parenting students so they may continue their education and care for their new baby (SB 438/HB 401)
  • Expand funding for and availability of tax clinics for low-income Marylanders (SB 480/HB 421)
  • Establish educational programs for juveniles in residential facilities (SB 497)
  • Establish a matching grant program for nonprofits to provide behavioral health services for service members, veterans and their families (SB 550/HB 872)
  • Authorize state grants to increase availability of family childcare providers in areas with above average poverty and unemployment (SB 711/HB 944)
  • Continue a program that promotes college access for low-income Maryland high school students (HB 98)
  • Expand food access to households receiving or eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance benefits (HB 101)
  • Provide a process and safeguards for new school hires during the background check period (HB 373)
  • Tax credit of up to $1,000 for donating diapers, certain hygiene products or funds for the items to qualified charities (HB 711)
  • Provide funding for the Guaranteed Access Grant program and to assist low-income public and nonpublic students in college and career awareness (HB 1245)

Watch Installation of Wilmington's New Bishop

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Celebrate with the Diocese of Wilmington, which includes the entirety of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, as newly appointed Bishop-elect William Koenig is ordained as a bishop (by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori) and also installed as Bishop of Wilmington on July 13, 2 p.m.

The livestream will start at 1:45 p.m. from St. Elizabeth Church, Wilmington. You can watch on the diocesan YouTube channel, on demand through the Catholic Faith Network (CFN) and on a delayed basis on EWTN (July 15, 3 p.m.). Learn more about Wilmington’s new bishop and this historic moment here.


State of Life Issues in Maryland

If you missed our June 8 webinar on the state of life issues in Maryland in 2021, the recording is now available.

Join Associate Director for Respect Life Advocacy Molly Sheahan with guests, Dr. Michael New and Michelle Williams, as they discuss the latest data, trends and the experience of pregnancy centers during COVID, plus ways you can help those in need. 


Internship Opportunity: Laudato Si’ Advocates

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Are you of college age and interested in environmental advocacy? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Environmental Justice Program offers a program for college-age individuals that equips them with the skills they need to advocate for legislation that promotes the integral ecology described in the encyclical Laudato Si’.

The program runs during the academic year. Laudato Si’ advocates earn a monthly stipend, attend a training summit in Washington, D.C., receive monthly formation, and are given instruction in advocacy. Learn more and apply here.


Of Note 

NEW! Did you know that the Maryland Catholic Conference provides advocacy, education, speakers and other resources on a range of topics for parishes, deaneries and Catholic groups? Download our new overview, with session highlights and resources, and contact us at [email protected].

STATE UPDATES

Governor Larry Hogan has announced the launch of a $72 million initiative to reduce maternal mortality and improve health care for mothers and children. Maryland ranks 22nd nationally in maternal mortality, according to the state.

The initiative is designed to increase access to care and to lower maternal and infant mortality and health complications. Among the components are expanded home visits for high-risk pregnant women and their young children, group prenatal care for low-risk pregnancies, and parenting and healthy development support for families with children up to age 3. Read more in Maryland Matters.

Maryland State Senator Doug Peters (D-23, Prince George’s County) has announced he is stepping down from office at the end of this month after being appointed to the University of Maryland’s Board of Regents. Senator Peters has been a steadfast advocate for Catholic issues including, but not limited to, support for the poor and vulnerable, environmental advocacy, access to Catholic schools, and the protection of life from conception to natural death.

State Senator Will Smith (D-20, Montgomery County), in Baltimore on July 2 to observe the 113th anniversary of the birth of Maryland native and Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, announced a portrait of the former Justice is being commissioned and will be placed in the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee Room. 

The deadline to file your 2020 Maryland state income taxes is July 15.

FEDERAL NEWS

The Department of Justice has issued a temporary stay on federal executions. Last December, the Maryland bishops urged a stop to the execution of a Maryland man, though, sadly, the federal execution went forward in January. Maryland has no state death penalty.

The Respect Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is urging Catholics to contact Congress now to maintain the 45-year ban on using taxpayer funds for elective abortion. Learn more and take action here.

In June, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a number of decisions of interest to Catholics:

  • In Fulton v. Philadelphia, the Court unanimously ruled that the city’s foster care program should not have excluded Catholic Social Services from the program for following Catholic teaching. Read more.
  • The Court dismissed a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in California v. Texas, by a 7-2 decision, noting that states lacked standing to sue over the individual mandate for health care in the ACA.
  • The Court also dismissed Mayorkas v. Innovation Law Lab and ordered the lower court judgment be vacated as moot since the program in question, the Migrant Protection Policy (MPP), had been ended by the Department of Homeland Security on June 1. The USCCB had filed an amicus brief that opposed the MPP. Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville reacted to the decision.
  • In Jones v. Mississippi, the Court ruled that it is constitutional to sentence juveniles to life without parole. Maryland no longer allows life without parole sentencing for juveniles, following passage of bi-partisan state legislation in the 2021 session that was supported by the Maryland Catholic Conference.

 

IN HONOR OF BISHOP KOENIG

In honor of Wilmington’s incoming bishop, we offer a recipe for peach pie, the official dessert of his new state of Delaware.

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Inside look at new Catholic school and more

Sneak Peek at Mother Mary Lange Catholic School

Wall art from Mother Mary Lange Catholic School

Image is wall art from Mother Mary Lange Catholic School

“It is a dream come true.”

In just a few words, Jim Sellinger, chancellor of education for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, summed up what the new Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, an impressive 65,000-square-foot facility opening in Baltimore City this fall, means to families, the archdiocese and Archbishop William E. Lori.

A tour of the school on Monday gave State Senator Antonio Hayes and State Delegate Marlon Amprey, who represent District 40 where the new school is located, a chance to see the building as the finishing touches are being put in place. Senator Hayes noted he has a “sense of pride” seeing the investment in education in his district by the archdiocese and by the city’s public schools.

Strong enrollment – and an early-learning wait list

Mr. Sellinger told the legislators and others visiting the school that 370 students have been enrolled in the Pre-K-grade 8 school and at least 85 percent are receiving scholarships. Another 130 children are in the application process.

With an early learning center open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. and a convenient location on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue directly across from the University of Maryland Medical Center and other major employers, the school is drawing families not only from the immediate neighborhood, but from other parts of the city and surrounding counties, as well as two former Catholic schools, Holy Angels and Ss. James and John, which merged into the new school. Nearly 100 children are on a wait list for the early learning center.

In addition to a traditional library, Mother Mary Lange School offers a TV studio, state-of-the art science lab, robotics lab, art and music rooms, two playground areas, turf field and a fully equipped health center. The third-floor chapel is centrally placed and will welcome students and faculty for prayer and Mass. The science labs provide a different kind of inspiration: their windows face the medical school and hospital, School of Pharmacy and other city businesses, providing inspiration for futures in medicine, business and science. The school also plans to develop partnerships with these entities.

Partnerships critical to serving students

Partnerships, from scholarships to health care, technical assistance and mentoring, have been critical in building the school and will be an important part of supporting the students going forward.

In partnership with Dan Joerres, president and general manager of WBAL-TV, MML school will launch the collaboration studio for video. Students taking robotics will benefit from mentoring by older students from Archbishop Spalding High School, which has a nationally ranked robotics team, and will have the opportunity to join the archdiocesan Catholic Robotics League.

With access to quality health care a concern for low-income families, the archdiocese has turned to UMD’s Children’s Hospital in a partnership that will provide wrap-around services and access to nearby experts in pediatrics. The school will have a full-time nurse on staff.

The blessing and ribbon cutting for Mother Mary Lange Catholic School is August 6, 2021.

The school is named after the Haitian immigrant who, in 1820’s Baltimore, started a Catholic school for children of color and founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Now a Servant of God in the process to be canonized a saint, Mother Mary attended Mass and took her vows as a woman religious just a half-mile from her namesake school, at what is now the St. Mary’s Spiritual Center and Historic Site.


Remembering our fathers

Fathers Day spiritual bouquet in Maryland

Pope Francis declared this the Year of St. Joseph, the patron saint of fathers. Why not offer our fathers – living and deceased – a spiritual bouquet, entrusting them to the intercession of St. Joseph? Directions for making your spiritual bouquet are online, or download a flyer here (English and Spanish). This is a great activity for families.


Religious Freedom Week is June 22-29

religious freedom week logo

The theme of this year’s Religious Freedom Week is Solidarity in Freedom. The week, held annually starting on June 22, the feast of St. Thomas More, provides an opportunity to pray, reflect and act to promote religious freedom locally and globally.

Catholics across the US will pray for a special intention each day – adoption and foster care, church vandalism, Christians in Iraq, free speech, etc. Get the prayers, lectionary notes, social media graphics and more here in English and Spanish.


Juneteenth

Juneteenth observance in Maryland

This Saturday marks Juneteenth, a day to mark the end of legalized slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, word of emancipation and the end of the Civil War reached enslaved people in Texas, more than 2.5 years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

A bill was introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates this past session to make Juneteenth a legal and state employee holiday, but it did not pass out of the Senate and so was not enacted.

Gathering with family is an important part of the observance. This strawberry cornbread skillet cobbler was created to honor Juneteenth (the color red represents the perseverance of the enslaved). As we reflect upon our nation’s tragic history of slavery, may we also pray for the end of division and racism, and for respect for the dignity and freedom of all people.


Of Note 

REMINDER: The deadline to file your 2020 Maryland state income taxes is  July 15.

Baltimore is top Catholic city in America: Our Sunday Visitor published a top 10 of Catholic cities to visit in America. Baltimore (plus the region from Washington, DC, to Delaware) came in number 1. How many of the region’s historic and spiritual sites have you visited?

Baltimore City’s first perpetual adoration chapel opens: The first perpetual adoration chapel in the history of Baltimore City was blessed at the historic Baltimore Basilica as the “nation’s first cathedral” marked its 200th anniversary.

Maryland Catholic Conference Director appointed to racial justice council: Jenny Kraska, executive director for the Maryland Catholic Conference, has been appointed to the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Journey to Racial Justice Coordinating Council, a group composed primarily of senior level staff to support implementation of recommendations to promote racial justice as part of our missionary discipleship.

Dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass lifted: The Archdiocese of Washington, Diocese of Wilmington and Archdiocese of Baltimore, along with other nearby dioceses, have announced that the obligation for Catholics to attend Sunday Mass in person is back in place as of June 26 and 27. A dispensation had been given during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catholic entities in Maryland receive safety grants: A number of Catholic parishes and schools, including Mount St. Mary’s University, were among the faith-based organizations awarded grants through the $3 million State of Maryland “Protecting against Hate Crimes” Program. The funds may be used to address security needs, such as equipment, software or physical security improvements.  Learn more or apply for next year’s program here.

Updated immigration policies will assist religious workers, process for citizenship: Policy changes by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will allow expedited processing of applications that are expected to benefit religious workers in the U.S. for ministry. The CIS also is extending employment authorization documents (EADs) for certain applicants working toward permanent residency from one to two years. This will allow priests, sisters and brothers to continue working in the U.S. while their application is in process.

Finally, please pray  for the priests and deacons being ordained for Maryland this summer including this Saturday in the Archdiocese of Washington, and pray for our nation’s bishops as they gather virtually this week for their spring General Assembly. Afternoon sessions will be livestreamed. Learn more here

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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.


JOIN THE CATHOLIC ADVOCACY NETWORK

The Catholic Advocacy Network gives you a voice on important issues in Maryland. Learn more and join our network.

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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.”

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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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Catholic Voice Update | March 30, 2021


Two Weeks Left in Legislative Session

The General Assembly wraps up its annual legislative session in just two weeks. Right now, the main focus is on committees. Most bills have passed from one legislative body to the other (Senate to House or House to Senate) and are being considered by committees in the second chamber.

Others have moved on to conference committees. A conference committee has six members, pulled from House and Senate, who work to resolve differences in a bill. The committee issues a report. If it is accepted by both chambers, the bill goes on to a final vote. If not, the bill may be sent back to conference committee or left to fail.

After passage by House and Senate, most legislation goes on to the Governor. He has 30 days to veto a bill. If he doesn’t within that time frame, a bill becomes law. There are a couple of exceptions to this process. Budget bills become law upon final passage and cannot be vetoed. Also, the governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment.

The process can get complicated, so here are some great resources from the Maryland General Assembly:

 

If you are interested in a bill, you can click on a bill to watch its progress. Testimony from the Maryland Catholic Conference is online here, and includes a link to the bill page. Click “history” to see how it has moved along.

Legislation we are still monitoring include a number of bills on education (including BOOST funding), environment, juvenile justice, police reform and pro-life issues.


New Mass Vaccination Site in Maryland

Maryland is opening another mass vaccination site on April 5 at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College. Anyone 60 or older and other eligible residents (categories are here) can pre-register online or by phone at 855-634-6829 for this or any of the state’s mass vaccination sites, including Six Flags America Theme Park, Regency Furniture Stadium (Blue Crabs Stadium), Wicomico Civic Center, Hagerstown Premium Outlets and M&T Bank Stadium. You will be notified when an appointment is open.

As of Monday, March 29, over 911,500 Marylanders were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 2.6 million doses had been administered, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard.

In the news this week: Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski was quoted in an Associated Press article on efforts by churches to help make vaccines accessible to all. From the article:

“’This community has been decimated by the pandemic. We want people to get through the red tape,’ said Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, an auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, where vaccinations are taking place, is in one of Baltimore’s hardest-hit ZIP codes, a mostly Hispanic neighborhood where as many as 48% of COVID-19 tests were positive at one point.”


Join Fr. Francisco Aguirre in Prayer

This week’s prayer for elected officials is led by Father Francisco Aguirre, pastor of St. Catherine Laboure, a vibrant parish in Wheaton, Md. (District 18). St. Catherine is one of several parishes partnering with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to provide COVID testing as part of the Latino Health Initiative.

Join Fr. Francisco 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 this Holy Week

Easter bread: This is a favorite recipe recommended by one of our staff. Enjoy!

Prayer resources: As we reflect upon the suffering of Christ during Holy Week, may we also keep in prayer the suffering of the poor and vulnerable. Check with your parish and (arch)diocese for Holy Week liturgies, and consider some of these options:

 

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.


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Catholic Voice Update | March 16, 2021


World Down Syndrome Day

The staff of the Maryland Catholic Conference has long celebrated World Down Syndrome Day, held annually on March 21, and this year is no different. We hope you will join us in raising awareness. Here are some of our favorite events and ideas:

  • Sign up for the official Maryland observance of World Down Syndrome Day. Join First Lady Yumi Hogan, state legislators and other leaders, followed by a virtual dance party on Friday, March 19, 3:30-4:30 p.m. The Conference is a proud sponsor of this celebration.
  • Join in #LotsofSocks. Wear bright, colorful, wild socks, snap a photo and post on social media with the hashtags #WDSD21 and #LotsofSocks and tag us @MDCatholic (those are our socks in the photo above).
  • Pray along with Meghan Jones, our leader for this week’s prayer for elected officials. Scroll down to our prayer video for more about Meghan.
  • Add a frame to your Facebook profile image by clicking this link.
  • Look for the lights! On Sunday, the Governor’s Mansion, M&T Stadium and the Capital Wheel at National Harbor will be lit up in blue and gold to raise awareness.

 

Catholic Coalition for Special Education

One organization that is making a difference for Marylanders with Down Syndrome is the Catholic Coalition for Special Education (CCSE). Based in Kensington, Md., CCSE helps ensure children with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as their siblings and peers, including a Catholic education.

CCSE has provided $1.1 million in grant money to 31 Catholic schools across Maryland, while CCSE technical assistance helps schools expand their ability to serve students with special needs.

The partnerships CCSE creates with schools and educators is vital to its mission. This past weekend, CCSE honored four Catholic school teachers at its virtual Spring Benefit, for their commitment to inclusive teaching and to helping all students reach their potential.

The “Making IT Happen” honorees were Christina Green, on the faculty of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac for 31 years and currently a teacher and assistant principal; Alison Interlandi, who taught at Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda for eight years until moving closer to Annapolis; David Long, who has been at Lourdes for 23 years and is assistant principal; and Donna Reese, a dance instructor with the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington for 18 years who ensures that students of all abilities are included not only in studio classes, but as the CCSE shared in its Saturday program, “under the lights.”

Congratulations and thank you to these educators!


BOOST Applications Open

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The State of Maryland is now accepting applications for next year’s BOOST scholarships, pending legislative approval of BOOST funding. BOOST scholarships empower families with limited incomes to send their child to a Catholic or other non-public school. Go to www.marylandboost.org for a link to the state’s application, videos with BOOST families, and more.

While applications are open, the General Assembly is still debating funding for BOOST, and there are a couple of important votes this week. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee voted against increased funding. The waiting list for BOOST tripled this year so this is a program that families want. We are now looking to the state Senate to help more Maryland families. Please contact your legislator if you receive an alert and, if you didn’t, please keep this intention in prayer. 


Featured Legislation

With one month to go in the legislative session, we are monitoring, following and advocating on approximately 170 bills that are at different points in the House and/or Senate. Many of the bills have the potential to make a significant difference in supporting vulnerable residents. Among them:

The Trust Act (SB 88)

The Trust Act (Senate Bill 88/House Bill 304) provides important clarity regarding the roles of local and state law enforcement involving the immigrant community; in particular, notification procedures from local or state entities to federal agencies without a federal judicial warrant.

MJ Kraska, associate director for social and economic justice at the Conference, notes that “Senate Bill 88 balances the needs for both public safety and immigration … rebuild[ing] the necessary trust between law enforcement and immigrants throughout Maryland.”

He added, “When immigrants feel safe around law enforcement, they will feel safe in reporting crimes and sharing other critical information with the local police and that will help the authorities keep our communities safe for everyone.”

SB 88/HB304 is sponsored by Senator Will Smith (D-20, Montgomery County) and Delegate Wanika Fisher (D-47B, Prince George’s County).

Prenatal Care Bill Would Help Pregnant Women

We continue to push ahead on Senate Bill 777, which would expand grant funding for prenatal care, and allow additional providers, including Catholic hospitals, to participate in a program that currently is limited to counties.

A lack of prenatal care is correlated with higher infant and mother mortality, pre-term births, low birth weight and other serious issues. Here in Maryland, 30% of women receive inadequate care. A lack of access, ability to pay, or ineligibility for Medicaid leaves Black and Latina mothers disproportionately at risk. In 2017, only half of Latina mothers received adequate prenatal care in Prince George’s County, and the problems don’t end there.

“Our parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus – Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, in Baltimore’s Highlandtown, is in a wonderfully vibrant community, but many of our parishioners are immigrants and low income. They don’t have access to the kind of prenatal care that most families take for granted,” said Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR, who serves as pastor, adding, “This program would make a real difference for both mothers and babies.”

Testimony on bills is posted after the hearings here throughout the week.


Join Meghan Jones in Prayer

This week’s prayer for elected officials is led by Montgomery County parishioner Meghan Jones. As Meghan notes in her prayer introduction, something special about her is that she was born with an extra chromosome. She currently is a student at Montgomery College, where she is getting a certificate in ASL. Please pray along with Meghan in English and ASL.

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

State tax filing deadline extended. The State of Maryland has extended the deadline to file 2020 tax returns from April 15, 2021 to July 15, 2021.

This is the Year of St. Joseph and this Friday is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The Dialog and Catholic News Service discuss the traditions of St. Joseph and whether you can eat meat on a Solemnity when it falls on a Friday in Lent. A popular St. Joseph food is zeppole. We know better than to suggest we know the best recipe, but here’s one that is popular online.

EWTN News in Depth featured Darren Stern, a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in a segment called, “Sharing Faith and a ‘Little Jesus.’” Mr. Stern talks about his faith and work. Watch here.

Prayer for St. Patrick’s Day: St. Patrick’s Day Breastplate is a beautiful and ancient prayer attributed to the saint. You may be familiar with at least part of the prayer (below). Join us in praying the full prayer, online here, this March 17.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me…


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Catholic Voice Update | March 9, 2021


Catholic Guidance for COVID Vaccines

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Last week, the Federal Drug Administration approved a third COVID-19 vaccine, resulting in three now in use: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. What should Catholics know about receiving these COVID-19 vaccines?

  • Our bishops have encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated (unless medically indicated otherwise). Vaccination against COVID-19 is an act of charity in light of the virus’s grave risk to the life and health of others.
  • Catholics may receive any of the three vaccines offered. There has been discussion in media about the morality of the vaccines, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that use a compromised fetal cell line in development, in light of the grave risk to public health and availability. Their document, linked below, provides a discussion of this topic, including remote cooperation.
  • Delaying or declining a vaccination may risk the health and life of others, especially those who are not able to be vaccinated due to medical conditions. As the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, with the Pontifical Academy of Life, notes, “On the moral responsibility of undergoing vaccination … it is necessary to reiterate how this issue also involves the relationship between personal health and public health, showing their close interdependence. In the light of this connection, we consider it important that a responsible decision be taken in this regard, since refusal of the vaccine may also constitute a risk to others.”

Resources


Featured Legislation

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Among the bills the Maryland Catholic Conference will submit testimony on this week:

Establishing Emancipation Day as a Legal Holiday

The Maryland Catholic Conference is submitting testimony in support of Senate Bill 0142, which would establish Nov. 1 as Maryland Emancipation Day, a legal state holiday. In 1864, Marylanders voted to abolish slavery – the first southern state (below the Mason-Dixon Line) that ended slavery through a vote of the people. The new state constitution went into effect on Nov. 1, 1864, more than a year before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Read more about Maryland Emancipation Day in the Washington Post.

Reentry Success Act of 2021

A hearing is being held today on House Bill 1233, the Reentry Success Act of 2021. This legislation, which the Conference supports, would assist inmates in successfully re-entering society after they have served their sentence. Support would include screening and access to private mediation between an inmate and a person who will assist with his or her reentry, social services and public transportation at the time of release. The goal of restorative justice practices such as these is to reduce recidivism.

As our associate director for social and economic justice, MJ Kraska, notes, “When inmates are given the tools for success upon post-release their chances to break free from their often-challenging circumstances and live productive lives are exponentially enhanced.”

Testimony from the Maryland Catholic Conference is available online here after a hearing.


World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day is March 21, but we are starting the celebration early here in Maryland.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is proud to again be a cosponsor of Maryland’s official observance, which will be held on March 19, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Join First Lady Yumi Hogan, legislative leaders, and Carol Beatty, Secretary for the Maryland Department of Disabilities, and then stay for a virtual dance party. The event is free.

You can register for Maryland’s March 19 Online Celebration and Dance Party through our partner, The Arc, and download the flyer here.

More Ways to Celebrate

  • Join #LotsofSocks: #LotsofSocks is an international campaign to raise awareness of Down syndrome. 

    • Wear and encourage your friends, school classes, youth groups and whoever you can think of to take photos of themselves wearing bright, colorful, happy and wild socks!
    • Post your photo on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtags #WDSD21 and #LotsofSocks
    • Tag @mdcatholic in your social media posts and the Maryland Catholic Conference will share our favorites!

  • Update your Zoom: download this Zoom background for March 21 
  • Read this column from Molly Sheahan, the Conference’s associate director for respect life advocacy

Join Bishop Malooly in Prayer

Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of Wilmington, leads us in our prayer for our elected officials this week. The diocese includes the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as well as the State of Delaware.  Bishop Malooly recorded this prayer before his recent bypass surgery. As he continues his recovery, please keep him in prayer, as well!

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) every Monday at 10 a.m.


Of Note

Federal COVID relief legislation excludes Hyde Amendment: The US Senate passed the American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief package, over the weekend (the legislation now goes back to the House for a vote). The bill excludes Hyde Amendment language which prevents the use of federal taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion.

The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with several committee chairs, spoke out before the vote: “For 45 years, the United States Congress – whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans – has maintained that taxpayers should not be forced against their conscience to pay for abortions. Abandoning this compromise in a time of national emergency only serves to divide people in the very moment we should be united. Please, let us instead focus on delivering the COVID relief so desperately needed.”

Pope Francis Pastoral Visit to Iraq: Pope Francis made the first papal visit in history to Iraq this past weekend. He celebrated Mass with the Christian community, met with key national and Muslim leaders, and visited the birthplace of Abraham. Read more about the trip, the Holy Father’s reflections following the visit and about the significance of the region’s history for Christians.

Centenary of the Death of James Cardinal Gibbons: Cardinal Gibbons, the ninth Archbishop of Baltimore and champion of labor and ecumenism, died 100 years ago, on March 24, 1921. Watch the Mass in his honor celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E Lori on March 7.

St. Patrick’s Day is Coming: Enjoy this story about Irish soda bread from the Catholic Review.

Prayers: Yesterday, March 8, was International Women’s Day. Please join in offering a Hail Mary in honor of Catholic women throughout our state who live out their faith in small and large ways every day.


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