On Wednesday, Jan. 15, Catholic leaders hosted the first-ever "Faith in Baltimore," a celebration highlighting the impact of the Catholic Church and Catholic services in the City of Baltimore.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore — led by Archbishop William E. Lori, who is president of the Maryland Catholic Conference — hosted the event along with Catholic Charities of Baltimore. The Conference's Executive Director Jenny Kraska was honored to attend along with numerous elected officials and more than 300 people who took part in the celebration.
"The Church does so much to serve the citizens of Baltimore City and Maryland — from providing housing and free meals, to violence prevention and job training, to services like assistance for seniors and immigrants," Kraska said. "The amount of work being done by the Church to share God's love and be Christ's witness is incredible. This event helped bring a small amount of recognition to the people who do this work in the City, not for the spotlight, but simply because they are Catholic."
The event included awarding the inaugural Faith in Baltimore Award to Ray Kelly, a native of West Baltimore who turned around his life and committed himself to building a better Baltimore.
To read the Catholic Review's coverage of the event CLICK HERE.
Save the date! Maryland Catholic Conference will host our first-ever virtual Catholic Day of Action on February 19, 2020.
The virtual Catholic Day of Action will encourage Catholics across Maryland to join together to send messages, make phone call and take other meaningful actions on state issues, from wherever they are that day.
"We are excited to kick off this new virtual Catholic Day of Action this year and spur even more of our Catholic faithful to get involved on our issues," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference. "You don't have to give up your evening and drive to Annapolis to be a voice for the work of the Church, you can join us from wherever you are by tweeting, calling, sending emails and engaging in conversations on social media that help us making a difference on many critical issues."
More details on how you can take part in this virtual event will be coming soon!
To be kept up-to-date on the virtual Catholic Day of Action, make sure you have joined the Catholic Advocacy Network. CLICK HERE to join today.
Nonpublic School students rally in Annapolis in 2017 for programs like BOOST.
Governor Larry Hogan (R) continued his support of the Maryland BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) Scholarship Program, proposing an increase in funding for BOOST to $10 million for the 2020-21 school year.
BOOST is a state of Maryland program that provides K-12 students from low-income Maryland families an opportunity to find the best educational fit for their needs by awarding applicants with scholarships to attend nonpublic school.
Hogan's proposed FY 2021 budget, introduced to the General Assembly on Jan. 15, would increase funding for the BOOST program by just shy of $3 million.
"We are grateful that the State of Maryland has continued to invest in BOOST," said Garrett O'Day, deputy director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We hope the legislature will also see the positive impact this program is having in the lives and in the academic performance of the students receiving scholarships and maintain this full $10 million in the budget they pass later this session."
The General Assembly has until March 30 to pass the FY 2021 budget, which includes funding for BOOST.
Maryland has slightly increased the program's funding from an initial allocation of $5 million when it was first enacted for the 2016-17 school year, to about $7.5 million for this current school year.
However, in recent sessions, some members of the General Assembly attempted to cut the program, and ultimately, the legislature voted to keep the program at roughly level-funding for two straight years.
For Maryland's low-income families, the minimal increases in funding for the program have not kept pace with demand and need for scholarships. In the current school year, there were 25% more certified applicants than the year before and many were waitlisted after the initial round of awards.
"We've heard from hundreds of parents about how BOOST has changed the lives of their children and helped their families," O'Day said. "We will continue to work to ensure that every Marylander, regardless of income, has access to the educational option that best suits their needs."
If you want to join advocates in support of BOOST, CLICK HERE to join the BOOST Action Network.
"We represent more than 1 million Catholics in Maryland yet many still don't fully understand what we do," said Executive Director Jenny Kraska. "We encourage folks to join us in Clarksville on Jan. 15 to learn more about our work why, we do it and how they can help."
Kate Alexander, the Conference's director of communications and engagement, will lead the session. Those who attend are encouraged to ask questions, learn more about the Conference and join the Catholic Advocacy Network.
WHAT: An Evening with the Maryland Catholic Conference
WHERE: St. Louis Parish Social Hall, 12500 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville, MD
WHEN: Jan. 15, 2020 at 7 p.m.
INFO: To RSVP for the free info-session, please email Cathy Stefano at email@example.com or call 410-730-2613
The 441st legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly officially began in Annapolis at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, with legislators, advocates and members of the public converging on the state capital to mark the start of 90 days of state policymaking.
Maryland's annual legislative session runs each year from early January to early April, and during that time, the state will consider many important issues. Sine Die, the last day of session, will be Monday, April 6, 2020.
As of the opening bell, more than 50 House bills and 120 Senate bills were pre-filed. Legislators are expected to introduce as many as 3,000 bills during the 90-day session.
Among the top priorities for the Catholic Church during the next 90 days will be:
- Education funding. The Conference will support increasing funding for the BOOST Scholarship Program and for expanding access to pre-Kindergarten to all Maryland 4-year-olds.
- Protecting Life. The Conference will oppose any efforts to enshrine abortion in Maryland's constitution and to legalize the practice of physician-assisted suicide.
- Support for our most vulnerable. The Conference will support efforts to protect immigrants, provide for our poor, curb human trafficking, protect the environment, provide services to individuals with disabilities, and violence protection programs.
To stay up-to-date on the work of the Conference throughout the next 90 days, be sure to visit the Legislation page on our website. This is the hub for all Conference activity during the next 90 days. We share every piece of testimony we submit and keep a tracker of all the bills we are weighing in on throughout the session on our website, so be sure to bookmark this page and check back often.
Want stay informed on Conference activities?
Join our Catholic Advocacy Network.
Want to get even more involved?
Sign-up to volunteer as a Parish Legislative Ambassador.
With the start of the new legislative session, the Conference began a new initiative to hold our state in prayer for the next 90 days. Starting on the first day of the session and continuing each Monday through Sine Die — the last day of session — the Conference will welcome a different Catholic leader from across the state to lead us in a prayer for our elected leaders.
"We believe in the power of prayer and it is has never been more needed in Maryland than it is now," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference. "We encourage every person of faith in Maryland to join us in lifting up our state leaders in prayer each week by downloading the prayer or praying along with us on social media."
Please pray with us!
- Download the prayer in English or Spanish at www.mdcatholic.org/prayer
- Join us on social media every Monday to pray with us
- Use the hashtag #WeAreCatholic
- Share the prayer! Invite others to pray along this session
State Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-40), right, presents a senate citation to Archbishop William E. Lori, left, at the groundbreaking of the new Mother Mary Lange Catholic School in West Baltimore on Oct. 23, 2019.
The downtown Baltimore community that was promised a school decades ago will soon have that promise fulfilled by the Catholic Church.
After years of planning and engaging the community, the Archdiocese of Baltimore broke ground Oct. 23, 2019 on a new school in downtown Baltimore, just off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The Mother Mary Lange Catholic School will be the first Catholic elementary school built in Baltimore in more than six decades, and is the product of years of collaboration between the Archdiocese, the community, donors, and partners to turn the grassy field on West Lexington Street into a state-of-the-art Pre-K-to-grade-8 school.
"Like Mother Lange, we at the Archdiocese strive to create equity, equity and educational opportunity so that young people can realize the fullness of their God-given talents and potential," said Archbishop William E. Lori, archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "And so it is in her spirit that we are putting our determined efforts and our determined resources in service to the young people of our community by today breaking ground on the first Catholic elementary school in the City of Baltimore in some six decades."
The school's name-sake, Mother Mary Lange, was an African-Caribbean immigrant who founded in 1829 the first religious order in the United States for women of African descent: The Oblate Sisters of Providence. The Oblate Sisters of Providence remain active today and founded, and still operate today, the St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.
Archbishop William E. Lori (center) is joined by elected officials, partners and community leaders to break ground on the Mother Mary Lange Catholic School.
Baltimore became known nationally for the unrest that erupted there following the death of Freddie Gray when the deep racial inequalities of the community were thrust into the national spotlight.
Lori, who at the ceremony spoke of how he walked the streets of Baltimore four years ago following the worst days of unrest, said the burnt-out car became a symbol of a community that had enough of the status quo, enough of being marginalized, enough of being cast aside and being expected to settle for a certain life.
Experts cite educational opportunity as an important tool for breaking the cycle of poverty and violence that plagues communities like those in downtown Baltimore.
Quoting the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-7), who represented Baltimore City, both State Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-40) and City Council President Brandon M. Scott (D) highlighted the role the new school will play in fostering equity in Baltimore and removing barriers for future generations of Baltimore children: "Our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see."
Hayes and Tisha Edwards — who is Director of the Office of Children and Family Success in the City of Baltimore, and who spoke on behalf of Baltimore Mayor Bernard "Jack" C. Young (D) — each presented Lori with a formal recognition of the event.
Students from Holy Angels Catholic School, Saints James and John Catholic School, and the surrounding community will attend the Mother Mary Lange school when it opens in the fall of 2021.
Of the 500 students expected to attend the school when it opens, an estimated 80 to 90 percent will receive tuition assistance.
Many of those students currently qualify for and receive BOOST Scholarship assistance through the State of Maryland. BOOST, an educational options program for low-income Maryland students enacted in 2016, is expected to play a large role in assisting students who will attend Mother Mary Lange School, in addition to the tuition assistance provided through the Archdiocese.
Read more about the school project HERE.
Maryland's 441st General Assembly will get back to work in a few short months, and many hard-won issues from this year are expected to be back on the table in 2020.
Maryland's General Assembly Session starts Jan. 8, 2020, and runs through April 6, 2020 at midnight.
Maryland Catholic Conference worked with allies during the 2019 session to successfully defeat an attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide, oppose a proposed constitutional amendment on abortion, secure level-funding for the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) scholarship program, prevent further expansion of the civil statute of limitations, criminalize human trafficking, and protect immigrants who help law enforcement.
Yet, many of these issues appear to be far from over.
"Proponents of legalizing physician-assisted suicide in Maryland have begun to organize again ahead of the 2020 session, and we expect that, for the fifth time in six years, these groups will try again to push their agenda through Maryland," said Garrett J. O'Day, deputy director of the Conference.
Physician-assisted suicide was narrowly defeated in the 2019 session, dying on the Senate floor by way of a tie vote. The final, defeating vote came after the Judicial Proceedings Committee passed the bill out of its committee for the first time, but with extensive amendments.
The Conference anticipates an effort in 2020 to bring back the late House Speaker Michael Busch's proposed constitutional amendment on abortion.
Busch, who died just days before the end of the 2019 session, worked to pass through the General Assembly a legislatively-referred amendment to Maryland's constitution that would have established abortion as a so-called "right" in the state.
If passed, the bill would put on the next election ballot a question asking voters to ratify or reject the change.
Busch withdrew his bill a few weeks after it was introduced, but others have vowed to bring it back.
"Should the abortion amendment be reintroduced in 2020, the Conference will oppose it strongly," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference.
The Conference also expects challenges to the BOOST Scholarship Program.
During the 2019 session, the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee tried to slash funding to the critical education program, which has allowed thousands of students from low-income families to attend Catholic and other nonpublic schools thanks to the state aid.
Lawmakers eventually restored funding in the state budget, keeping it level with the previous school year's funding, but some legislators continue to push to cut or defund the program all together.
"Now serving low-income families for a fourth year, demand for BOOST has outgrown its funding. This school year, we expect a waiting list of students who qualified based on income because there is just not enough money to award each one a scholarship," said O'Day. "Particularly in Maryland's largest jurisdictions like Baltimore City and Prince George's and Montgomery counties, parents seek to take advantage of the educational options BOOST provides. On their behalf, we will continue to fight to ensure that our state legislators continue to support BOOST."
Maryland has awarded well more than 10,000 scholarships to students from low-income families since the BOOST scholarship was enacted in 2016. A second round of awards for the 2019-20 school year should take place in the near future. Annually, more than half of all BOOST scholarships go to parents whose children attend Catholic school.
The Conference anticipates legislative efforts focused on protecting immigrant communities, with the hope of facilitating productive and helpful relationships between these communities and local law enforcement. It is a priority of the Conference that all persons, regardless of their citizenship status, be able to participate fully in their lives without fear, including going to school and work, running errands, and attending religious services.
"Advocates and legislators have been working to really dig into these issues and find solutions that actually would build the trust between our immigrant communities and law enforcement officials," said Anne Zmuda Wallerstedt, associate director of social and economic justice for the Conference. "Our immigrant families continue to live in fear of being torn apart. Passing the U-Visa bill last session was an important step at building that trust, but more needs to be done."
The U-Visa bill required law enforcement to certify, in a more timely manner, victim helpfulness for U Nonimmigrant Status visa applications. U-Visas are open to non-citizens who are victims of crimes and work with law enforcement in the detection, apprehension or prosecution of the perpetuators, but require the local authorities to certify that the applicant was helpful before the federal government can consider awarding the visa.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Jennifer Kraska has been appointed as the new executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, effective October 21. Kraska has served as executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference for the past 12 years, and brings extensive experience representing the public policy positions of the Catholic Church on a broad range of issues. She holds a law degree, as well as a Master of Arts in Catholic Studies, from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, her native state. She has served as past president of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors, as well as on numerous committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Archbishop William E. Lori, archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference, noted that the bishops of Maryland’s three (arch)dioceses were impressed with Kraska’s grasp of issues and ability to engage diverse communities.
“We are delighted to have a person of Jenny’s caliber and expertise leading the work of the Conference and are confident she will quickly earn the respect of her new colleagues in Annapolis,” Lori said.
Kraska’s collaborative approach distinguished her career in Denver politics, where she is known for her ability to work “across the aisle” on numerous issues. She was instrumental, along with leaders from other faith traditions, in creating a series of “Faithful Tuesdays,” which brought together legislators and faith leaders across a broad spectrum of perspectives to discuss and advocate for issues of common interest.
“I believe the great success of Faithful Tuesdays is in providing a witness, amidst a divisive political environment, of collaboration, and the ability to see past some very serious differences to focus on the good that can be accomplished when we speak with a united voice on issues where there is agreement,” Kraska commented in an article in Colorado Politics.
Read Jenny's bio HERE.