As I sat in the ornate St. Wenceslaus church in anticipationof seeing Mother Teresa, I began to reflect on the unsung saints that live and work in this East Baltimore neighborhood. Bound by their fierce sense of justice and their commitment to save children from drugs and street violence, there are many women pursuing a new vision for their neighborhood.
Mother Teresa's urging to "help one another to be holy," reminded me of Sister Bobby English, the Director of the Julie Community Center at Washington and Lombard streets. Sister Bobby plays kickball in Patterson Park with young people who participate in the "After School" program. By day she recruits volunteers, tutors children in math and reading, and organizes neighbors who want to have a voice in local development. At night she writes grant proposals and goes to community meetings.
"Sis," as I heard her called last week by an adoring group of streetwise boys, represents hope for a better life. She is confidant, mentor, tutor and above all friend to the neighborhood young people.
As the organist played "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," the faces of the East Baltimore saints came to mind. A young mother of four on Regester Street, uses her video camera to film drug deals and then shares the evidence with the police. On a recent summer day, she chased a prostitute from her neighborhood by threatening to include her in the movie.
Another who exemplifies the works of love Mother Teresa calls us to is Arlene, who is full-time mother, grandmother, health promoter and interpreter for many Hispanic families who are new to Baltimore.
On North Collington Avenue, Mary W. uses her energy and her knowledge of God to minister to young women in the area. Whether she is offering free child care at the Julie Center's New Moms' Club, or gathering children for Sunday School, she is always smiling. Says Mary, "I want these young women to make it; if I can help them get into G.E.D. classes or baby-sit while they go to a job interview, it might help them get a good start."
A little south, Jane, a mother of two, works tirelessly as health promoter and adviser to many women she meets at Commodore John Rogers Elementary. She offers rides to the clinic, explains the intricacies of applying for social-service assistance and provides lots of nurturing to parents and kids in crisis.
Jane has several counterparts at General Wolfe Elementary. Alice, working on the "Say No to Drugs Club;" Darlene and Dr. Guinevere Berry, working to increase attendance, and Sandy, organizing the "Parent Power" seminars, are saints making a difference.
The oldest saint in our midst is Mary Halcott, who, after raising 13 children, works as advocate for the Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary at the Joseph House on Chapel Street. She believes that her years of managing her large family prepared her well for her role as advocate to those in need. On a recent visit, her works of love could be seen as she counseled a young mother in need of food for her baby, then quickly moved to the back of the line to offer a cool drink to a parched and homeless elderly man.
As I basked in the glow of Mother Teresa's inspiring words, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the unsung saints who are helping to change the lives of their neighbors.
Carmalyn Dorsey is coordinator of the Neighborhood Health Promoter Program at the Julie Community Center.