A priest is not supposed to blame or judge, even in anger, even when a nun has been strangled.
That, said Monsignor John J. Duggan, would be a sin.
The monsignor stepped lightly near the margins of sin yesterday from the pulpit of St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church as he eulogized Sister MaryAnn Glinka, the nun killed Friday morning in her Northeast Baltimore convent.
The tribute was only one of many being made throughout Maryland this weekend.
"Sister went down to the convent to prepare breakfast for the nuns, and she met her death," said Monsignor Duggan, speaking to some 30 worshipers at a noon Mass downtown. "The only way to accept this without committing sin myself in what I say about the one who murdered her is to [consider] what the Lord must have said when he welcomed Sister into heaven.
"The Lord would say to her: 'You see, Sister, that is how I died. That is how I felt. . . . You and I understand Good Friday better than the others.' "
Only that consolation, said Monsignor Duggan, at age 85 retired from active priesthood, "keeps me from sinning myself with anger over her death. . . . Poor dear Sister, good for all of her life."
Sister MaryAnn, the mother superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, was found dead in her night clothes inside the entrance to the order's motherhouse at 3725 Ellerslie Ave., just north of Memorial Stadium.
The Franciscan Sisters came to Baltimore from Europe more than 100 years ago to establish an orphanage for black children. Later, they began to teach.
Sister MaryAnn, 50, worked as a principal at Catholic grade schools and for the past three years had taken care of aged colleagues at the Ellerslie Avenue convent.
Said the Rev. John Barbernitz of St. Alphonsus, who helped celebrate yesterday's downtown Mass: "The fact that people will kill somebody who is trying to help them is more difficult to understand than killing somebody who's done you a dirty deal."
A Fells Point native who answered a call from God at 13, MaryAnn Glinka became Baltimore's 70th homicide victim on the last day of winter, in a year already outpacing 1992's record 335 murders.
When she made her vows at 18, she took a strict pledge of poverty.
Those vows, Monsignor Duggan said, would have guaranteed her attacker almost any comfort for the asking.
"All that man had to say was: 'Sister, I need a sandwich' or 'I need an overcoat.' That's all he had to do, because that's what she gave her life for," the priest said. "A life of teaching, feeding and clothing, and all she got in return was crucifixion."
In death, the monsignor said, Sister MaryAnn's work will go on.
"We will pray to her," he said, "and she will turn our prayers around and use them to help some soul in purgatory that she knew" on Earth.
Several of the people at St. Alphonsus yesterday simply showed up for the regular Saturday afternoon Mass at the old Lithuanian church off the corner of Park Avenue and Saratoga Street.
They knew of Sister MaryAnn's tragedy -- a crime making news in papers as far away as Italy -- but they didn't know the Mass would be celebrated in her honor.
Said 68-year-old Julia Stakem, who has been coming to St. Alphonsus on and off since the 1940s: "I offered up my Holy Eucharist for her and asked the Lord to forgive her killer because he was able to forgive the ones who killed him."
Agnes Haney also dedicated her communion host to Sister MaryAnn's soul.
"When I heard about it on television I cried, I really cried," said Mrs. Haney, 70. "Never did I even think that such a thing could happen to a nun. I've been in Baltimore my whole life, and I've seen the winos and the hobos tip their hats to nuns and priests when they walked by. This is just terrible."
Prayers and special intentions for the soul of Sister MaryAnn Glinka and her family are expected today in churches throughout Maryland.
At Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church on Chester Street, the predominantly Polish parish where Sister MaryAnn worshiped as youngster, the Rev. James Miles will be talking about her at today's 12:15 p.m. Mass.
"No matter how a person dies, as long as they die at peace with God, there's value," said Father Miles. "A good lesson is to stay close to God all the time, to be prepared for any eventuality."
And, said Agnes Haney, not to waste a moment getting ready.
"I believe that time is just winding down," Mrs. Haney said. "God is trying to show us that time is short, but nobody's paying attention."
TRIBUTES TO NUN
* A public viewing will be conducted at the Franciscan Sisters convent chapel, 3725 Ellerslie Ave., tomorrow from 2 until 9 p.m. and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
* A wake and public Mass for Sister MaryAnn Glinka will be offered at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church, 5401 Loch Raven Blvd.
* A private funeral Mass for Sister MaryAnn's colleagues, relatives and close friends will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the convent.
* Memorial contributions can be made to the Retirement Fund of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, 3725 Ellerslie Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21218.