The much-beloved urban vicar of Baltimore, Bishop John H. Ricard, will be honored in a public prayer service tomorrow before he leaves to assume duties as bishop of Pensacola, Fla.
Hundreds of area Catholics, religious leaders and local officials will gather at 2 p.m. at the Basilica of the Assumption, Cathedral and Mulberry streets, for the service, followed by a reception at ,, the nearby Our Daily Bread soup kitchen.
"I think there'll be more tears than laughter," said Bill Blaul, spokesman for the archdiocese, noting that many people will miss the popular prelate.
Ricard, 57, who led the city's Catholic parishes for the past 12 years, was the first African-American bishop in the Baltimore Archdiocese.
He is president of the Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services, the world's second-largest nonprofit provider of foreign aid. He will continue in that position until his term expires in December 1998.
One of his biggest contributions was overseeing the restructuring of city Catholic churches and Southeast Baltimore
schools because of declining population and a shortage of resources. Ricard is praised by many people as an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised.
As one of three auxiliary bishops who serve under Cardinal Wil- iam H. Keeler in Baltimore, Ricard oversaw parishes serving 85,000 Catholics. Ricard's assignment as bishop of Pensacola makes him one of five African-American bishops to control an American diocese.
"It's going to be a mixture of joy and sadness. Joy because he becomes the fifth black ordinary in the country and sadness because he's going to be losing his sheep in Baltimore," said Dr. Hilbert D. Stanley, executive director of the National Black Catholic Congress.
On Wednesday, Stanley will be among the dozens of Ricard supporters who will fly to Pensacola for Ricard's afternoon installation service at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Also tomorrow, Ricard will perform one final pastoral duty here. He will confirm a group of young people at St. Peter Claver Church in West Baltimore.
Pub Date: 3/08/97