Outside a West Baltimore Catholic church yesterday, priest and parishioner prayed for racial harmony and individual empowerment. They spoke of the right to vote and the need to exercise that right.
But Myrtle Stanley perhaps best explained why any of it should matter.
"We all came on different ships, but we're in the same boat together now," said Mrs. Stanley.
She was speaking at an event billed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore as a renewal of commitment in promoting understanding between blacks and whites within the city -- and beyond its borders.
Mrs. Stanley, director of the Archdiocesan Office of the Propagation of the Faith, urged the crowd of 100 to join the church drive to register new voters and encourage them to cast their ballots in November.
L "It is up to us to make sure we are not left out," she said.
The prayer service on the lawn of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church was held to announce the Catholic archdiocese's pledge to increase its efforts at promoting racial harmony.
Mindful of the racial tensions that spawned the riots in Los Angeles this spring, church leaders want to get suburban pastors and their mostly white parishioners talking with inner-city churches and their majority black congregants.
"It's an ongoing concern. As soon as people talk to one another, some of the stereotypes melt away. There develops a solidarity," said Archbishop William H. Keeler.
"They, the people in the city [through faith] can help break down some stereotypes of the people outside the city," he added.
To symbolize the need to bring people together, the prayer service featured four Catholics -- a black, a white, a Korean and a Hispanic -- who each read a portion of Psalm 86 and joined together in reciting, "Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth."
Bishop John H. Ricard reminded the crowd that "this is a moment of great challenge as a church."
He exhorted the crowd "to develop more stronger and in a more meaningful way that which binds us."
In her own life, Myrtle Stanley has faced and met the challenge.
As a member of St. Ann's Catholic Church on Greenmount Avenue in East Baltimore, Mrs. Stanley said she looked around NTC the neighborhood and saw poverty, despair, the drug-addicted and the abused.
"I felt if my life were to have any meaning, I had to do something other than weep over it," said Mrs. Stanley, a retired schoolteacher who has worked full time for the church for the past eight years.
In her address to the prayer group yesterday, Mrs. Stanley asked the crowd to ask themselves, "What can I do to make the Baltimore metropolitan area a better place to live and work?"
Then, she provided the answer: "I'm going to be an agent for change in my home, in my neighborhood, in my church, in my city, in my country, in my world. For this I was born."