Grace and strength marked life of a nun 'who gave her life to helping people'

March 20, 1993|By Jacques Kelly and Thomas W. Waldron | Jacques Kelly and Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writers Staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

Helen Glinka sat yesterday in her lifelong home on Fells Point, looking out the window to the cold street outside and recalling the day her daughter MaryAnn decided to join the sisterhood at age 13.

"I didn't want her to go, she was so young. But I went and talked to the sister, and she assured me that MaryAnn had been called by God," Helen Glinka, 79, said as she clutched a Kleenex.

"I accepted that, because when I was pregnant, I prayed for a daughter and named her Mary after the Virgin Mary and Ann after Mary's mother, St. Ann. I made it all one word, MaryAnn, because I wanted it known whom she was named after."

The word that her daughter had been murdered at her own convent was as great a shock to Helen Glinka as anything she had ever heard. But she still maintained strength and did not weep in front of a reporter.

"It's all so senseless. MaryAnn gave her life to helping people," Helen Glinka said.

As a teen-ager from Fells Point, Sister MaryAnn loyally joined the Felician Sisters, the traditional Polish order.

But she felt it wasn't quite right for her, and she transferred to the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, known for its severe vows and strict ways.

Sister MaryAnn, 50, lived a simple life as a teacher, principal and religious leader. She liked long walks in the country and visits to the beach. She had a beautiful singing voice and loved to dance the polka at special occasions.

"She was very attracted to Franciscan spirituality, with a very radical avowal of poverty," said the Rev. Michael M. Duffy, a Virginia priest who knew her well. "She said very bluntly, she liked the simplicity, the detachment."

He was horrified by the image of her violent death.

"She's a very fragile, tiny woman," Father Duffy said. "I cried when I heard there was an act of violence."

Her friends described her as being a devoted sister in the church.

"She's one of those people you remember because of the beauty of the person," said Sister Maritia Smith, a member of a Charles County convent where Sister MaryAnn worked three years ago.

Sister Maritia said her friend was upbeat when she talked to her by phone Wednesday night, saying she loved her role as chief administrator at the Baltimore convent.

"She was always dedicated to what she did, and she did it with a certain grace," Sister Maritia said.

She received her religious training at a convent in Lodi, N.J., and after a few years, she joined the Franciscan order and began working at a series of different assignments in the church.

In 1980, she arrived to be principal at Sacred Heart School in Danville, Va.

Father Duffy, who was the parish priest there at the time, remembers her plan for helping parents meet their tuition obligations -- by giving them tuition credits for working at the church's bingo nights.

"Only those who worked got the credit," he said. "After that there were no more headaches."

At Sacred Heart School, she had strengthened the religious instruction, giving the children more opportunities for prayer.

Eddie Hancock, principal at the Sacred Heart School, said, "She was always was working to improve things, constantly trying to keep things moving forward."

As the principal of Rosa Parks School in Northwest Baltimore, she was an inspiration to Maura D'Souza, a first-year teacher from Africa.

"She insisted that whatever work was to be done, must be done," Mrs. D'Souza said.

"She did look for the best in all of us," she said. "I think it upset her if she didn't get it."

Mrs. D'Souza remembers the Halloween of 1988, when Sister MaryAnn appeared in her first-grade class, dressed as a nurse, in white gown and hat.

"She would say, 'Is anyone sick?' And everyone wanted to be sick, so they could touch her," Mrs. D'Souza remembers.

Sister MaryAnn also served as principal at St. Clare School in Essex.

For the last three years she served as the chief administrator at

the convent on Ellerslie Avenue. Much of her life there was devoted to taking care of the retired nuns.

"She spent a lot of her free time doing that," said Rob Rehg, p pTC spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "She would visit them, get them movies, make sure that they were not forgotten, that they were entertained."

Even her own mother told her she was assuming too much responsibility in taking over as superior to her sisters.

"A while back, when the sisters elected MaryAnn to be their superior, she didn't tell me at first. She kept it quiet. Then she said to me, 'I have something to tell you. I'm going to be the superior,' " Helen Glinka said.

"I said to her, 'You've got to be crazy. It's no fun taking care of all those old sisters in their 70s and 80s. I'm old myself, I know what I mean.' But I knew MaryAnn would do it. She just could never stop working for people."

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