Sister MaryAnn remembered as fount of kindness

JACQUES KELLY

March 22, 1993|By JACQUES KELLY

The phones started ringing Friday morning. Something horrible had happened up at the secluded convent behind Memorial Stadium, on Ellerslie Avenue.

Word went out from parish to parish. At first people thought one of the very old sisters had been attacked, but soon the name came over the radio.

It was Sister MaryAnn Glinka, 50, the great and beloved Sister MaryAnn, the kind of person who gives the human race a good name.

She was killed Friday where she labored, caring for the aged and infirm nuns who themselves had led lives of strict Christian charity and good works.

Sister MaryAnn was a tiny giant. She stood only about 5 feet high. She was thin. She tried to keep in shape so she could always be ready to lift or help the older sisters by walking through Ednor Gardens and Waverly.

She was an individual blessed with clear, distinct convictions. At 13, when she was completing the eighth grade at Chester Street's Holy Rosary Parochial School, she decided to leave her mother and father and the only neighborhood she'd ever known.

She wanted to give up the world and put on the veil. This meant no more Baltimore, or South Ann Street, or the comfortable rowhouse where her own mother had been born. The young candidate for the sisterhood began her education with the Felician Sisters in Lodi, N.J. She knew she had made the right choice.

Sister MaryAnn came from one of those nearly indestructible East Baltimore families. Look at Helen Glinka, her 79-year-old mother, who sat quietly Friday afternoon at her front window. She was composed, strong and clear-headed.

She talked sweetly of her MaryAnn's life as she glanced out the front room's lace curtain.

"She was the happiest sister in the world. That life seemed to be made for her. And even though she went away, she never, never forgot me. Just a week ago, when the snow was predicted, she called me and said, 'Mom, why don't you come out here and weather it out with us?' "

In time, Sister MaryAnn made another choice. She left the sisters who educated her as a young woman and joined the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, a group of nuns whose unshakable devotion to working with God's unwanted and cursed appealed to her.

She selected an order of nuns who came here from England in the 19th century, when other white sisters refused to establish a much needed orphanage for black children.

Over the years, the sisters took on other duties. Today, they run two schools for disabled students and do additional teaching in neighborhood schools. Their hospitality to the homeless manifests itself in the lines of people who form at the door of the Franciscan Sisters' Maryland Avenue center.

"I can remember one Saturday when MaryAnn was at Rosa Parks" -- a Catholic school at St. Ambrose Church in Park Heights. "She asked me to come out and help her. The children had turned in their pennies from saving during Lent. MaryAnn and I rolled them," Helen Glinka said.

Her daughter never wanted any material possessions. "She did not wear the religious habit. She went up the Belair Road to a thrift store and bought clothes for a quarter or 50 cents. The most she ever spent was two dollars," her mother recalled.

Sister MaryAnn had no fear of any situation. People recall the time she was on a special assignment at Lake Clifton High School. Two boys got in a fight in the hall. Sister MaryAnn jumped in and separated them. Only when it was over did another student come up and tell her never to play the peacemaker again.

She is recalled as being pious (but not pietistic), delightful company, gentle, spiritual, hospitable and gracious. And always happy.

But she was best at giving her time to other people.

Her mother said, "She was the kind of daughter who would call me up and say, 'I've got to drive some of the sisters to the airport. Why don't you come along for the ride, too?' "

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