No Sanctuary

March 23, 1993

"Certain crimes carry with them very heavy symbolism," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said Friday at the scene of Sister MaryAnn Glinka's murder. This homicide, involving a woman who had embraced a life of poverty and dedicated herself to helping others, who had risen to a post of leadership in her order of similarly committed nuns, leaves a particularly deep scar on this community. If a woman is not safe in a convent in the middle of the night, where can she -- or anyone -- feel safe?

The Franciscan mother house just north of Memorial Stadium is not in one of the city's free-fire zones, places where children can't be safe from stray bullets even on playgrounds or in their own homes. Just a few blocks away is one of the city's open-air drug markets, however. Whether narcotics played a role in this senseless murder is not yet known. It was enough that the convent had some money and other valuables and appeared a soft touch to a thief.

While it is gratifying that there was a quick arrest of a suspect in Sister MaryAnn's murder, other questions remain. Murders get resolved almost every day, given the daily rate of their occurrence. But the arrests and even convictions don't halt the bloody tide. Where do Baltimore City residents -- and, increasingly, residents of the surrounding suburbs -- look for safety?

One answer was offered by a civic leader who lives near the murder scene: in ourselves and each other. "It just seems to me that people have to change how they feel about themselves," said Gussie Tweedy, of the Pen Lucy neighborhood.

Aside from the symbolism Mayor Schmoke referred to, Sister MaryAnn's death was particularly tragic. Here was a woman who had, at a time when interest is declining in religious orders, devoted her life to bettering other peoples' lives. A native of Fells Point, she chose the Franciscans over another order closer to her own heritage because she felt more comfortable with its spirituality. Priests and nuns who have served with her here and in Virginia, as teachers, principal and administrator as well as religious, describe a petite but vigorous woman who would have helped legions of others had she been left with us. The whole community mourns her death, along with her family, friends and colleagues in and outside the Catholic Church.

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