'We can't lose hope'

March 28, 1994|By Patricia A. Rogucki

IT IS SAID that the people of El Salvador do not let their dead die. Amid massacres and murders, every family I know has lost at least one loved one in that country's 12-year-old civil car, but the meaning of these lives did not end with death. Strong and vivid memories enabled the living to continue in hope.

So it is with my friend, MaryAnn Glinka of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore.

How well I remember Friday, March 19, 1993! I drove onto Penrose Street to teach a homebound student just as the 1 o'clock news broke the story of the terrible murder at St. Elizabeth's Convent on Ellerslie Avenue.

This was too horrible to comprehend. Tears flooded down my cheeks. I had just been to visit Sister MaryAnn the night before. What could I have done to prevent this tragedy, this great loss?

I had known MaryAnn for 35 years and had never known her to speak ill of anyone. In high school the math teacher had aptly nicknamed her "Sunshine." She so obviously delighted in the bright side of life. If there were obstacles in her path, she found ways to get around them, reasons why things could be done.

In South Plainfield, N.J., she started a religious education program for pre-schoolers. She found great joy in the words and actions of these little ones as they learned to praise and thank God.

In Newark, N.J., she pursued a graduate degree as a reading specialist. Sister MaryAnn felt that if children could be taught to read, that was the key!

In Danville, Va., she was excited about introducing peace studies into the school curriculum.

In Baltimore she taught in public as well as Catholic schools and served as prinicpal of Rosa Parks School.

MaryAnn had a special place in her heart for Baltimore and its people. She grew up in a row house on South Ann Street, where her mother and brother still live.

Well aware of the growing violence in the city, MaryAnn refused to be imprisoned by it. She ventured brisk evening walks down Ellerslie Avenue. Ironically, the fatal violence she suffered came to her inside the convent where she had served as superior for several years.

I had the privilege of being with Sister MaryAnn just hours before that tragedy. She had invited me to share with her Franciscan sisters my experiences of the Salvadoran people. We watched a video on the life of the martyred Jesuit Segundo Montes. He and five others were killed in 1989 at the university where they taught.

We were encouraged by the deep faith and strong hope of the Salvadoran people amid the violence of an oppressive government. I recalled crouching in a corner as bombs exploded in the capital, San Salvador. Not long after, I hit the floor in my own Southwest Baltimore rowhouse during a drive-by shooting. Thus, we talked about the violence so prevalent in our own city and what we could do about it. After we had made suggestions or observations, Sister MaryAnn brought the evening's discussion to a close with the words, ''We cannot lose hope; we just have to continue to hope."

Little did we realize how soon that challenge would become a reality. MaryAnn was brutally taken from us without even a sign of struggle. The intruder she surprised, instead of fleeing, tried to quench the very goodness I had known all these years. But I will not allow him the power to do that.

It is one year later. The tears still come in agonizing disbelief and my heart still aches. MaryAnn's memory is so strong that it is hard to accept her absence. Her positive outlook found the good that life holds. Her goodness, her gospel faith and determined ways are deeply imbedded in my mind and heart.

And her legacy of hope? It continues in many ways among the people of Baltimore. At the urging of her friends, the Thomas More Project has established a scholarship fund in Sister MaryAnn Glinka's name, thereby offering the hope of Catholic education to children in Baltimore City. Saint Bernardine's gospel choir and Shirley Hughes have offered their talent for a "Voices of Hope Concert" April 16 at Poly/Western Auditorium. Perhaps the people gathered in Sister MaryAnn's memory will be inspired further by the example of her life.

Sister Patricia A. Rogucki, S.F.C.C., writes from Baltimore.

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