In the world, and in the church

March 27, 2009|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Fire Chief James Clack aims to keep us out of blazes - in Baltimore and in the hereafter.

The city fire chief just became a deacon in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, so he can save people in more ways than one. He'll be introduced during Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown on Saturday.

What sounds like an odd resume combo is old hat to Clack, who was ordained as a deacon in St. Cloud, Minn., in 2003, when he was with the Minneapolis Fire Department. "They are different, but ... both are vocations where your main focus is helping others," Clack said.

Clack worked in a small parish in Zimmerman, Minn., until he left to take over Baltimore's department last April.

"When you move across the country, you don't automatically get to continue being a deacon," he said. "The bishop of the province has to agree and give you - it's called faculties."

Clack spent the past three or four months getting those faculties - submitting to a criminal background check and interviews with church officials.

The archdiocese seems happy to have him.

"We think it's great," said Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "His profile as chief of the Baltimore Fire Department lends visibility to what is sometimes an underappreciated aspect of church life that our deacons serve with great faith and great devotion to the church."

A Mormon who converted to Catholicism, Clack already attends Mass at Sacred Heart. As a deacon, he will set the table for the Eucharist, read the Gospel and, about once a month, preach the homily. He will also do some sort of community ministry, possibly in a prison, nursing home or food pantry.

"The role of the deacon is to have one foot in the work world and one foot in the [church]," he said. "A lot of times I preach about the everyday world, family life."

You can ask for help

Speaking about depression this coming Monday at Sheppard Pratt: former Montgomery County Exec Doug Duncan, who announced he was suffering from the illness when he dropped out of the 2006 race for governor. Since then, Duncan has done "a little bit" of public speaking about depression, but he thinks the need has grown.

"I'm just very concerned about the number of suicides you read about with the economy," he said in a phone interview this week from his office at Rockville-based CivicUS, which he described as a "rapid-response think tank" focused on public safety and environmental quality. He is VP of research and business development there.

"My whole message is, there is life after depression, but you have to get treatment," he said. "To me, that's the hardest step, admitting you need help. You don't need to be miserable. Treatment is available, and it works."

Three mystery men

Years from now, when Sheila Dixon's indictment is finally reduced to Trivial Pursuit questions, you'll have the answers: Doracon Employee Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are Dennis Cullop, Randell Finney and Colleen Flack, respectively, according to papers filed by prosecutors.

Cullop's name has surfaced before. Prosecutors alleged in court documents in November 2007 that Doracon owner Ron Lipscomb had his corporate VP provide gifts to Dixon, including a $2,000 gift certificate for furs and a $1,500 plane ticket to Chicago.

"Your affiants believe that a corrupt relationship exists between City Council President Sheila Dixon, developer Ronald Lipscomb, and Dennis Cullop," prosectors wrote then. Cullop has not been charged with a crime. Nor has Finney or Flack.

Finney is an assistant to Lipscomb; Flack, no longer at the company, held some sort of administrative position, said Lipscomb's attorney, Gerard Martin.

Prosecutors claim that Finney and Flack cashed corporate checks totaling more than $20,000. Dixon's indictment suggests - sometimes without completely connecting the dots - that the cash was used to buy gift cards for Dixon and to make ATM deposits into Dixon's personal checking account.

Speaking of dots ...

Baltimore Sun photographer Glenn Fawcett snapped Del. B. Daniel Riley doodling Thursday as the House passed limits on the death penalty. The doodle was The Grim Reaper. Riley, a Democrat representing Cecil and Harford counties, voted against the limits. "I doodle a lot down there during debate," he said. "It helps me focus." ... On NPR Thursday with Diane Rehm: Tony Geraci, food service director for Baltimore schools. He talked about buying food for school lunches directly from farmers - if not growing it on the school system's 33-acre organic farm. "Baltimore needs to take some props," Geraci told me later. "In terms of urban agriculture, we are the leading edge here."

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