The Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, Episcopal co-rector

Priest was known for her lifelong passion for social justice

(Handout, Baltimore Sun )
May 07, 2012|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Mary-Marguerite Kohn, the popular co-rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church who was an outspoken advocate for social justice, died Saturday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center of gunshot wounds she suffered Thursday in a double shooting at her Ellicott City church.

The Relay resident was 62.

"She had gotten her degree in pastoral counseling, and she was the one I wanted to use in the diocese to counsel and help congregations get through their grief," the Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, said Monday.

"She was in my office a week before she was killed talking about this. And the irony is, she would have been the one I would have called upon to go to St. Peter's" after the shootings], he said.

"She was a loving presence, very warm, sensitive and spiritually centered person. She also was colorful and playful," he said. "We will miss her deeply."

Dr. Kohn and Brenda Brewington, 59, of Ellicott City, the church's administrative assistant, were shot Thursday. The man police say was the shooter, Douglas Franklin Jones, 56, was a frequent visitor to the church's food pantry and lived in a home behind the church that was owned by St. Peter's. He was later found by Howard County police in the woods dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A statement released by St. Peter's said Dr. Kohn was an organ donor.

The 228th Convention of the Diocese of Maryland adopted a resolution honoring the lives of Dr. Kohn and Mrs. Brewington.

The daughter of an insurance salesman and a homemaker, Dr. Kohn was born in Montgomery, Ala., and was raised there and in Miami, where she graduated in 1967 from Norland High School.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Duke University and a master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She earned her master's degree in divinity in 1992 from Duke Divinity School and was ordained to the diaconate in 1993. In 1994, she was ordained into the priesthood.

In 2009, she earned a doctorate in pastoral counseling from Loyola University Maryland.

She had served as the interim rector at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Newport, Vt., and was assistant rector at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Pittsfield, Mass., from 2000 to 2002.

"We held a candlelight vigil Sunday evening, and more than 60 people came to share stories and pray for her, the administrative assistant and the gunman. It was very powerful," Dr. Hannah P. Anderson, St. Stephen's rector, said Monday.

"She was very popular, and the greatest gift she brought to St. Stephen's was her pastoral care in response to the poor and people going through crises," Dr. Anderson said.

Dr. Kohn came to the Ellicott City church as associate rector in 2003, and since 2009 had been co-rector, sharing pastoral duties with the Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek.

"Her field of expertise was church trauma," said Mr. Kubicek, who said he first got to know Ms. Kohn at a church conference 15 years ago in Syracuse, N.Y. "One day she showed up at St. Peter's not wearing clerical garb and one of her funny hats. I said, 'Don't I know you?'"

Dr. Kohn worked at the church part time while studying at Loyola and then worked full time after her earning her doctorate.

"We became close colleagues and good friends. If she weren't going home, she came to our house for holidays. And when she had her hips replaced, she recovered at our home," he said.

"I was always particularly impressed with her diagnostic skills and ... her ability at getting to the root of things and finding ways to work through them," said Mr. Kubicek.

When the possibility arose that her job would be eliminated at St. Peter's, Mr. Kubicek decided that they would become co-rectors.

"I felt that it was important that we ended up as equals. She was a person that paid attention to details and was liked by the young people," he said. "She really was loved on every level of the parish, from the old to the young."

"She was well-respected and a very accomplished lady," said Craig Stuart-Paul of Catonsville, the church's senior warden. "She did a lot of work with the Veterans Administration."

Mr. Stuart-Paul described her as "very lighthearted."

"And on occasion, [she] could be quite irreverent. She was something of a radical and quite a character. But she was a very good listener," he said. "And while others were waving their arms, she'd patiently listen and at the end of the day would come up with a wise statement."

"My sister had a passion for social justice, and that describes her life very well. That was her ministry. She put a lot of effort into working with groups and people who were marginalized by society — veterans, HIV/AIDS sufferers and the homeless," said her brother, Frank C. Kohn of St. Louis.

"She was very passionate in her beliefs," he said.

In her work as a pastoral counselor, Dr. Kohn frequently worked with victims of sexual abuse and had written her doctoral thesis on people who had been abused by clergy.

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