Like many who live in Perry Hall and throughout Maryland, I was raised as a Roman Catholic. My parents brought my sister and I up in the ways of this faith tradition. As a child, I was fascinated by the symbolism and ritual associated with Sunday mass. Moreover, the basic teaching of the church—namely to treat others as you would want to be treated yourself—has resonated in my life.
Upon reaching adulthood, I have become frustrated by the manner in which the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has too often let both a rigid adherence to dogma and a penchant for needless secrecy do damage to the institution itself. The continued failure over the years to properly address sexual abuse scandals occurring in Catholic communities worldwide has only made it harder for believing parishioners to look with confidence on the inner workings of our church.
Given these troubling trends, it comes as no surprise that many Roman Catholics in the United States have become disillusioned with the spiritual and administrative drift that seemingly overwhelm our church. I believe that it why so many of us, myself included, looked upon the selection of a new pope as a possibility for the rebirth of our church. As I learn more about Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina—forever now to be known as Pope Francis I—I see in him the traits that exemplify some of the best Catholic clergy members that I have ever known.
I have been blessed during my life to count two individuals who are active in the Catholic Church as friends. Indeed, both of these people also played prominent roles in an event that changed the course of my life and that of my wife Patty. Sister Maureen Schrimpe and Monsignor Adam Parker each offered readings from the Bible as part of our marriage ceremony in August 1997.
Sister Maureen Schrimpe, IHM has been a nun since 1967, and presently works in the Department of Dining Services at the University of Maryland, College Park. It was in this role that she and I first met. Throughout our time together, it became clear to me that she had discovered how to use that ostensibly non-religious occupation as an invaluable opportunity for teaching others what it really means to be Catholic.
Indeed, according to Sister Maureen, she has been called "to serve as a visible witness to God's loving presence in the world." Her service as part of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary also has offered her the chance to serve others directly. Sister Maureen has given countless hours of her time to both the university community and also to her faith community at St. John the Evangelist parish in Silver Spring, Maryland.
I first met Adam Parker during my time in college. In subsequent years, my wife and I were present when he chose to enter the priesthood, attending seminary at the North American College in Vatican City. We also had the pleasure of witnessing his ordination in 2000 at the Baltimore Basilica. Now Monsignor Adam Parker serves in an important position in the Vatican, alongside Cardinal Edwin O'Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, with whom Parker served since O'Brien came to our city in 2007.
As fulfilling as this success must be, Monsignor Adam was never more happy than during his days as a parish priest. Immediately prior to being named vice chancellor of the Diocese of Baltimore, then Father Adam served as pastor of the Church of the Ascension in Halethorpe, Maryland. According to long-time Ascension parishioner Tom Pugh, Adam was highly effective in that he served as a "good example of the Christian faith in action because he was so approachable and interested in people."
This calling to serve and to teach others, as exemplified in the lives of both Sister Maureen and Monsingor Adam, is a path that all Catholics should seek to follow. Pope Francis I, as a teaching priest of the Jesuit Order, clearly has the skills and the inclination to continue following such a path as well. Hopefully, his works, and those of Catholic clergy members like my two friends, can restore our collective faith in the future of the worldwide Catholic community.