For over thirty years, St Vincent’s has taken to heart the admonition of Pope Paul VI:
…it belongs to the laity, without waiting passively for orders or directives, to take the initiatives freely and to infuse a Christian spirit into the mentality, customs, laws and structures of the community in which they live. Let each one examine himself, to see what he has done up to now, and what he ought to do. It is not enough to recall principles, state intentions, point to crying injustice and utter prophetic denunciations; these words will lack real weight unless they are accompanied for each individual by a livelier awareness of personal responsibility and by effective action.
Octogesima Adveniens, Apostolic Letter of Pope Paul VI (1971)
Our Social Action Committee is the umbrella committee for the varied justice and service commitments our community undertakes. Its primary subcommittee, Peace and Justice, has been active since 1983. Members witness and advocate for social justice issues and peaceful resolution of domestic and international tensions, promote interfaith dialogue, educate and advocate for environmental stewardship and human rights issues, and support our sister parish in Nicaragua. The children above are there.
St. Vincent’s is a part of Jonestown, Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood and currently one of its most economically challenged. Most parishioners do not live here. We come from all over the City and surrounding counties, but choose this church and accept a responsibility for its neighborhood. We were among the original organizers of the Jonestown Planning Council, our neighborhood association. Over the last 30 years, the Council represented the voice of the neighborhood in projects ranging from the completion of the Jones Falls expressway to the creation of the subway and establishment of Shot Tower Park. Our proudest achievement was the demolition of nearby high-rise public housing projects and replacement with a mixed-income development of Baltimore rowhouses where rich, middle-class and poor live side-by-side.
Our community commitment encompasses education; something the Church does well. For about 150 years, we have educated children of the poor, starting with our own immigrant Irish, Italian, and Polish poor, and turning out generation after generation of kids who, thanks to church schools and their parents’ sacrifice, were the first college graduates in their families. We’re still doing it. While St. Vincent’s no longer has a school on parish property, we, along with four other parishes without schools, help organize and support Sts. James and John Interparochial School, the only remaining African-American Catholic school in East Baltimore. Our parishioners donate time, effort, and a great deal of money. We are committed to establishing an endowment to keep the school financially viable.
We provide Emergency Neighborhood Services in the form of a Food Pantry and Men’s Clothing Program. In collaboration with Our Lady of the Fields Catholic parish in Millersville, we open our facility every Friday evening to serve a hot meal to those who are hungry in the neighborhood. St. Vincent’s also participates in the United Churches Coalition for Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity, in direct service and with financial support.
Our justice commitment extends to the entire Baltimore metropolitan region. We support inclusionary housing, workforce development, equitable education, and accessible public transportation. Father Lawrence was a founding organizer of the Archdiocesan program, Beyond the Boundaries, to address these issues. St. Vincent’s is also a member of the Baltimore Regional Initiative to Develop Genuine Equality (BRIDGE), the church coalition through which we advocate. The picture is from the Pilgrimage for Jobs and Justice on November 12, 2011.
St. Vincent’s maintains a commitment that is balanced between advocacy and direct service, an involvement of both head and heart to keep in mind the faces and needs of the people we are called, as sisters and brothers, to serve.
If you want to be part of a community that strives to live Matthew 25:34-36, join us!