Legacy of Good Shepherd left in Baltimore

“I entered the Catholic Charities building with some sense of sadness,” Sr. Mary Frances Altavilla said. Thus begins the story of a memorable afternoon meant to honor the legacy of Good Shepherd in Baltimore.

Catholic Charities held a reception to honor the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the legacy they have left behind in Baltimore. The reception took place at Senior Community building in Lansdowne, Maryland on December 20, 2019. The building is very near the Catholic Charities Lansdowne After-School Program. The program is being renamed the “Good Shepherd Therapeutic After-School Program” in honor of our legacy gift.

The Province of Mid-North America gave Catholic Charities a legacy endowment of approximately $650,000. The legacy gift was made possible by proceeds from the sale of our property in Halethorpe.  Lansdowne is a neighborhood which is contiguous with Halethorpe. Youth living in Halethorpe usually attended Lansdowne High School. The endowment will support the expansion of the Catholic Charities program in the Lansdowne community.

The reception was simple and straightforward. Catholic Charities welcomed us with eagerness and enthusiasm. Sister Carmen Flores said she appreciated that quite a few of our former staff were able to witness this presentation and learn how much Catholic Charities relates to our values. And, of course, we had a joyful reunion with our dear and devoted Partners in Mission!

Legacy of Good Shepherd charism

Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore William McCarthy (left) presents a plaque to Will Buttarazzi, President of the Good Shepherd Services Board of Directors. The plaque commemorates the legacy that Good Shepherd Sisters have left in Baltimore.

The afternoon event opened with a welcome by Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore William McCarthy, who introduced his staff. Will Buttarazzi, President of the Good Shepherd Services Board of Directors, presented a portrait of St. Mary Euphrasia and spoke about the legacy she left with her vision and our core values.

Sister Mary Regina Long said, “Will’s introduction of St. Mary Euphrasia to staff opened conversations expressing the desire of staff to learn more. To me the day symbolized ending an era and partnering in a developing service to young people in need in the Baltimore community. The charism is alive and well.”

Passion for the work

Bishop Denis Madden, Archdiocese of Baltimore, blessed a commemorative plaque. We had some photo ops and refreshments to document the legacy ceremony. The best part of the afternoon unfolded when we walked to the building where the children and families are being served. The program director and therapists reviewed the outline of a typical day. We could tell that the staff members were passionate about their work and about helping the kids grow and flourish.

I was electrified by a descriptive anecdote which revealed just how closely this program aligns with our Good Shepherd experiences. The therapist explained that recently they have been working on a unit about Size of a Problem/Size of your Response. Is this issue or problem small, medium, or large?  What skills do you have that could help solve the problem? Can you address it by yourself, or should you ask for help? 

She noted that recently one of the boys in group spilled apple juice all over his shirt at the beginning of group. He was heading into meltdown, until she got his attention:  “Alan, Alan, Alan!  What size is this problem? Is it small, medium, or large?” Alan stared at her for a moment and then said sheepishly, “Small.” 

Heart full of joy and gratitude

A moment later he added, “I can handle it myself.” What a breakthrough! It was a grace for me to be affiliated, even indirectly, with this program. Sr. Carmen said, “There was a sense of pride and peace in recognizing that the mission of serving children and families will continue through Catholic Charities of Baltimore.”

We started this story about the legacy of Good Shepherd in Baltimore with Sister Mary Frances’ comment about entering the building with some sadness. She ends that sentence with the words, “but I left with a heart full of joy and gratitude!”

Legacy of taking action for the mission

On the following day, Sara Rothstein of Catholic Charities  sent an email that sums up the legacy of Good Shepherd in Baltimore. In it she wrote, “Hello, all. I wanted to share a quick thought I had after leaving the event.

“There is a word in Hebrew, li’shma. The concept is that the action you are doing should solely be for the sake of the purpose itself and nothing else. Not for personal gain or ego.

“Helping the underserved is a mission we all carry out in our daily work and lives. Everything we do is li’shma. Everything is for the sake of the mission. Being able to take ourselves out of the picture is not always easy to do. The Sisters have given us the ability to take what they have done and ensure that the good continues to be brought into the world. We are all just vessels carrying forward the love that the world needs in order to run. 

“I am honored that we will be able to carry on that mission li’shma until the time comes for us to pass the mission on to the next vessels that will take the torch and continue to light up the world.”

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website veganstoryteller.com