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Nun's murder rocks Baltimore.

BALTIMORE -- Violent crime, so commonplace on the streets of urban America, crossed a sacred line recently in a small convent in Baltimore. In its wake, a nun is dead, a city is shocked, and women religious working in big cities throughout the country are refusing to be afraid.

Sister MaryAnn Glinka, superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, was discovered dead in the early morning of March 19 in the front hallway of her convent. Her hands and feet were bound. She had been strangled and reportedly sexually assaulted.

In Baltimore, with a numbing record of 335 murders committed last year, the death of the 51-year-old nun was a wake-up call. "This crime strikes at the heart of so many values in our community we do hold sacred," said Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who prayed with the nuns at the convent. "Certain crimes carry with them very heavy symbolism."

Several days after her death, about 300 people gathered for a candlelight vigil. Through silence and prayer, they tried to make sense of it all. "Is anyone safe?" someone whispered as the group, with candles held high, processed slowly up to the motherhouse.

Apparently, Glinka had interrupted a burglary in progress. Cash and credit cards were missing and several rooms had been ransacked. According to police, the intruder entered through the library, where a broken door and window were discovered.

Less than two days later, a suspect, Melvin Lorenzo Jones, 34, was arrested and held without bail. He had a previous arrest record that included a manslaughter conviction. Several years ago, he had done some painting work at the convent.

The Franciscan convent, a home for 42 nuns, is nestled behind a decorative stone wall at the end of a winding, tree-lined drive in the northeast section of Baltimore. Statues of Christ and St. Francis peacefully keep watch over the sweeping lawn. On the morning of the nun's death, a blanket of snow covered the grounds. The other nuns were asleep.

In this area, known as Waverly, crime -- mostly property crimes -- exists, but murder is rare. Nearby, however, in an area known as PenLucy, open-air drug markets abound and murders are common.

Many who knew Glinka said that she was deeply concerned about the city's violence but that she was not afraid.

Sister Patricia Rogucki, SFCC, said the two of them had attended a meeting several days earlier where they discussed violence in the world. "MaryAnn's last words that evening were, |But we can't give up hope,' "Rogucki said.

As coordinator of the motherhouse community, Glinka spent much of her time tirelessly caring for some of the retired nuns there. Friends said she was great at doing "the little things" that are often overlooked, like giving someone a ride or taking one of the nuns for a walk.

Many of these sisters said it is not unusual for the threat of violence to hit close to home. "The other day downtown some sisters were coming home when they heard gunfire. They immediately fell to the ground to avoid the bullets," Sister Shalom Belnick, RSM, a Baltimore resident, recalled. "That didn't even make the news. We've just been to too many funerals, and the death of Sister MaryAnn was the last straw."

However, Franciscan Sister Dorothy Pagosa of the National Assembly of Women Religious said for a nun to be murdered in the United States is rare. She said the last murder of a nun that she could recall was in Chicago about seven years ago.

"It's a rarity, but it's also a risk we're willing to take," Pagosa said. "This is happening to people every day, and if we want to be with them in the community, we have to take risks. I live in a high-risk area in Chicago, but it's my neighborhood. I can't walk in fear."

A similar sentiment was shared by Sister Mary Theresa Plante, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary in the Bronx in New York. Although she is more cautious, she said, she is not afraid.

"We are a missionary order," said Plante. "We're not a weak-kneed kind of people. The danger is we are all so surrounded by violence, when someone is killed, it's just one more. We're trying to fight that attitude, and I think we can do it. Surely, if we can put a man on the moon we can make our world safe."

Fear is also dismissed in a Missionaries of Charity house in Detroit. Sister Marion, the superior, said that, although they have had some break-ins, none of the sisters has been assaulted. "We're not afraid," she said. "We're doing our work for God. It's hard to help people if you're afraid of them."

In Baltimore, the sisters are nurturing the concept of forgiveness. In a quivering voice, Sister Ritamary Tan, general superior of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, said Glinka would be the first to forgive.

"We are a simple folk," said Tan. "We are women of faith. We must sing a blessing for MaryAnn, for her family, for her friends," her voice faltered momentarily, "for Melvin, and for the world."
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Title Annotation:MaryAnn Glinka
Author:Pipkin, Kate
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 2, 1993
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