2010s

In 2010, the Archdiocese decided that Rev. Bozzelli was needed to lead three parishes in Glen Burnie. His replacement was Rev. Martin Demek, from St. William of York parish.

Since Father Marty’s arrival the parish has seen a few more changes, primarily due to fiscal constraints. After much discernment, the Corpus Christi Community Center closed its doors in the winter of 2014 and was replaced by a revitalized food bag program and strengthened lunch program at the rectory door. In 2013, after much deliberation, and with a large measure of sadness, the parish had to discontinue its sister-parish relationship with the Maya village of Sepalau, due to violence in the area and severe communication problems. Betsy Lafferty, the parish’s second lay pastoral associate, retired in the fall of 2014 and has not yet been replaced.

Nonetheless, the parish remains a strong and vibrant part of the Church and the city of Baltimore. Corpus Christi currently counts over 250 registered families, many of whom are actively engaged in the various parish ministries. More than forty lay people assist in the weekend liturgies. Kristen Bowden, who joined the pastoral team as coordinator of faith formation in 2012, runs a successful faith formation curriculum for the parish’s children. Last but not least, a strategic planning team is currently at work to develop a new five-year plan, which will include plans for a renewed evangelization strategy, a strengthened social justice and outreach plan, and a blueprint to reinforce and broaden the faith formation program.

2000s

The priest shortage was an even greater reality in the 21st century than when Sister Jane retired. Parishioners were fairly certain that a priest would not be assigned because the parish was now accustomed to not having a priest pastor. But a priest was assigned, one who had applied for the position. Installed in February, 2000, Rev. Richard Bozzelli, the parish’s thirteenth pastor, had been a lawyer before entering seminary. Because he wanted a city parish and because he shared the professional background of many of his new parishioners, he seemed a perfect fit for the parish.

In his time as pastor, Rev. Bozzelli encouraged the adoption of an ambitious three-year plan for the parish, based on a comprehensive planning process. A successful stewardship drive was undertaken to increase the weekly offertory collection. A much-needed expansion of the religious education program was initiated, under the direction of Dr. Pat Fosarelli, the parish’s first lay pastoral associate. Rev. Bozzelli sought to heal the sense of alienation that many parishioners felt toward the larger Church through homilies, discussions, and example. He became instrumental in the Bolton Hill Tri-Church series of educational offerings and in shared prayer and liturgies.

He formed a Facilities Committee that carefully studied the physical plant of the parish. Based on their work, a highly successful capital campaign (Faith Building Community) was launched to make renovations and repairs to the church: to repair its exterior; repair and restore the church’s clock and bell tower; install a handicapped entrance; install a radiant heating system; replace the old wooden floor with a limestone floor; repair and polish the pews; upgrade the sound system; and install a raised sanctuary platform. While interior renovations were ongoing for several months, MICA graciously provided space for weekend worship. The accomplishments were celebrated in 2006. In 2009, Rev. Bozzelli received the honorary title of monsignor.

1990s

Sister Jane continued to oversee many repairs and renovations of parish property, especially the church. She sold the convent to raise money. She approved a survey of parishioner impressions about liturgy and a parish census. She encouraged the establishment of small Christian communities of about 8-10 individuals each, which met for prayer and Scripture study.

In 1999, with the parish in healthy shape, Sisters Jane and Marge announced that they would retire.

1980s

With Rev. Sewell’s departure in 1980, the parish hired its first pastoral associate, Sister Jane Desmond. Joining her was Sister Jane Coyle, a Medical Mission sister, who assisted where needed. When Sister Desmond left in 1983, Sister Jane became pastoral associate and assumed responsibility for social outreach, adult education, and evangelization.

Once a liability, the diversity of Corpus Christi was now its strength, a testament to Rev. Callahan’s understanding of the Gospel. After ten years of his pastorate, the parish was growing: there were over 350 registered households and over 500 parishioners. Involvement in church organizations was on the rise, as were the weekly offertory collections and mass attendance.

In 1986, Rev. Callahan was transferred to St. Margaret Parish. Given the slowly emerging priest shortage and Corpus Christi’s small size (by Archdiocese standards), multiple meetings took place at both the parish and at the Catholic Center to decide upon a staffing arrangement. In late 1986, Archbishop William Borders appointed Sister Jane Coyle as “Coordinator of Pastoral Ministry” (later changed to “Pastoral Life Director”). It made national news, as it was unheard of to assign a woman to lead a Roman Catholic parish.

The installation of Sister Jane in March, 1987 was met with rejoicing, although some individuals feared that there would be a mass exodus from the parish in protest. It didn’t happen. In fact, over time, the number of households increased, as did the weekly collection. The number of weddings and baptisms consistently rose. Parishioner involvement began to blossom. The parish held fund-raising events and became involved with Baltimore’s annual Artscape festival, literally held in front of the church.

Sister Jane’s pastoral associate was Sister Marge Schnellinger, a Maryknoll sister. Under their leadership, the soup kitchen in Reservoir Hill expanded into a community center, and a sister parish relationship was developed with St. John the Baptist in Sepalau, Guatemala. With the times of Archdiocesan subsidy fresh in their minds, however, the sisters were frugal.

Because no priest was assigned to the parish, Sister Jane had to locate presiders for Mass and the sacraments. Two priests had a profound impact on the parish: Rev. Gene Walsh (a noted liturgist, who greatly influenced the parish’s liturgies) and Rev. Lowell Glendon, who brought to the parish a strong spirituality and a “Vatican II mentality,” one in which parishioners were called to “own” their parish. The priests encouraged Sister Jane to be in the sanctuary during Mass. She never considered herself anything other than a witness to those in the pews – especially women – who did not have her opportunity or call.

1970s

Problems remained, as did impressions that the parish was insular. In 1971, the school closed its doors because of lack of enrollment. In 1976, Fr. Dougherty asked to be relieved of his pastoral duties. After a team of Jesuits met with parishioners, they sent recommendations to the Archdiocese about Corpus Christi, based on their years of staffing the parish and parishioner input. There were frustrations on all sides – parishioners, Jesuits, and Archdiocese. The Jesuits felt that the Archdiocese needed to make a decision as to whether Corpus Christi should be a parochial ministry or a specialized one: if the former, the Archdiocese would resume staffing, if the latter, the Jesuits would retain staffing.

Later that year, the Archdiocese decided to resume staffing the parish; Rev. Frank Callahan and Rev. John Sewell were assigned as “team ministers.” They had worked together previously, and Rev. Callahan had actually volunteered for the Corpus Christi assignment. But both men had to be shocked when, on their first weekend, the collection was $129 (total), with an attendance of 150. There were fewer than 400 parishioners and almost no children. Hence, there was no education program for children or teens. There were very few functioning programs at all. The parish received financial support (“subsidy”) from the Archdiocese just to survive.

The priests became well-known in the neighborhood, enlisting people to serve the ill, elderly, and poor. A community center was established in nearby Reservoir Hill. Parish organizations became re-vitalized. The parish hosted community events, seminars, and educational series (especially about social justice issues) at its school; concerts in the church; and MICA’s 1978 graduation in the church. In 1979, the parish held its first annual garden party.

Because the church was in very poor condition, Rev. Callahan contacted members of the Jenkins family to become involved in renovating and repairing the church built in honor of their family. T. Courtney Jenkins took the lead in founding the Corpus Christi-Jenkins Memorial Historical Trust in 1978; in 1979, the Trust launched a restoration campaign that was very successful.

The energetic and exuberant Rev. Callahan lived in the rectory, and neighborhood residents came to know him so well that he eventually became an officer in the Bolton Hill Neighborhood Association. It was a time of new life.

1960s

Rev. Flanagan died in 1965. Corpus Christi’s sixth pastor was Rev. John Ballard, no stranger to the parish, having served at Corpus Christi from 1953 to 1964. Although he was overjoyed with this, his first pastorate, he was realistic enough to know that social forces – in the city and neighborhood – would impact Corpus Christi’s viability for years to come. During his term of two years, the number of parishioners and enrollment at the school was small but stable, as were the finances. Participation in church activities continued to decrease, with even the CYO disbanding in mid-decade.

In 1967, the Archdiocese transferred Rev. Ballard into a more promising assignment. His replacement, Rev. Francis Fortenbaugh, was – by his own admission – unsuited to Corpus Christi. The pastorate of Corpus Christi’s seventh pastor lasted about one year, as collections and income fell, along with the number of weddings, baptisms, and enrollment in both the school and CCD program.

In 1968, the Archdiocese conducted an intensive study of Corpus Christi. The report (called the “Carr Report” after its author) made four recommendations: 1) replace the current pastor with a priest comfortable with inner city ministry; 2) close St. Ignatius Church and assign its clergy to Corpus Christi; 3) reconfigure the parish school so that there would be a better blend of Caucasian children from Bolton Hill and African-American children from Reservoir Hill; and 4) work toward better inner-parish relations, especially with nearby (predominantly African-American) parishes.

The Archdiocese approached the Jesuits to staff the parish. The eighth pastor, Rev. William Graham, was named in 1968. He quickly noted the dangers in the neighborhood, noting that crime and fear were two reasons that parishioners did not attend evening functions at the parish. His pastorate lasted but six months when he was appointed Province Director of Pastoral Ministries.

His successor was Rev. Francis Dougherty, appointed as pastor in 1969. For several years, he took no salary and worked not only as pastor but as secretary, cook, and maintenance man. Parishioner numbers and income remained flat. Many parishioners did not understand why the Jesuits were at Corpus Christi and why it was not being treated like other archdiocesan parishes.

1950s

In 1951, Rev. Leo Barley (formerly pastor of St. Andrew’s Church) was appointed as Corpus Christi’s fourth pastor. A musician, Rev. Barley seemingly had little interest in finances; collections continued to decrease, and by the end of his term, the budget had fallen by a third. Although parishioner numbers remained in the 1100s for his entire term, parishioner participation plummeted, even in previously hardy organizations such as the Holy Name Society and the Sodality. The Boys Scout troop and Girl Scout troop, started by Rev. Neligan, ceased to exist.

In his fifth year as pastor, Rev. Barley died. The new pastor, Rev. Francis Flanagan, formerly of Sts. Philip and James Church, was a very different pastor than his predecessor, in that he was a “mover.” He made major improvements to the physical plant of the parish, including building a parking lot between the church and the main Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) building.

Yet, the number of parishioners continued to dwindle, even though those remaining maintained the offertory collections. School enrollment decreased by half, while the CCD program was reduced to single digits, as were weddings. Membership in church organizations continued to fall, with two exceptions. The St. Vincent DePaul Society remained active, especially in Reservoir Hill. Rev. Flanagan started a Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) branch that actually grew until the mid-1960s.

In this period of Baltimore’s history, people of better means were moving to the suburbs. This was facilitated by the construction of the Jones Falls Expressway, which improved access to the suburbs. Crime was increasing in the city, as were racial tensions. Although Corpus Christi had a number of loyal African-American parishioners, it was generally regarded as a white church in a white neighborhood (that was never really very Catholic), at a time when white people were leaving downtown Baltimore.

1940s

By the year of his death (1943), Rev. Nolan had paid off the $75,000 debt for the new school. When he died, after 34 years as pastor, the parish – although struggling in terms of membership – had no debt.

The first 63 years of Corpus Christi parish were led by only two pastors, an occurrence that would be unlikely today.

Rev. Nolan was succeeded by Rev. William Neligan, formerly pastor of St. Francis of Assisi. Fortunately for him, World War II was ending, and the baby boom was on. Hence, weddings and baptisms increased sharply. Yet, unfortunately for him, the number of parishioners declined overall to approximately 1200 by the end of the decade. That meant collections were usually down as well, although there were some fluctuations from year to year. Several church societies, however, continued to be quite active in their work – the Holy Name Society, the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality, and the Propagation of Faith. Sadly, there were never more than 150 students in the parish school. The then Archbishop, Michael Joseph Curley, wrote to Rev. Neligan in 1945 that Corpus Christi was “on the downgrade.” “I realize, too, that your population is decreasing and that Corpus Christi has its growing difficulties for the future.”

1930s

As additional urban renewal squeezed parish boundaries even further, the Great Depression caused even greater restriction of funds available for the parish. Numbers of parishioners and children in the school continued to dwindle. Yet, Rev. Nolan did not incur any new debt, and he continued to pay off existing debt. In addition, he encouraged parish organizations (e.g., the Holy Name Society and the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality) to continue their work, despite fewer members.

1920s

The pastorate of Rev. Nolan continued. Bolton Hill saw some famous people take up (at least temporary) residence, such as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and the famous Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta. Although in the 1920s Bolton Hill was still a grand place to live, the neighborhood was changing; cars and urban expansion were leaving their mark.

A new school was built in 1925, even in the midst of the urban renewal that limited parish boundaries even further. Then, the devastating stock market crash of 1929 further eroded parish income. That same year, the School Sisters of Notre Dame formally assumed the administration of the school.