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.