Not yet convinced? Read Fr. James’ letter.
Dear Friends and Family,
At 4 PM every day, I am forced to close the gates of Basilica of the Assumption in downtown Baltimore. It hurts me to the core.
*** Last year there were 347 murders in Baltimore—almost 1 per day. USA Today called us the most dangerous city in America.
***All around the Basilica, people are living on the streets. 3 women literally sleep in the bus stop across from the Basilica.
*** 1.5 miles down Orleans Street is Johns Hopkins Hospital. Every single day, people go to Hopkins from all over the world seeking a miracle…seeking hope…seeking life.
Baltimore City is hurting. It is bleeding. It is in need of hope and healing. It needs Jesus Christ in the Eucharist—the source of all hope.
And yet, because of the danger in the City I have to close the Basilica at 4 PM every day. It can’t be open without a security guard. And we only have enough money to have a guard until 4PM.
THIS MUST CHANGE!
In my prayer, I know God is calling me to open the Basilica. He is calling me to make Him available to the people of Baltimore every single day in Eucharistic Adoration. He is asking me to offer his forgiveness in confession at all hours of the day. He is asking me to walk the streets and invite the people who live in my neighborhood to get to know Him. He is asking me to provide a sanctuary for those who are ill, lost, homeless, and hopeless. He wants young adults in our neighborhood to have a refuge to flee to after work and school.
I must provide that refuge here in the City. I honestly KNOW that God is demanding this of me.
But in order to provide this refuge, I need your help. I will explain exactly what kind of help I need in a moment. But first I want to lay out what God is asking me to do at the Basilica.
First: Get Rid of the Armored Doors!
Inside the beautiful Basilica is the Holy of Holies, the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
The Basilica exists so that the good people of Baltimore can Encounter God in the Eucharist.
What do we say to the people when the doors of the church are locked? Locked doors say, “Go away! Jesus does not have time for you right now!”
This is wrong!
Jesus gave us the Eucharist so He could be radically available to us. He wants to work miracles in our lives. He wants to heal us. He wants to change lives and bring peace—especially to our Baltimore neighborhoods.
Stephanie is a volunteer who comes to the Basilica every Tuesday for Adoration. She says, “The Eucharist is essential to my week and to my spiritual growth. The time that I spend with Jesus, in silent prayer, is my refuge, and brings me a peace that sustains me, no matter what is happening in my life. I only wish it was available every day, so that more people can experience it daily.”
Stephanie isn’t the only one who desires more access to the Eucharist in Baltimore.
Kimberley is married and has children. She comes to the Basilica to adore our Lord in the Eucharist. Her time in prayer has led to tremendous benefits for her family. Listen to what she has to say:
“I believe that through immersing myself in Adoration and placing my concerns about my family on the Altar, He is bringing about great change in my husband and children. My children are young adults, and they are beginning to join us more for Mass on Sunday. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend time with my Savior!”
More people in Baltimore need peace. More families need a strengthening of the marriages. More young adults in Baltimore need guidance—guidance from Jesus Christ.
With your help, we will be able to open the Basilica up so that people have access to Jesus in the Eucharist all day—from 8AM to 8PM. And with support from the community, I want to have Eucharistic Adoration Monday thru Friday so that many more lives can be touched. Our Basilica will be open for miracles. Our gates will be open for people to encounter Christ in the city most in need of help.
Pope Francis recently commented about all the churches that close their doors to the people—preventing them from having an encounter with God. He said: “Please, no armored doors in the Church, everything open.”
With your help, the Basilica doors will be open in our City so that all can experience the love, mercy and healing of Jesus Christ! NO MORE ARMORED DOORS! If we close our doors in Baltimore, where can people go in times of trouble?
Our open doors will lead to healing in Baltimore.
Second: God is Asking us to REALLY Help the Homeless and the Drug Addicts on our Streets
“Eric” is a man who begs near the Basilica. He is addicted to heroin and various opioids. Because of the poisonous additives in the drugs he consumes, he has sores in his fingers and his arms that literally go down to his bone. He can’t even put his hands in his pockets without feeling excruciating pain. Mentally, he is distraught. I can often hear him screaming from the top of his lungs as I pray in the Rectory chapel.
Eric isn’t an isolated case.
There are three African-American women who sleep in the bus stop directly across the street from the Basilica. I have personally paid for hotel rooms to get them out of the cold on the most brutal of winter nights. But at over $100 a night at the local hotel, I can’t afford to put them up for long.
There are 100’s of Eric’s and bus-stop ladies in Baltimore. But what are we doing to help them…to love them…to bring Christ to them?
In Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt. 25:40).
I ask again: what are we doing?
Here is what I know Christ is asking…
From Storage Shed to Urban Missionary Center
Right next door to the Basilica Residence is an old 3-bedroom convent. Religious Sisters used to live there and care for the Archbishop’s residence. You can see the picture below. Today, the convent is full of junk. It is a glorified storage shed. But God is asking us to turn it into an Urban Missionary Center!
Archbishop Lori has given me permission to get the convent up to code so I can use it to house “urban missionaries.”
Urban missionaries? “What are those?” you ask. Good question!
Once we have the funds to fix up the convent, I will find 3 missionaries who will give up a year of their lives to evangelize, minister, and love the homeless and the drug addicts. They will live in the convent—which is complete with a kitchen, a bathroom, 3 bedrooms, and a chapel!
These missionaries will live by a rule of life, be rooted in prayer, serve at Holy Mass and then love the homeless.
They will not be providing handouts. Rather, they will help the needy get to soup kitchens, shelters, welfare agencies, and various Catholic Charities.
The missionaries will learn the names and the stories of all the homeless around the Basilica. They will become friends with them. They will bring Jesus Christ to them. They will do what Pope Francis asked us to do: get out in the streets and smell like the sheep.
If this sounds crazy, it isn’t. There is an apostolate in Denver that is already doing this. They are called “Christ in the City.”
The folks at Christ in the City form young people and then send them into the City of Denver to love the homeless. It is wildly successful and transforming their drug-infested city.
We need this transformation in Baltimore! And it will happen. We have already started the process. I have spoken to the leaders of Christ in the City. I will be flying out to Denver to learn more about what they do—so I can replicate it here in Baltimore.
Before I can get the missionaries, we need to get the Convent in working order. It needs to be painted. The steam heating system needs work. Water damage needs to be repaired. And everything needs to be professionally cleaned.
Once we get it ready (depending on your help!)…Baltimore will forever change! We will be ready to house “urban missionaries”—young men and women who will actually love the homeless and the marginalized. Through these missionaries, the Basilica will become the face, the hands and the loving presence of Jesus Christ on the streets. And we will provide HOPE to the people in our city who have none.
Third: God Wants Souls who do not Know Him to Come to Know Him
If the City of Baltimore is going to change, it needs Christ. The only real solution to racism, violence, drug use and broken families is Jesus Christ.
Who is going into the neighborhoods and proclaiming the Gospel? The Mormons do it. The Jehovah Witnesses do it. But where are the Catholics?
We have the fullness of the truth! We have everything we need for salvation. So why aren’t we bringing this GOOD NEWS to the streets of Baltimore?
I am committed to doing just that—to hit the streets and bring the message of the Gospel to the “fringes” (as Pope Francis refers to them). In fact, I’ve already started to do this.
Three seminarians and I do rosary walks through the streets of Baltimore. We pray. We encounter the people. We invite them into a relationship with Jesus Christ. And we invite them to discover the Catholic faith.
It is working.
We brought 9 people into the Church this past Easter. Since then, 9 other people have asked to become Catholic. Rather than wait until September for the next RCIA class to begin, we have begun already!
God-willing, we will bring another 9 or 10 new folks into the Church before Christmas.
Imagine a Baltimore City Parish that is bringing 18 people into the Church every year! It won’t take long to really impact our streets if we keep bringing them Christ. Once word gets out, the 18 people could turn into 30 or 50 or more. This is how the early church grew. This is how we will grow again.
We are committed to authentic growth here at the Basilica. We want people who don’t know Christ to come to know Him through our outreach. We want to make a real impact in our community by giving them the solution to every problem—Jesus.
The Baltimore Sun Has Already Featured the Basilica for the Impact We Have Had on the City
In the last 18 months, the Basilica has become an oasis of Catholic Culture in Baltimore—with almost no budget. Despite little money we have been able to:
But now we need to hit the streets of Baltimore and be a real agent for change.
To Make This Vision a Reality, We Need Your Help
To open our doors until 8PM…to bring in urban missionaries to serve our City…to evangelize our neighborhoods…to create a refuge in Baltimore for the homeless, the hopeless and those looking for faith, I need help. This is YOUR Basilica. This is America’s Basilica.
Although we have an incredibly beautiful church, the reality is we have no money! We are a typical inner-city parish with a massive church. People think we are rich. We are not. We are dirt poor.
To have a security guard stay until 8PM Monday thru Friday will cost $18,970. To turn the lights on and to heat and cool the Basilica (which is a huge burden!) costs us $13.83 per hour. To keep the Basilica open for Adoration and Confession until 8PM, we need $14,383 in extra income.
To renovate the Convent in order to house 3 urban missionaries will cost $22,860. And then there’s the cost associated with the basic necessities for the missionaries themselves—things like food, insurance, and day-to-day living expenses. We are talking at least another $30,000-$50,000.
When you add all of that up, the cost is $106,213.
This is a seemingly large amount of money. But if 200 people donated $50 a month for 1 year– we’d have everything we need to change our city—for the better. $50 a month comes to $1.67 a day!
Would You be Willing to Help Change Baltimore for $1.67/day?
Would you be willing to bring Christ to America’s Most Dangerous City? Would you be willing to support our radical evangelization efforts so that people who have no hope might literally know the Source of All Hope—Jesus Christ?
Would you we willing to donate every month to help our holy cause? If you are willing, I can promise you a couple things…
Here’s What’s in it for you!
If you are willing to help us bring Christ to Baltimore, I will immediately enroll you in our Monthly Benefactor Mass. Every first Saturday of the month (a day especially devoted to the Blessed Mother!), the holy sacrifice of the Mass will be offered at 10 AM for you and everyone else who helps us. This is the most powerful way I know how to say, “thanks.” And of course, you are welcome to attend that Mass anytime you wish—which will be offered in the Undercroft Chapel of the Basilica!
In addition, I would be happy to arrange a tour of our beautiful Basilica for you. All you have to do is email me and I will arrange that for you. My address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We have the best docents in Maryland. They can tell you about the rich history. And you can see with your own eyes the difference we are making in Baltimore.
Finally, by helping us bring Christ to the City of Baltimore, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you truly are building up the Kingdom of God on earth and storing treasure for yourself in heaven. You are helping lay the foundation that will bring peace, comfort and healing to many. But most importantly, the work we are doing in the City will save souls!
The Apostle James said this about the person who brings another back from sin, “[he] will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:20). In other words, Christ desires us to do this kind of work. He desires us to go out into the city and bring them to Him. He desires to show us His mercy…to teach us His truth…and to bring us into a deep relationship with Him.
This kind of work saves others…and it helps us as well!
Would You Make a Donation to Help Today?
The best way to support this effort is a monthly contribution. This ensures that we have support for the long haul. No gift is too large or too small.
If you cannot support us with a monthly donation, a 1-time donation is also very helpful. Whatever you can give will be such a blessing.
Regardless, you will be enrolled in our monthly Mass intention. And you are always welcome to come for a tour of our historic Basilica.
As soon as you donate, you will receive a “thank you” which you can also use as proof of your charitable contribution for your taxes.
If there is anything else you need, or you have any other questions, do not hesitate to call our office at 410-547-5523.
Thanks for Your YES
I love being a priest. I love being the Rector of the Basilica of the Assumption. And all I desire is to bring souls to Christ. I do not want to be rich. I do not want to be famous. All I want is to provide Jesus to our City. But I am also well aware that I need your help.
Thank you for saying YES to Jesus! Thanks for your generosity. And thanks for making a difference in Baltimore.
God bless you!