Over the past 10 months or so, you parishioners of Our Lady of Peace have gotten used to seeing a variety of Marian Father priests coming and going. As I count them, there have been at least 8 different Marian priests who have visited OLOP to help Fr. Walter attend to the sacramental needs of the parish. Fr. Walter has affectionately referred to this rotation of Marians as the ‘priest of the week.’ I, myself, have had the privilege of being a part of this cycle, having spent a total of about 5 weeks offering my assistance on behalf of the spiritual needs of the good people of Our Lady of Peace.
Now, you see, I am back again. This time, however, there is a difference; I am here to stay! Yes, I have officially been assigned to Our Lady of Peace as the associate Pastor to Fr. Walter and I am pretty stoked about it. ‘Stoked?’ Some of you may be wondering what exactly that means. It’s basically an informal way to say that I am really excited to have been assigned to minister at this parish. So, why am I ‘stoked’? Well, there are many reasons. One, for instance, is that after being a priest for 14 1/2 years, I finally get to be in full time ministry. You may be asking yourself what exactly I mean by that? Have I only been a part time priest or something during my initial 14 1/2 years? Well, no, not exactly. The first two years of my priesthood I spent at our formation house in Steubenville, OH working with vocations and helping on the campus of Franciscan University. The next 12 1/2 years I spent at our house of formation in Washington, DC serving various capacities: as the superior of the house of formation; as a Novice Master to help form men in the initial stages of their Marian religious life and finally as the director of the seminary formation program. While that ministry was good and necessary for my community, I still felt this urge to be out with the people. A few times a year I would partake in a Divine Mercy mission or retreat, this would always awaken that desire to be out with the people. Thus, when the need for another priest at OLOP came about I jumped at the chance to live out amongst the ‘sheep.’ This leads me to another reason for being enthusiastic about my assignment to OLOP, that is the opportunity that this parish affords for doing something great for God. During the 5 weeks I spent serving here, I experienced that there is a lot of talent and good will for wanting to make this parish excel even more with the greater glory of God. I look forward to working with you wonderful people to make God’s goodness even more manifest in all of our hearts. So what will my role be here at OLOP? Well, in simple terms I am going to be the new pastor in training. Fr. Walter’s time with us will be ending around May as he returns to reside and help out with the ministerial needs at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. This means I will be involved in all sorts of things. Besides attending to the normal sacramental duties, I will be overseeing the Finance and Parish Councils. Fr. Walter has also given me the primary responsibility of serving as the chaplain of the school as well as the Director of Religious Education. In addition to these two responsibilities, I will also be teaching 7th grade religion two times per week. Both of these ministries suits my interests as I have a passion for learning, mainly theology and other subjects, especially when seen in the light of the truth about God. I also have a zeal for Catholic education after benefiting from it myself at a quality Catholic high school (St. Xavier) and grade school (St. Gabriel) in Louisville, KY.
That’s about it, folks. I really look forward to being with you. I do ask just one small favor…that all of you White Sox, Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks fans will forgive me if I bring a little DC sports love with me. After growing up in a college sport town, you can’t blame me for picking up an affection for all things Washington, especially after living there for 17 of the past 19 years.
Peace & God’s Blessings, Fr. Mark