Photo: Courtesy of Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC
Marian seminarians pictured with Fr. Mark Garrow, MIC, on Oct. 13, 2007, in Stockbridge, Mass.
By Dan Valenti (Oct 17, 2008)
One year ago, on Oct. 19, Fr. Mark Garrow, MIC, died of cancer at the age of 52. The former Superior General of the Marians and prefect of formation transformed countless lives. What follows are testimonials from Fr. Mark's spiritual sons: Br. Ken Dos Santos, MIC; Br. Andy Davy, MIC; Br. Jim McCormack, MIC; Br. Michael Gaitley, MIC; Br. James Cervantes, MIC; and Br. Angelo Casimiro. Brothers Ron McBride, MIC, and Br. Jason Lewis, MIC, were also Fr. Mark's "sons," but due to other commitments they were unable to contribute written testimonies. Both did express their full support for this tribute and memorial.
'Be of Good Cheer' — Br. Jim McCormack, MIC
Father Mark lived in a remarkable way the virtues of gentleness and fatherly love. If ever something was bothering me, he would smile and say, "Be of good cheer."
He had a deep devotion to Blessed George Matulaitus-Matulewicz, Renovator of the Marians. Many who knew Fr. Mark commented that, more than anyone, he modeled for others Blessed George's gentleness and goodness.
There are many things I miss about Fr. Mark, but one in particular is his sense of humor. From time to time, he would share a hilarious story or joke. One day, while I was talking with him in his office, we reminisced about the comedy radio program, "Car Talk." He turned to his computer and started playing a recorded episode of the show. Before long we were both rolling with laughter.
He knew each of his spiritual sons well, and he would find little ways to show his fatherly love. He would e-mail us comic strips that he knew we would appreciate. Or he would buy a small snack or food item that would bring us a little joy. For example, he knew I liked Indian food and maple syrup, so, from time to time, a box of Saag Paneer or a bottle of maple syrup would simply show up on the pantry shelf.
Father Mark lived the Marian spirit. He was an excellent role model and novice-master because he exemplified in his words and example what it means to be a Marian.
'A Father, a Brother, a Friend' — Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC
As I reflect on the one-year anniversary of the passing away of Fr. Mark Garrow, I don't know where to begin. He was a father, a brother, a friend and just an all-around great guy! I miss him a lot. If I could use three words to describe him, it would be gentle, generous and humble.
Brother James Cervantes and I were part of Fr. Mark Garrow's last novitiate class before he was elected Father Provincial in October 2006. Though he was our novice master for only a short time, he had a profound affect on the rest of our novitiate. All seven Marian seminarians (from the Mother of Mercy Province) currently studying for the priesthood — myself, Br. James Cervantes, Br. Jason Lewis, Br. Andy Davy, Br. Ken Dos Santos, Br. Jim McCormack and Br. Michael Gaitley — were blessed to have visited with Fr. Mark as a group the weekend before he died.
I can only imagine all the graces that were showered down upon us during that visit. I'll never forget those last precious moments we were able to spend with our spiritual father. Father: that's what he was to each and every one of us. I pray that we will be able to take what he taught us about being a father into our respective priesthoods one day.
Father Mark exemplified the word gentleman — to a tee. It was his caring and compassion toward others, which I admired in him the most. He took great interest in everyone he met and always made him or her feel like they had been friends for years. Many of Blessed George Matulaitus-Matulewicz's virtues were present in Fr. Mark, especially his prudent zeal and gentleness. This gentleness is a trait he has passed on to his spiritual sons.
I remember his wonderful generosity. Once he got to know you personally, he would remember little things about you. He observed that I liked eggs for breakfast and so for my birthday, he got me a gift card for a restaurant called Great Eggspectations.
Then he came to find out that I loved Chinese food and so for Christmas, he got me a gift card for P.F. Chang's Chinese Restaurant. He would always do little things like that. But what I appreciated the most about Fr. Mark was when he called to congratulate me from Stockbridge on the day that I made my first profession of vows as a Marian. It took me totally by surprise. At that time already, he had great difficulty speaking, but I could feel the love in his voice and the great pride he took in me making my first vows. He even apologized for not being able to make it down to accept my vows and meet my parents. That was just the kind of man that Fr. Mark was.
Humility is another trait that I admired in Fr. Mark. In one of my novice classes with him, he was explaining what humility meant. He said that it was accepting the truth about one's self and not about building yourself up or putting yourself down.
After a Mass in Brookeville, one lady asked me to relay to Fr. Mark what an awesome homily he had given. When I told him this, he asked me, "Was it really that good? I can never really tell if I'm giving a good homily or not." He never took himself too seriously and was always joking around.
Tied in with his deep humility was his wonderful sense of humor. Fr. Mark loved to tell funny stories. I would ride with him to Brookeville to help serve the Mass and he would tell me some good ones going there and coming back. Man, I miss those moments with him. Those were the only times I was with him one-on-one. He took such great fatherly interest in me. My only regret is that I never took the opportunity to get closer to him.
My other special memories of Fr. Mark include the hiking trips he took with Br. James Cervantes and me when we were novices. Those trips were so much fun. I remember what a fast walker Fr. Mark was as Br. James and I tried to catch up with him. On the last weekend before he passed away, his spiritual sons were able to see their spiritual father one last time. It was an emotional weekend. Fr. Mark cared more about us than himself. He was so happy to see us all together. In his illness, Fr. Mark showed us the great love Jesus Christ has for each and every one of us. What did I see in my father's face? I saw the face of Jesus, the face of love.
The two days I spent in Stockbridge for Fr. Mark's wake and funeral were profoundly emotional as I felt the love that was poured out for this man from his family, his friends, and his Marian brothers. I was emotionally spent after it was all over. I'm proud to have known Fr. Mark Garrow and I will always remember him for his gentleness, generosity, humility, humor and quiet strength.
I worked this past summer at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, which gave me the opportunity to spend time visiting Fr. Mark's grave. His presence is so strong up there, and I know that he was looking out for me. I especially grew closer to him during my time there. It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since he passed away. But I know that he is interceding for his little Marian family that he's left behind. Fr. Mark, I love you and I miss you very much. Thank you, Dad, until we meet again in heaven.
Encouragement and Kindness — Br. Andy Davy, MIC
I think that all my Marian brothers in formation would agree with me when I say that Fr. Mark was a spiritual father to us. As a spiritual father, he had a way of drawing out by means of encouragement and kindness the various gifts we had. In doing this, he helped spark a desire to grow more into the Marians we were created to be.
I remember how Fr. Mark (who was a former superior general) would be selfless in doing many of the ordinary household chores. I would observe how much care he put into making the kitchen counters shine. I sensed that he was doing this out of a great love for God and for us.
What I miss about him most was his kindness and his gentle strength in leading us. I also miss his openness and humanness. One of his great strengths was courage. He was not afraid to reach out if he needed prayers or if he knew someone else needed prayers. I remember one time someone close to him was struggling with something, and he asked me to sit and pray with him for this person. He remarked, "The scriptures speaks about when two or more are gathered in His name, He is present in their midst. So let's pray for this person." Praying with him at that time, I felt that this was a man who deeply desired Divine Mercy to be poured out upon souls.
He taught me through his example not to underestimate the strength found in gentleness and kindness. As Blessed George, quoting St. Paul, stated: "Overcome evil with good."
Sharing 'Dish Duty' and More — Br. James Cervantes, MIC
Fr. Mark Garrow was like a father to me. In the short time that I knew him, he taught me many important things.
1. Be merciful. I remember one time, I was asked to drop off some money at the bank. This was my first time going to this particular bank and I didn't know where to drop the money. This was a considerable amount of money, and I dropped it in a slot that was actually the wrong place. Not only was I worried that we lost the money, but as I was also expecting him to be mad at me. But as I was telling Fr. Mark about it, he reassured me that everything was going to be okay. It was as he said.
2. Work hard. Though he didn't want to put his work ethic on display, Fr. Mark was a hard worker. I first noticed it when I shared dish duty with him. Right away, I noticed that he was efficient and meticulous. He also did things that other guys didn't do or didn't even think to clean. He went above and beyond the requirements of washing dishes. He was usually the only one who would clean out the warming trays. And after wiping the tables, he would also clean the windowsills of dust and debris. Perhaps he
was just good at finding dirt.
There was a time when I walked in on him (actually surprised him during dinner) cleaning a hallway bathroom that hadn't been cleaned in a long time. At the end of each day, he was the one checking that all the windows were closed and the doors were securely locked.
I also remember climbing the mountains with him during my novitiate year. We climbed a mountain near Harper's Ferry and another one called "Old Rag." Both of these mountains were challenging and steep climbs, yet he was leading the way for all of us. I was amazed because he seemed to climb them with ease, while I was huffing and puffing up the mountain.
3. Be thoughtful. I remember him asking me how I was doing, and he was genuinely interested, wanting to hear what I had to say. He was a good listener. For my birthday, I remember getting a gift card for a restaurant from him. I was surprised he knew it was my birthday, and it was so thoughtful of him.
4. Laugh. Fr. Mark was able to come up with some of the most interesting and
hilarious stories. He enjoyed sharing his experiences with us. And he found a way to get us all to enjoy it with him. He taught me much about my Marian vocation just by the way he lived.
An Enduring Role Model — Br. Michael Gaitley, MIC
Fr. Mark Garrow was and is one of the most important people in my life.
He Ran the Good Race — Br. Ken Dos Santos, MIC
Those who knew Fr. Mark Garrow M.I.C., remember him as being humble, peaceful, and joyful in a quiet sort of way. He never sought the highest place nor did he seek to be noticed. Rather, he chose to humbly follow the Lord, who had shown him so much mercy and love.
Father Mark, like all people who have had a deep encounter with the Lord, burned to return that gift of love back to God and to those whom God had entrusted to his care. He willingly chose (as in the parable of the talents Mt 25:14-30) to use the gifts God had granted him to aid others who were on their own journey back to the Father; he did not bury the talents (his gifts) out of fear or a self-centered nature but rather he used them to make a difference in other people's lives.
Thus, Fr. Mark was in constant search of accomplishing the Lord's will in his life. And, by uniting his will to the Lord's (through the merits of our Lord's sacrifice on the cross), he — like all baptized Christians — was granted a familial relationship with God, as Jesus Himself asserts in the Gospel of Matthew 12:50, "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother, and sister, and mother."
The words of St. Paul in the letter to the Philippians 3:8-12 were echoed in the life of Fr. Mark Garrow, MIC. He lived them out and he is remembered through them:
Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.
Father Mark was always our brother in community and he was surely a spiritual father to us all. We miss his presence among us, but we realize that he has fought the good fight, run the race to the end, and is with our Lord and Savior in eternal bliss. Therefore, we ask for his intercession for our community, for ourselves and for our world.
How do you say goodbye to someone who has given so selflessly and lovingly of himself to those whom the Father has given him? Does a father forget his son or a son his father? No, a father cannot forget his son nor can a son forget his father because there exists between them a loving bond. Fr. Mark, perhaps the greatest gift you have given us and continue to give us is this:
You have shown us by your example how to be loving fathers to those to whom the Father has entrusted us. Jesus gave us the model to follow in John 13: "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.' Fr. Mark, you have lived out this model and we are grateful for your example.
You have also shown us how to be loving sons of the Father. A son has love for his Father through loving imitation of Him, by giving of himself as the Father has given so lovingly to him and by forgiving others as the Father has forgiven him. Therefore, if we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must heed his words in Matthew 10: "You have received without cost, give without cost."
As the father in all forgiveness and love embraces the son in the parable of the prodigal son, may we embrace those whom the Father has entrusted to us, as you, Fr. Mark, have continually and consistently done for us. And may we all one day, as sons of the Father know His loving and forgiving embrace when we enter into His presence in heaven.
May Our Lady, Queen and Mother, receive you tenderly, Fr. Mark, and all of us as she received through her fiat, the Word, Our Savior and Lord, and may she lead us as she always does to the loving embrace of the Father. May the Immaculate Conception be our health and our protection.
Read Dan Valenti's reflections on the death of Fr. Mark Garrow, MIC, in his online journal. Also read his piece on how this tribute came about.