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"welcome the stranger in your midst"

 

Rev. Msgr. Ronald T. Marino

Rev. Msgr. Ronald T. Marino

My  father didn't want me to be a Priest. Even though I went to public school and was an altar boy and a kind of "church mouse" when I was a kid, he said “absolutely not” every time I asked him about it. When I finally got the courage to ask him to explain, he said: " you are my only male child and you must pass along the Marino name." It wasn’t until High School was almost finished that he changed his mind hoping that, after a while, I would change mine. That never happened !

 

Now, thirty-six years after my Ordination, more people know the "Marino name" than he could have ever hoped for.

 

I do understand his concerns now, and I am sure that from Heaven, he is more proud than ever. In fact, a few months after my Ordination, I celebrated his funeral Mass.

 

I was a very happy young priest in my first assignment at Our Lady of Grace in Brooklyn for the first seven years, and then at Most Precious Blood in Brooklyn for two more years after that.  Then I had to re-learn what my ministry and my priesthood was all about when I was transferred to work in the Catholic Migration Office of the diocese.

 

I now had an office, a secretary, an Auxiliary Bishop as my "boss" and a whole new world of the Church to work in.  For the next twenty seven years I had the special privilege of directing the Church’s ministry to immigrants and refugees. I didn't really like it at first, but gradually I grew to understand the great gift of the universality of the Catholic Church able to be experienced right here in our own Diocese.

 

I found myself celebrating Masses and events for immigrant groups of every nation  now present here. I saw their faith, their devotions, their love for the Church, their love of priests and I felt very humbled. I was happy to directly obey the Lord’s command to "…welcome the stranger in your midst" but I found that they knew how to welcome me more than I knew about them. In fact, I can say with certainty that the immigrants taught me more about the Church, the faith and the Priesthood than I could have ever learned in a classroom. I feel especially blessed as a Priest of this Diocese.

 

Two years ago, Bishop DiMarzio asked me to become the Pastor of St. Rosalia-Regina Pacis Parish in Brooklyn. With some hesitation I accepted this assignment and my happiness as a Priest grew even more. The challenges of administration were something that I had much experience with already as the head of a Diocesan Agency, and the pastoral challenges of a big parish would be an opportunity to renew my Priesthood again.

 

On my Ordination day in 1973 the Lord promised me that He would stay with me throughout, and supply me with everything I needed to be a good Priest and to serve Him in the Church as He would direct. I can honestly say that He has kept His promise throughout these years, and has given me more strength and courage than I could have hoped for.

 

I can see now why no one should doubt a possible vocation only because he feels inadequate or not “holy enough.”  The Lord still makes the same promise to every man who walks down the aisle of the Cathedral to be Ordained.  All that is needed is to trust and to let Him be in charge of your life.

 

Rev. Msgr. Ronald T. Marino is the Vicar for Migrant and Ethnic Apostolates and Pastor of St. Rosalia-Regina Pacis Parish, Brooklyn.