Local News Archive
Print Issue: November 16, 2000
Archbishop Marino Dies At New York Retreat Center
By Gretchen Keiser, Staff Writer
ATLANTAArchbishop Eugene A. Marino, SSJ, died in Manhasset, N.Y., at a retreat house Nov. 12 of an apparent heart attack. He was 66.
The third archbishop of Atlanta, Archbishop Marino was the first black archbishop in the United States, serving here from May 1988 until May 1990.
The archbishop was at St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset for a retreat, which ended the evening of Nov. 11 with Mass and the anointing of the sick. In the course of the Mass, the archbishop himself was anointed by a concelebrating priest. He retired for the night and the following day he was discovered dead in bed by a housekeeper.
Archbishop Marino had been working for the past five years as spiritual director in an outpatient program for clergy at St. Vincents Hospital in Harrison, N.Y. The program works with clergy in the areas of substance abuse and sexual behavior issues. He has been living at a Salesian Fathers residence in New Rochelle, N.Y.
The archbishop found his work very fulfilling, said Father Robert M. Kearns, superior general of the Josephites, the order to which Archbishop Marino was ordained in June 1962.
At the Mass the night before he died the priest anointed the archbishop, then the archbishop anointed the priest, said Father Kearns. Before he went to bed, Archbishop Marino said he was going to leave early the next morning to visit his brother in New Jersey, so no one was surprised when he did not appear for breakfast, the Josephite leader said. He was discovered dead in bed later that day.
Among several Masses to be celebrated for the archbishop, a memorial Mass will take place Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Francis Xavier Church in Baltimore, Md., the city where the Josephite order has its headquarters. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Monday, Nov. 20, at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Biloxi, Miss., the community where Archbishop Marino was born and raised. There will be a wake service Sunday, Nov. 19, at Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Biloxi, his home parish, from 4-7 p.m. The archbishop will be buried in Biloxi Cemetery.
Archbishop John F. Donoghue, in a statement Nov. 13, said, With great sadness, we have learned this morning of the sudden death of our brother in Christ, Archbishop Eugene A. Marino ... We extend to his family, to his brother priests of the Josephite order, and to his friends in Washington where he worked for many years, our deepest sympathy and consolation at their loss.
Many in Atlanta, where he served for two years, will continue to remember Archbishop Marino with sincere affection, for his gentle nature and his caring heart. Let us now turn our own hearts and minds to heaven, and pray for the soul of this dedicated servant of the Gospel and his Lord, asking that eternal rest be granted to him, and to all the souls of the faithfully departed, by the mercy of God.
Archbishop Donoghue, who was attending the annual meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. from Nov. 12-16, will take part in the Mass in Baltimore. Father James Schillinger, president of the Priests Council, will represent the priests of the archdiocese.
A memorial Mass will be scheduled in Atlanta when Archbishop Donoghue returns.
The bishops of the United States opened their meeting Nov. 13 with prayer for Archbishop Marino.
Msgr. Edward Dillon, who was vicar general while Archbishop Marino served in Atlanta, spoke of his shock at hearing of the archbishops death. They had spoken occasionally on the telephone in recent years, Msgr. Dillon said. It was obvious, in the conversations I had with him, that he was happy doing what he was doing, doing some good. He was basically at peace.
The pallium Archbishop Marino received from Pope John Paul II after his installation as archbishop of Atlanta, was sent to Biloxi, so that the vestment, which signifies a bishops link with the pontiff, can be buried with him, as is the custom, Msgr. Dillon said. It has been stored in the Atlanta archives since Archbishop Marino resigned in 1990.
Born May 29, 1934, Archbishop Marino was the son of Jesus Maria Marino, a native of Puerto Rico, and Lottie Bradford Marino of Biloxi, the sixth child in a family of eight. His maternal grandfather helped to build Our Mother of Sorrows Church and the parish was staffed by Josephite priests, who serve the African-American community. Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the order founded by St. Katharine Drexel, staffed the parish school.
Archbishop Marino went to elementary and high school at Our Mother of Sorrows before entering the Josephite minor seminary in Newburgh, N.Y. It was his first experience in a racially integrated community. He spent 1952-56 in the minor seminary and graduated from St. Joseph Seminary College after studying there from 1956-62. He was ordained to the priesthood June 9, 1962.
Two of his seminary classmates came to his installation Mass in Atlanta in 1988 and one, Father John Harfmann, is scheduled to give the homily at the memorial Mass in Baltimore.
He taught religion, biology and physical science at Epiphany College from 1962-68 and served as spiritual director of St. Josephs Seminary in Washington from 1968-71. He was elected vicar general of the Josephites in 1971, serving also as director of spiritual and educational formation for the society.
In September 1974, when he was 40, Father Marino was named an auxiliary bishop of Washington, becoming the third black priest in modern times to achieve the rank of bishop in the U.S. Catholic Church.
Preceding him were Auxiliary Bishop Harold R. Perry of New Orleans, who died in 1991, and Bishop Joseph L. Howze, then of Jackson, Miss., and now of Biloxi. There are currently 12 active and one retired black U.S. bishops.
Bishop Marino took an active role in the bishops conference and in educating the predominantly white U.S. Catholic Church about the evils of racism and the contributions that black Catholics could make.
Bishop Marino played a key role in the popes visit with black Catholic leaders in New Orleans in 1987 and was one of the authors of the black bishops 1984 pastoral on evangelization.
In 1985, Bishop Marino was elected secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and U.S. Catholic Conference, becoming the first black to hold a major NCCB-USCC post.
I see it as a sign of hope and encouragement and an indication of a serious commitment (on the part of the bishops) to making black people leaders of the church at the highest levels, he said of his election.
In a 1987 talk to black Catholic leaders from around the United States, he said, Growing up as a young boy in Mississippi, with the double I was going to say handicap, but Ill say blessing of being black and Catholic, I never thought I would see the day when I would be standing here preaching Gods holy word in this place, as a priest, indeed as a bishop of the church. Generations of black Catholics never lived to see a black priest or sister, let alone ever dream that their son or daughter might become one.
Archbishop Marino was the ranking African-American member of the Catholic hierarchy when he stepped aside as archbishop of Atlanta in May 1990, stating that he was suffering from exhaustion and stress. He submitted his resignation to the pope in July 1990 and Bishop James P. Lyke, OFM, was appointed as apostolic administrator and later as the next archbishop of Atlanta. In August the public learned that Archbishop Marino had acknowledged having had an inappropriate relationship with Vicki Long, a single mother who had previously made a court claim against another priest.
After his resignation, Archbishop Marino went into seclusion, under spiritual direction and psychiatric and medical care for severe stress.
In a 1996 interview with Catholic News Service, he said he had been a chaplain for the Sisters of Mercy in Alma, Mich., prior to joining St. Vincents in July 1995.
In his work in the outpatient program, Archbishop Marino said in the interview, he did not draw on his personal experience in any major way when he worked with priests who were patients there.
Its not about me, he said. It has to be about them and how Gods grace is working in the process of their lives.
Father Kearns said Archbishop Marino also had been leading two retreats for priests each year. Although he had many, many requests from bishops to conduct other retreats, he limited the number to two so as not to interfere with his work, the priest added.
Gerard OConnor, who served as the archbishops master of ceremonies for the two years he was in Atlanta, said that he was privileged to reestablish their friendship in recent years as they both were working with priests helping them to get recovery through 12-Step programs and other therapies. The archbishop was to speak at Guest House, the program for which OConnor now works, in the spring of 2001.
Archbishop Marinos spiritual direction of the program at St. Vincents was filling a great need in the church, OConnor said. He came with such woundedness and out of that came such healing, OConnor said. He was able to give that to guys who came to him.
He was always a priest, he added. He never stopped his ministry as a priest. I think it was far stronger. He had nothing to hide anymore.
Last September OConnor and his wife, Shay, went to a Mass celebrated by Cardinal John OConnor of New York for the archbishops 25th anniversary of ordination as a bishop. The Mass for the archbishop, his family and a few of his co-workers was celebrated in Our Ladys Chapel at St. Patricks Cathedral and was followed by a dinner hosted by the cardinal at his residence.
The cardinal, who was the homilist, addressed what had happened in Atlanta in a spiritual and pastoral way, OConnor said. He talked about how we could fill our lives with everything that is not God, but the only thing that really fills our lives is God ... He said it was such a grace from God for (Archbishop Marino) because it had brought him closer to God.
The cardinal also said that he was honored to have the archbishop ministering in New York. Archbishop Marino was so humbled by the cardinals words, OConnor said. The healing that happened in that chapel that night was tangible.
Although saddened at the sudden death of the archbishop, OConnor said he had real joy in my heart to know that this was what Gene lived his life forto be called by God into his presence.
Father John Adamski, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta, said, I am thinking of my thankfulness for his compassion.
While archbishop of Atlanta he came to bless the night shelter at the Shrine (of the Immaculate Conception), where Father Adamski was pastor at the time. We had a weekly dinner for people with AIDS, he came and did those things. He blessed the crypt in the basement of the Shrine. I remember his pastoral sense with all of these people and his compassion ... He was always very good to me.
Father Schillinger said that as a relatively new priest, he went to Archbishop Marino in a time of personal struggle and received personal warmth and wise advice. They went for a walk, he said, and some tears were shed en route.
He was human. He was honest. He was without guile, Father Schillinger said. He was for me a father, a pastor and a bishop.
He had corresponded with the archbishop in recent years and said the archbishop felt very fulfilled in the ministry he was involved in in New York.
He was a very gentle spirit, Father Schillinger said. His own suffering dictated the kind of ministry he was capable of. He ministered to people who were suffering and that is a gift any way you look at it.
The archbishop initiated the process of bringing a full-time campus minister and establishing a permanent Catholic Center at the Atlanta University Center, according to Father Edward Branch, the chaplain.
He said to me that he really wished I would do it, but not for him, but because it was so necessary, said Father Branch. The two had known each other while Father Branch was campus minister at Catholic University of America and the archbishop was auxiliary bishop in Washington, D.C.
To say that (his death) is a great loss is an understatement, Father Branch said. Even the memory of his active episcopacy is powerful. Even the news of his death is as if he is active and present.
Msgr. Henry Gracz, vicar for clergy, said that he remembers the absolute beaming inner light he had whenever he talked to you and at the installation ceremony at the Civic Center how the place was made into a sacred space by the faith excitement of the people who were waiting to greet their new archbishop.
The other thing was how he dearly loved the song, His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me, Msgr. Gracz said. That would be an absolutely fitting epitaph for his gravestone.
IN PRAYER --
Archbishop Eugene Marino takes part in Vespers at the Cathedral of Christ the
King, Atlanta, on May 4, 1988, at which he was installed as the third
archbishop of Atlanta.