By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published Thursday, October 10, 2013
ATLANTA—The national leader of the Marian Servants of Divine Providence came to Atlanta Sept. 13 to celebrate the commitment ceremony for its members.
Diane F. Brown, of Clearwater, Fla., watched as more than 30 members of the group in the Archdiocese of Atlanta repeated vows at St. Benedict Church, Johns Creek, to strive “to be more faithful to (Jesus) than I have ever been before” as members of the Marian Servants of the Blessed Trinity.
There are an estimated 300 people across the country in the Marian Servants community, “which seems small, but they do a mighty work,” said Brown, who founded the ministry in the early 1980s. It has grown from a prayer group to a multifaceted ministry on 15 acres. There are nearly 50 members around Atlanta. It formed locally in 1999.
The death of her 15-year-old son in 1971 spurred Brown to deepen her faith. “I had grown up as a Catholic, was in Catholic schools, Catholic colleges and I thought I had my life pretty well together, a pretty strong faith until that happened. I really began to seek,” said Brown, a native of Louisiana. It was through “questioning the Lord” and charismatic prayer so in a new way she understood her faith. “So, that began my walk, to a deeper walk with God,” she said. Brown wears a medallion around her neck, with the words of Mary: “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”
Doors opened in 1980 at the Marian Servants of Divine Providence in Clearwater, where Brown and others worked in the ministry from a little bungalow. Four years later, she had a sense to do something more. “As I prayed, I had a sense that God was calling us to community,” she said.
The group a few years later formed as an association of Christian faithful, which according to the church’s canon law allows religious sisters, priests, and the laity to work for a common purpose. She said her local bishop and a Vatican official affirmed the association’s bylaws, which promote “holiness, obedience and servanthood,” Brown said. Its members are committed to perform at least three hours of service to the ministry selected by the local members.
Its mission is to “bring Catholic Christians to a deeper understanding of their vocation and mission in Christ, in the church, and in the world.” Its spirituality is “charismatic, Marian, and rooted in loyal submission” to the church.
The Marian Servants now have 12 communities formed in Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.
The ministry expanded from the house of prayer to a community of believers and a school of spiritual direction, located on its Florida campus in Clearwater. It is associated with the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, to train candidates during a two-year period through prayer, teachings and supervision. The program highlights the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola.
“It’s changed my life in how I relate to people, it’s changed my life in the way I handle problems. It has also heightened, I guess the word I want to say, I have a passion now for the church. Where I had a love for the church before, I have a deep, deep passion for the church and a deep, deep passion for the Eucharist, adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, a tremendous understanding of Mary,” Brown said.
For more information about the Marian Servants community, visit http://divineprovidence.org/. Members of the Marian Servants meet at St. Benedict Church, Johns Creek, after the 9 a.m. Mass on the first and third Tuesday of the month. For more information, contact Sally Kazin at 678-966-0864 or Emily Berend at 770-623-9848.