Ministering in the Way of Mary
San Felipe de Jesús Parish, Brownsville, Texas
When the first Marists set foot on U.S. soil in 1863, they brought with them a desire prescribed by their founder to pattern themselves after Mary, including being hidden and unknown tools for God.
For men and women, priests, brothers, and laity who embrace the Marist spirit, the example of Mary, to be hidden and unknown, instructs not to sit and hide but to engage fully and effectively in life with a simple, gentle, humble manner. The Marist who lives and ministers in this way may appear unnoticed in his quiet pursuits as he hands himself over to God each day with the hope that he will, in turn, carry great things back.
In 1986 Marists arrived in Brownsville, and in 1996 they took on San Felipe de Jesús, a parish in the U.S.-Mexican border town of Brownsville. While this was a developed neighborhood, not a single road was paved. There was no mail delivery or school bus service. There were no streetlights, sidewalks or parks. There was no police protection. Since that time, the Marists at San Felipe de Jesús have worked with the people in this community to claim a more inclusive piece of the basic American experience.
As you read this, two American Marists, Frs. Hector Cruz, S.M., and Joel Grissom, S.M., are tucked away within the poorest community of its size in the United States—Cameron Park, Texas. They assumed a ministry that strikes at the core of their Marist missionary spirit and preferential option for the materially poor in the most abandoned places.
They do many things in their ministries, including the full array of pastoral services in a parish where social programs are a lifeline. They spend much of their time struggling to fill more than 300 grocery bags every month to feed parish families, where two pounds of rice and 30 ounces of tomatoes make a great difference to a struggling family trying to pay basic bills, utilities and rent. Fr. Hector and Fr. Joel are just two current examples of the Marists who have, over the 150-year U.S. Marist history, chosen to live quietly and effectively in the manner of Mary among the poorest among us.
Shepherding a fragile ministry such as the parish family crisis center, Fr. Hector carries on, as do the courageous people to which he ministers, in the quiet unassuming way of Mary.
For the past 150 years,
Marist priests and brothers
have been known throughout
the United States for their
quiet but dynamic presence
in schools, colleges, missions,
hospitals, prisons, parishes,
the armed forces and elsewhere,
with a constant preference to
serve the materially and
Partners in Mission
An early Marist imprint on me influenced my choice to support Marists for the rest of my life
I credit my parents for giving me a solid foundation in religious devotion. We all worshipped at Sacred Heart Church in Lawrence, MA, then run by the Marists. My cousin Vernon, who was to become a Marist priest, went to the seminary, and on his recommendation, I joined him. It proved to be a beneficial decision on my part.