During the days and weeks after Mark died on November 18, many have sent their condolences, their prayers and notice of having Masses said for him or come to visit and personally express their gratitude for Mark’s life. Many, many came to his wake and his funeral at St. Anne’s. Sixteen priests came to celebrate on the altar with Archbishop Fiorenza. We are grateful to all.
Also during these days and weeks, poor people have poured into Casa Juan Diego giving their pésame, expressing their sorrow that “Don Marcos” has died. At the same time, they sought reassurance that Casa Juan Diego could continue helping those most in need, especially the paralyzed, those who are very ill, those who need food or medical care. We helped them in the midst of our sorrow and tried to reassure them that the Works of Mercy could continue.
As Archbishop Fiorenza said at the funeral Mass, we will all miss Mark very much, but it will be especially the poor who miss him, unless WE ALL make sure that the work of Casa Juan Diego continues.
Beautiful Moments In the Last Months
Mark had been slowing down for the last several years, but last spring he was still helping to write articles for the newspaper, giving good ideas. It was after a fall at the end of July of 2016 when he hit his head that he was no longer able to walk. He was in a hospital bed at home and then on hospice for three months. Friends came to visit and talk with him and men from our men’s house came every day to help with bed changes.
Two priests visited to bring him Communion and celebrate the Sacrament of the Sick – Fr. Jay Walsh from St. Anne’s, and Maryknoll Fr. Rafael Davila. One Sunday Mark realized what day it was and asked to go to Mass. The ramp was not finished, so we said, well we don’t know if we can, but we’ll ask a priest to bring communion. Fr. Dávila said he would come to the house to celebrate Mass. He did that and Mark was able to joyfully participate in the prayers.
We were able to obtain a wheel chair with a high back so that Mark could rest his head as he sat in the chair. After one of the men from our men’s house finished the ramp, Mark was able to go outside several times on the porch after the men lifted him into the chair. He let us know that he wanted to go to the women’s house of hospitality. There he was welcomed by all and then spent time in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament. He returned several times to the chapel, always enlivened by these visits, even though he was not able to talk much.
A real high point, a farewell to the guests, was November 2. The men really wanted Mark to come to our weekly Wednesday evening Mass. He had slept all that day, was well rested, and indicated that he did want to go to Mass. We dressed him in a nice shirt with sweat pants, put on his shoes and his glasses, and the men lifted him into the wheel chair and pushed him several blocks to the men’s house of hospitality. While Fr. Davila celebrated the Mass, he mentioned several times that the founder of Casa Juan Diego was present with us, and Mark raised his hand each time. He reached over and held my hand at the Our Father and was able to receive communion when the bread was dipped into the Precious Blood so that he could swallow it. What a beautiful evening.
Some have expressed concern about the future of Casa Juan Diego since Mark is no longer physically with us – although Fr. Davila reminded us that he is present at our Masses at Casa Juan Diego, accompanying us from heaven and the Fathers of the Church have told us that the one who is no longer with us bodily is actually with us all the time.
Mark and I had made plans for this eventuality. I am a little younger than Mark and we plan to continue with the help of many Catholic Workers and volunteers and the grace of the good Lord, even though our hearts are broken. We know the poor and many supporters and well-wishers are counting on us. We know that Mark is with us and praying for us. We count on you, our readers to help us.
Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, January-March 2017.