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Mark Zwick, a Missionary of Mercy

Mark Zwick
December 22, 1927 – November 18, 2016

“Mark Zwick passed away at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy,” said Maryknoll Father Rafael Dávila, “Mark died as he lived—as a missionary of mercy.”

Preaching in both Spanish and English at Mark’s funeral Mass on November 22, 2016 at St. Anne’s Church in Houston, Texas, Father Dávila began by describing the meaning of the various symbols employed at the Liturgy of Christian Burial, then spoke on the Scripture readings selected by Mark’s family, and finally spoke of the qualities Mark exemplified in his life.

The casket is clothed in white cloth to remind us of Mark’s baptism when he was “clothed in the Pascal Mystery of Christ Priest, Prophet and King,” Father Dávila said, and water “symbolizes that throughout life we are to be cleansed, refreshed and renewed”, while the Pascal candle “represents the Word of God.”

In the first reading Isaiah 25;6a, 7-9, Father Dávila said, “The prophet Isaiah takes us to Mount Zion (the heavenly Jerusalem) for a banquet,” while in the responsorial psalm, Psalm 23, “The poet singer David brings us out into creation where we follow the Good Shepherd.”  Father Dávila continued, “A Christian Community gathers together to reflect on the mystery of death and resurrection” in I Corinthians 15:51-58 and in Matthew 25:31-40, “Jesus presents us with the scene of the final judgement.” These readings illuminate Mark’s life, a life filled with mysteries joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious.

Father Dávila observed that these Biblical passages are a kind of bequest from Mark, saying “Mark leaves us a legacy in these scripture readings to inspire us as followers of Jesus whom we encounter in a special way among, with and in the poor, the stranger, the immigrant, the undocumented, the battered and abused, the sick and thirsty for life and dignity, the rejected and oppressed and imprisoned, the crippled and helpless and abandoned. This was his life of service and ministry as a missionary disciple of Jesus as a priest, prophet and shepherd-king.

“As priest he gathered, united and fed the poor with word, sacrament and food in Casa Juan Diego. The weekly Wednesday masses, the Christmas and Holy Week celebrations were important to him. I was blessed in anointing Mark, offering Mass at the foot of his bed which had become his Cross, and celebrating the Eucharist a couple of weeks ago at Casa where he wanted to be with Louise and his beloved Christ in the poor, some in wheel chairs, the men and women guests of the houses of hospitality.

“As prophet he lived the radical message of the gospel, proclaimed from the preferential option for the poor, preaching to the world in English and Spanish the prophetic gospel of the Catholic Worker, with the social doctrine of the Church, the personalist philosophy, the writing of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, the experiences and writings of the immigrants and of the volunteers.

“As shepherd-king he accompanied, organized and administered the growing ministries, working side by side with the volunteers and personnel in the houses, driving sick to the hospitals, clinics and other appointments.”

Mark was often called “Don Marcos”.  According to Father Dávila, the title “Don” was used not only as a sign of respect but also with great affection.  The word “don” may also mean “gift”, said Father Dávila, and “Don Marcos was a gift of God for many.”

Father Dávila concluded his homily by using the letters of Mark’s name to describe him, saying,

“M = Missionary of Mercy

A =  Amazing Adventurer of Social Justice

R = Ray and Reflection of light in the Dark

K = Knowledge Keeper of Truth and Mercy.”

Father Dávila, who is currently serving as spiritual director at St Mary’s Seminary in Houston, worked for 20 years in Venezuela and has been offering mass at Casa Juan Diego regularly for more that 20 years.

Houston Catholic Worker, January-March 2017, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1.