By Nancy Schertzing | Photography by Tom Gennara
8 a.m. Father Mark is at a local restaurant meeting one of his parishioners for breakfast and spiritual direction. “I have about five people – mostly MSU professors or graduate students – I give spiritual direction to,” he explains.
9 a.m. Father Mark arrives in his office at St. John Student Parish. His first task of opening e-mails and text messages can take his breath away as they keep coming up on his computer screen. “Students regularly e-mail or text me for help with papers or needing to talk about problems going on at home. Some days I get 300. Some days only about half that many. I even have some messages saying ‘I’m thinking of killing myself.’ I spend a lot of my day answering e-mails or forwarding them to members of the parish team who can help.” Regardless of how many e-mails have come in, time rushes on.
10 a.m. His meeting schedule begins. Staff, community members or parishioners seek Father Mark’s input on topics from parish operations or planning, to community issues or events, to marriage preparation or spiritual support.
Reflecting back on his years as a psychology major at Michigan State University, Father Mark says, “I didn’t want to be a priest. I never wanted to.
“I had a psychology professor, Dr. Marian Kinget – a tiny woman with a Belgian accent like Dr. Ruth – who really made me think. She and Dr. Joseph Druse, my humanities professor, challenged me to explore how psychology and spirituality played out in my life. After reading Father John Powell’s books, Why Am I Afraid to Love? and Why Am I Afraid to Tell you Who I Am?, my thinking became more focused. The priests and pastoral team here at St. John’s really helped in my discernment.”
Noon If it’s Wednesday or Friday, then it’s time to prepare for 12:15 Mass. Other days, he simply prays the mid-day prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours in church before heading on to a lunch meeting.
“Here at St. John’s, we have everything from A to Z of ages, skin tones, income, backgrounds – you name it. Probably my greatest challenge is harnessing the tremendous talent and resources of our parishioners to serve a community that includes undergrad and graduate students, faculty/staff and community members and their families. It’s a challenge, but a real joy – a real joy.
“Our five o’clock Mass on Sunday night is wall-to-wall young faces, all there to celebrate Mass. They come from all over the world – not because someone is making them come, but because they want to be there. (Well, some might come for the spaghetti dinner we serve after, but they’re still coming on their own!) It gives me great hope for the future.”
2 p.m. Lunch ends and Father Mark’s pastoral duties resume. Each day brings a dazzling variety of activities – such as hospital or house visits, memorial services, guest lectures for an MSU class, meeting students on campus, or more e-mails and meetings. Given that he officiates at 60 weddings and prepares about 40 additional couples for marriage each year, some part of the afternoon is often dedicated to marriage preparation.
“I’m almost always working on a wedding homily, trying to incorporate aspects of a bride’s and groom’s degrees into my message for their wedding. One time, I had two physicists who worked at the MSU cyclotron, so I talked about the physics of marriage. Another time, the bride was an education major, so I developed the ABCs of marriage for their homily. It makes my message more meaningful for the couple, and I get to learn about a variety of subjects!
“I think if I worked in a more homogenous parish, I might not be thrilled with all those weddings. But here, at St. John’s, it’s fascinating! I’ve done Jewish/Catholic weddings, Hindu/Catholic weddings, a Rwandan wedding, where the bride and groom jumped over sticks at the end, and Filipino weddings where they exchange coins and have the lasso and veil. The cultural signs and symbols are so creative and meaningful!”
6 p.m. It’s meal time again. Father Mark usually meets someone for dinner, either to discuss an issue or project. Sometimes, he uses this time to provide spiritual guidance or support. The food and short rest power him through the latter part of his day.
7 p.m. Meetings at church: Parish council, RCIA, baptism preparation and other functions are typically scheduled for the evening when others’ work days have ended. Sometimes, however, Father Mark Inglot takes this time for fun.
9 p.m. Father Mark prepares for Mass on Tuesdays and Thursdays or prepares for evening prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours other nights of the week.
10 p.m. He’s back home alone and ready to bring another full day to a close. Just as the hour of exercise in the morning sustains him through the day, this time of solitude is essential to maintaining his grueling schedule day after day. “If I get the two hours in the morning and my two hours at night, I’m good,” he says.
“Learning from and being present with all types of people at all stages of their lives give me great satisfaction. For example, I’m so honored I got to minister to Joe Druse, my humanities professor, when he died all those years after he helped shape my life. I don’t know why more people aren’t priests. It’s a wonderful life! A lot of nights I go to bed very tired, but very grateful.”
Midnight Having said the night prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, Father Mark turns out the lights on another day.
Visit www.dioceseoflansing.org for information about vocations.
Undergraduate seminary students face costs of approximately $25,000 per year. To help them defray those expenses and enable them to pursue studies that may lead to ordination, the Diocese of Lansing calls on the Bishop Albers Trust.
In 1962, Lansing’s first bishop, Joseph Albers, saw the need for supporting prospective priests and allocated a substantial amount of his estate toward that purpose. In 1972, Bishop Alexander Zaleski and Auxiliary Bishop James Sullivan established the Joseph H. Albers Trust Fund as an ongoing source of financial help. Bishop Zaleski was one of the first to make a significant contribution to it. The fund has helped support most of the seminarians since.
The trust fund is a self-supported endowment and only the earned income in the form of interest and dividends is available as grants to seminarians. In order to continue helping seminarians, the fund needs legacy gifts to continue. If you are interested in helping, contact Jane Sessions at email@example.com or Father Jerry Vincke at firstname.lastname@example.org.