Fr. Mark Brummel, CMF
I was born in Chicago in 1933 as the youngest of four. I grew up in my family home in the Beverly neighborhood, became an altar server at our local Christ the King Parish and attended its parochial school.
I then followed my brother, Tom, to St. Jude Seminary High School in Momence, Illinois and moved on to the Claretian novitiate and further studies in California, as my brother, Tom, did before me. Seminaries were flourishing in those days; our parents encouraged us in our vocations. Several cousins in our extended family were members of religious communities and served as good examples to us.
Tom went on to advanced studies and ordination in Rome while I made a transition to Catholic University in Washington, D.C. I completed studies there in philosophy, theology and Library Science. I spent my first years as a priest serving as a teacher and librarian at St. Jude’s Seminary. Gradually, however, as enrollment declined, the Claretians opted to close the school in 1970.
I was then appointed to ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in South Chicago while also serving as Co-Director of the St. Jude League/Claretian Publications in downtown Chicago. This position offered me many opportunities to serve in a variety of church related ministries in the name of the Claretians. Within the internal Congregation ministries, I served forty years on the Claretian Provincial Council with twenty of those years as Provincial Treasurer.
A great deal of my official responsibilities centered on administration, both on behalf of the Province and the St. Jude League/Claretian Publications. In addition, I participated in the development of significant Claretian projects. I served as board member for several organizations: Our Lady of Guadalupe School, the Associated Church Press, Chicago Presbyteral Council, the Association of Chicago Priests, the National Federation of Priests Councils, the Eighth Day Center for Justice, the United Neighborhood Organization, Claret Center of Spirituality, Claretian Associates/Villa Guadalupe Housing and Chicago Family Health Center (formerly Claretian Medical Center).
As I reflect on my vocation and life in the Claretian community, I have been inspired by the example of St. Anthony Claret and have recognized my calling to evangelize and proclaim the Good News of salvation carried out from the perspective of the poor, needy and powerless. My Claretian community has encouraged me in all my efforts and given me the freedom to pursue those activities that touched the lives of my fellow Claretians and the communities we served in. I was supported in those initiatives even when I had little practical experience but felt the need to respond to the particular concerns in the community. Over the years other Claretians have become involved in these activities and continue to share the Claretian commitment to justice and peace.
I learned how important it is for the Claretians to trust the lay men and women who worked with us. They have taken on greater responsibility for participation and leadership, particularly in our ministry to youth. We continue to be blessed with the vision and wisdom of many dedicated lay collaborators. They generously share with us the vision of a renewed Church following the Second Vatican Council.
For example, in 1977, the Claretians saw the need for better health care in South Chicago and began a small medical center. Carmen Mendoza was one of the early members of the Board of Directors and brought to the center extensive health care experience. Carmen was chosen to lead the Center and assembled an outstanding team of medical providers to serve in this very needy community. The Claretian Medical Center, later transitioned into the Chicago Family Health Center, now serves six sites with a staff of 250 serving over 33,000 patients annually. I’ve had the privilege to continue to serve on the CFHC Board and lend my support to build on the critical mission of ensuring quality health care as a basic human right.
Finally, I recall the example of Fr. Sevy Lopez, CMF, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, when I first began my ministry in Chicago in 1970. Fr. Sevy grew up in South Chicago. Fr. Sevy served as an altar boy and was present when the church was dedicated in 1928. He always came across as a priest who identified totally with the people. In a short memoir written when he was well into his 80s, Fr. Sevy told of the struggles he faced in becoming a priest and serving as a Claretian. I recall a funeral homily Fr. Sevy preached on behalf of a parishioner at the church shortly before he died at the age of 95. He totally related to the culture and upbringing of the deceased and reflected his keen awareness of that person’s worth and dignity.
Pope Francis often asks, “How can we be a sign of hope? What can we do to encourage a welcoming to the outsider?” Pope Francis makes the point that we ought to be in the business of building bridges and making connections. We are called to bring people together, to treat one another with love and compassion, to recognize we are all in it together. He challenges us to embrace that universal mission: to be open to the Spirit and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and action.