Father Francis J. Marino, SM, founder and spiritual father of the Anawim Community in Corning, died at the Anawim Community Center in Manila, Philippines, on Oct. 1, 2007. He was 82 years old and had celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination earlier this year.
Father Marino was born in Massachusetts and grew up in New York City. In 1948 he joined the Society of Mary, Boston Province, and on Sept. 8, 1956, he made his solemn profession. He was ordained a Marist priest May 31, 1957, by Richard Cardinal Cushing.
He dedicated the rest of his life to helping others live according to Marian spirituality. In 1966 he helped establish a contemplative community of women, and he later attempted to form a men’s community as well. In 1975, at age 50, together with Barbara Brennan he founded Anawim, a community of laity and priests. Anawim is dedicated to spiritual and missionary endeavors with eucharistic and Marian devotion serving as a basis. The center is currently located at 122 E. First St. in Corning.
Father Marino spent the next several years building up the Anawim Community, with Brennan remaining his closest collaborator. The community has since expanded, opening branches in the Diocese of Metuchen N.J., as well as the Philippines — the latter of which provides spiritual support to the poor and also is a house of formation for seminarians. In recent years Father Marino spent much of his time guiding the seminarians and lay associates in Manila. In all he made more than 15 trips to the Philippines, continuing his mission travels well into his 70s and 80s. He also compiled a publication, The Anawim Way, a periodic collection of daily liturgical meditations still being produced by his followers.
“Father Francis can count as his spiritual children the hundreds of men and women who follow the grace of the Anawim life, and the thousands who benefit from his spiritual guidance,” said Father Daniel Healy, current director of the Anawim Community, who added that Father Marino was “a powerful and challenging preacher and a popular spiritual director. He had an uncanny sense of identifying the foibles and hidden deceptions in the human condition.”
Father Healy observed that Father Marino struggled throughout his adult years with “the tomb experience,” a sense of inner darkness.
“This struggle was in part due to his perception that he was inadequate to the task God had assigned to him. His perseverance in faith while ‘in the tomb’ gave him a profound understanding of human nature, and tender compassion for the suffering and the broken,” Father Healy remarked.
Carol Stramowski of the Corning Anawim Community, who knew Father Marino for more than 30 years, said the priest was a keen observer of “where you are in your walk with God.”
“He showed me how to be real, honest, true — so many things. It wasn’t just an overnight happening. God is patient with us in the journey, and Father was patient and loving to many who come to him,” Stramowski said.
In recent years, weakened by a heart condition and hydrocephalus (water on the brain), Father Marino gradually became less active in his ministry. Yet Father Healy said that “people were inspired by his short insightful comments, his demeanor and his blessings. Many found strength simply being in his presence as he persevered under the weight of his illnesses. … In the final weeks, he was limited to a wheelchair, but he was able to participate in the Mass right up to the day he died.”
In March 2007 Father Marino was diagnosed with lung cancer, which eventually spread to the brain. He died six months later, but not before he had the opportunity to return to Corning for a portion of last summer to celebrate the golden jubilee of his priesthood, which had occurred on May 31.
“It was a closure. We had that sense it might be the last time to see him, and he gave us his blessings,” Stramowski said.
Father Marino’s funeral Mass was held Oct. 13, 2007, in the Philippines. Memorial services also were held in October 2007 at the Anawim Community in Corning as well as in New Jersey. Interment was at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Liturgical Life in Manila.
Father Marino is survived by a brother, Sebastian, and sister, Joyce Marino Rossitto.