BROTHER JOSEPH MARK CLARK
In the early part of the New Year, 1974, Brother Edward Ignatius Duggan ("Doug") and Brother Daniel Bernard McIlmurray ("Bernie"), two Brothers teaching at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, took a brief holiday in the Caribbean on a discount cruise originating in Miami, Florida. The very low fare included air travel from New York but since Doug was planning to drive to Miami he posted a notice on the Brothers' Community Room bulletin board: "Any monk who wants a free round trip ticket to Florida for next week, please see me."
Mrs. Margaret Clark, then in her mid-70's and widowed since 1965, was living in Florida. It is warmer there than in the Bronx, New York, where she had lived all her life and raised her family, and, as we all know, the heat of the sun feels especially good as you get older. Over the years she had buried not only her husband, John, an engineer, but three of her five children, all in early middle life. Her married daughter, Marge, and her only remaining son, Joseph, the subject of this memorial, encouraged her to move to Florida, and they all visited back and forth when they could.
A free ticket to Florida during the winter holiday was a great boon to Joseph Mark Clark, then forty-four years old, a member of the student recruitment and admissions team at Iona College. It was a perfect chance for Mark to see Mom and to get a brief respite from New York's cold and slush.
Bernie traveled on the flight from New York to Miami with Mark, and Bernie says it was three hours of pure showmanship! Bernie sat quietly smoking and smiling as Mark quickly became the toast of the @light shortly after the plane leveled out at its cruising altitude and the hostesses began serving the complimentary beverages.
Now the plane had landed and the high-spirited crowd was moved by ground transportation to the cruise ship. Mark had never shared with any of the on-board 'holiday makers his own status: a Christian Brother traveling on a borrowed flight coupon with no cruise ticket and intending to visit his Mom. And so, without his knowledge, his luggage was shipped directly from the Miami airport to the ship at the harbour and Mark went after it in panicky pursuit.
"Bernie: What will I do? I need my suitcase!"
Doug, already on-board, sized up the situation and stepped in. When the cruise ship's bursar heard the appeal from Doug (six foot four inches, two hundred and thirty pounds) and noted the ten dollar bill Doug pressed into his hands, the bursar volunteered to go down to the luggage hold and reappeared shortly with Mark's bag; a "just in the nick of time" solution as the warning toots from the cruise ship deafened the revelers.
Mark now bade Doug and Bernie "bon voyage" and started down the_gangplank. "Too late, sir. The customs people have gone!" The authorities would not allow Mark to leave the ship, believing he might have been a stowaway hiding on-board since the cruise's early morning arrival from some Caribbean port!
More panic. Back to Doug. Back to the bursar's office. Another ten dollar bill. Another last minute solution. This time Mark and suitcase were spirited off the ship via an auxiliary gangplank down in the hold of the vessel being used to load the final allotments of meat and produce for the week's cruise!
All during the week Bernie was hounded by questions from the holiday makers: "Where is your friend, Joe Clark?" Bernie was now seen everywhere on-board ship with Doug, and people were delighting in telling Doug about Bernie's other companion, Joe. But where was Joe: the fun-filled, story-telling, sensitive, song-leading, party-making, short, under- weight, lovable, energetic guy from the plane?
Dear Reader: the story of these few days goes on and on. There are several additional episodes. They involve a rented car and a luggage heist. It is really a very funny story. If you meet Doug or Bernie, ask them.
I write this much of it so that you will get at least some sense of Joseph Mark Clark, for this is the way people, even most of his Brothers, knew him--affable, attentive, spirited, and, all too frequently, trapped accidentally in a Keystone Cop caper of his own innocent creation.
But now the story gets brutal, ugly, real. It is two weeks later. A tanned and relaxed Doug and Bernie arrived back at Iona in time for dinner, to be met by Brother Eugene David McKenna and Brother John Mark Egan: "Where the hell is Mark? What's happened to him?"
"How should we know? We haven't seen him since he flew back from Miami over a week ago." Agitation. Tension. Anxiety. And gradually several monks around the room began slowly to volunteer bits and pieces of information that quickly added up to a grim realization: Mark had indeed arrived back, days ago, and was hiding himself in a visitor's room in the monks' residence, was probably drinking very heavily, and was seen only occasionally and very late at night foraging in the kitchen. Only a few monks were aware of any of this; they thought they knew what was going on, but they did nothing about it.
The Superior, Dave McKenna, was stunned. He and Mark had been very close for years and now he stood speechless and frozen to the spot. Brother Edward Arthur Walsh ("Artie"), who had received the habit with Mark, was furious. How could some monks know what this Brother was doing to himself and not break in on him? Artie bounded up the stairs; pounded on the door; screamed at Mark, "I know you are in there. Open this door or I'll kick the damn thing down." No reply. Another shout from Artie. Still no reply. A savage kick heard throughout the house shook the door and its frame. Then a feeble voice. "Artie, OK. I'll come out. Just give me five minutes."
Finally the door opened. Joseph Mark Clark stood there; Christian Brother, former novice master, found6r of Bishop Kearney High School, delegate to provincial chapters, alcoholic; four or five or eight or ten days into a prolonged drinking bout, lips cracked, ill-shavened, disheveled; the room dank, musty, littered; he stood shivering, as best he could; miserable, discovered, frightened, wretched, confronted - finally - by a friend. The door of isolation behind which hid this garrulous bonhomme of just a few days ago was battered down to reveal a Christian Brother in very great pain and desperate circumstances.
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"I was born on December 2, 1929, to John and Margaret (Sheehy) Clark, at their home, Radio Drive, Pelham Bay, New York. I was the fourth son in a family of five, my sister, Margaret, being born a few years later.
"In September 1936, 1 entered our parish school, Our Lady of the Assumption, taught by the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. I went through the eight grades and graduated in 1944.
"Following in the footsteps of my brothers, I entered Iona Prep in September 1944 and during my four vears there I took an active part in sports (football and track) and
extracurricular activities (band, glee club, assistant editor of the school paper, editor of the 1948 yearbook). In freshman, sophomore, and senior years I was elected class president, and in junior year, vice president.
"It was during these years of association with the Brothers, in class and more so on the campus after school, that I felt the desire to imitate their lives. Brother Theodore Greene was the first to whom I spoke of my desire, toward the end of my first year at Iona. Brother Greene was transferred from Iona to Power the next year, and my new religion teacher, Brother Pius Burns, kept the spark of interest alive. I would have gone to West Park after completion of second year but for the fact that I was the only boy at home, my brothers being in the military service at that time. Brother Greene returned to Iona once again, and for the next two years he and Brother Thomas Perry gave me the advice and confidence that one considering entrance to religious life needs.
"Although I never spoke of my intentions to Brother Fabian Curtin, he above all the Brothers inspired me by his exemplary life. He was a model teacher and a true friend in and out of class. He often kidded me about joining the Brothers, and I felt that it was his way of telling me that he knew of my desires, and was praying for the same. When shortly before graduation I told him that everything was set for my entrance to the St. Joseph's Juniorate, he took it very matter of factly, as if he never expected anything else.
"My religious vocation is due after the grace of God to the inspiring faith and devotion to daily Mass and Communion of my parents. It is with great pride that I recall our Pastor, Reverend John McCahill, refer to my family as the ideal family in his parish, and I remember on one occasion a visiting priest who had seen my parents and the five of us kneeling at the altar rail, morning after morning, stop between them, as he distributed Holy Communion, and whisper to them how edified he was, and how pleased he knew God was with them."
Joseph Jerome Clark received the habit of the Christian Brothers as Brother Mark on September 8, 1948 but left the novitiate in August 1949 to join the Dominican Fathers. He remained with them but a few weeks when he was stricken with a serious ulcer attack, returned home, and enrolled as a freshman in Iona College.
"I realized my vocation was that of a Brother and not a priest" and he was re-admitted to the Congregation, this time on September 6, 1950. And so, at age twenty-one, with a wonderful secondary school background as a "big man on campus," with an abbreviated stay in a seminary, and with eleven months of Christian Brother-novitiate already under his belt, Brother Mark Clark was a novice with stature and experience, one of the "older men" in a group of fifty novices, forty of whom were barely nineteen or twenty years old. It was also the first year of Brother Francis Victor Chapman's long tenure as novice master. He remembers Mark affectionately:
"Mark was an amiable, warm-hearted and generous individual. It was during the novitiate that I first noticed his ability to enter into a sympathetic relationship with almost anyone. He had a special gift of establishing friendships. In this regard he was very good at doing the things he ought to have done, and on occasions he did things he ought not to have done. Sing-songs were part of the recreation activity at that time. Mark had an excellent singing voice; at least I thought he did. He entered these get-togethers with glee and enthusiasm. It was in his eagerness that he began to show another side of his character. Mark had fixed ideas about things and he began to display some of the inflexibility, doggedness and even cussedness that were part of his personality. Now I do not wish to try to establish Mark as either a saint or a sinner. I mention this negative quirk because to get at the real meaning of Mark's spirituality one must consider this life-long struggle he had with this kink in his character. What he did with this down through the years is what is important. I lived a second time with Mark during the last few years of his life. In one way he was the Mark of the novitiate. He was still warm and friendly and he was still stubborn. However, whenever he failed and hurt someone, he hurt himself even more than the one he offended. Mark had a cross to carry but it was through this cross that he gained an extraordinary ability to help others, especially those in trouble. He easily entered into the feelings of those in trouble in an empathic way. He acquired a gift to say the right thing at the right time. I do believe that Mark was a deeply religious man who loved God and his neighbor with his whole heart and soul and this is where his inner power came from."
The first years were usual enough; the scholasticate year followed the novitiate in West Park; thence to Iona College and a bachelor's degree in history and political science; three years of elementary school teaching; a graduate degree in American and European history. The teaching was fine, but already the astute observer could read the signs: Mark's forte was the after class environment, meeting students around the offices, on the recreation field, in the many extracurricular roles, and in his life around the community of the Brothers.
In 1956, Mark was assigned to the founding community at Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey with Brother Eugene David McKenna as principal and superior. Mark became the school's guidance counselor, taught mathematics, religion, and any other class where he was needed. He coached the freshman basketball team; he was part-time' cook, chauffeur, and guest-master. The school had no heating system during that first winter, so kerosene burners were placed in the nine classrooms and the make-shift administration offices. Mark took on the responsibility for making sure that the burners were maintained; this meant filling them at 10:30 p.m., at 5:00 a.m., and again at noon every day for the duration of that long winter. Mark was always fastidious about his appearance but during all those winter months he carried the odor of kerosene rather than cologne.
As Bergen Catholic grew, so did Mark. His responsibilities expanded to include being moderator of many student services and member on several Congregational committees. During 1961, Mark's last year there, Brother John Ambrose Kelly, one of the founders of the American Province, was assigned to Bergen. He was elderly then and declining in health. Mark moved his room to be beside Ambrose in order to assist him. Every day before the bell for morning prayers, Mark rose to help Ambrose dress, and every evening he bathed and bandaged his ulcerated legs. Mark even installed a bell next to Ambrose's bed that would alert Mark to any need at any hour.
And thus the large outlines of Mark's adult life as a Christian Brother began to take on identifiable shapes: an adequate classroom teacher but not a scholar; a useful administrator but more in the doing than in the recording of it; exquisitely alert and accurately responsive to the needs of anyone near him; but with a heedless and reckless disregard of his own needs.
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Feast of Saint John the Baptist
June 24, 1962
My Very Dear Brother Provincial,
It is with a deep sense of humility and relying on the abundant graces of Almighty God, that I accept the appointment to the Superiorship of the Bishop Kearney High School Community, Rochester, New York.
With the help of God and the intercession of Our Brother of Perpetual Help, I will do my best to create a devout and truly religious spirit in the community and to maintain the happy family life which is so characteristic of our Congregation.
I am deeply grateful for the confidence that the Brother Superior General, you, dear Brother Provincial, and the Provincial Council have placed in me, and I beg your prayers for the success of the community and school."
The thirty-three year old Joseph Mark Clark and the founding community of Bishop Kearney High School moved to Rochester, a city in the snowbelt Northwestern section of New York State, with determination and, zeal. Mark was adamant from the outset that everything would be done with good taste and flair. He often quoted, with a modest attempt to imitate the man's panache, words frequently (whether accurately?) ascribed to Brother Alphonsus Liguori Pakenham, "I instinctively travel first class."
Through Mark's strong leadership in developing a very fine academic program, the first graduating class of Bishop Kearney High School achieved many honors and scholarships. The excellent quality of the first classes was immediately recognized by the colleges they entered and thus Bishop Kearney was quickly identified with academic excellence.
The athletic teams became very competitive and immediately won their share of important games. An extraordinary concert and marching band soon developed into one of the finest secondary school musical groups in New York State. Under the direction of a superb bandmaster, the music program excelled and the band achieved not only championship status locally but also international recognition from European tours, including a joyously successful participation in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland in March 1967.
With all the academic ability and musical ability in the student body, and with a modern stage and auditorium in the school building, Mark decided on one more vehicle to heighten the public's awareness of Bishop Kearney: the school would present annually a "blockbuster Broadway-type musical show"! And Mark had just the genius at hand to accomplish the goal: a gifted classroom teacher, expert craftsman, talented musician, fair disciplinarian, exceptionally popular but painfully shy Brother John Lawrence Heathwood.
"I have never wanted to take a curtain call after any of my shows. But after the first musical, 'Oklahomal', Mark came up on stage and gave a talk, and then had the leading lady hand me a bouquet of roses for my mother who was in the audience. I could have killed him as I walked down the aisle under a spotlight - he had arranged everything! When I saw him later, he dismissed my objections by saying, 'Swallow your pride. You probably did more for vocations tonight than with one hundred talks.' Before my parents left, he had four of the roses encased in plastic with a plaque to remember the event. It still sits on the coffee table in my sister's home."
His enthusiasm, his dedication to Catholic education, his appreciation of people, and his willingness to do the most menial jobs were quickly recognized by the parents. Within a year of the founding of the school, two parents' organizations, Father's club and Mother's club, were flourishing and contributing much needed funds through their many fundraising activities. People liked Mark and wanted to work with him to accomplish the goals that he set for the school.
Brother Lawrence Alphonsus Killelea was the Vice Principal for the boys department of the school. "As Superior of a large community and Principal of a very active school of 1,600 boys and girls, Mark was always busy. However, he was never too busy to take time to help anyone who needed him. He was always available and always most gracious, giving you the impression that you were doing him a favor when you requested his assistance,"
But, is it only in hindsight that one can reflect: at what personal cost? Is it fair, now, to ask: was anybody looking at how Mark himself was doing? In all likelihood he was being as reckless, personally, and as heedless as ever. Maybe more so.
* * * * * * * * * *
June 6, 1967
I know that these days you are hearing all kinds of people say all kinds of nice things about you - more than at any time in the last five years certainly Up to a point this is customary and still sincere: every boss has a number of real accomplishments by the time he is finished. But in your case there is a great deal more to it. You undertook a new and difficult type of school in a community small enough to focus the spotlight on you quite frequently. You have done a first-rate job. The school and the monks have an excellent reputation in Rochester; there is fine rapport with the Sisters. In community life you have done such a grand job that you have now landed yourself a new one!"
Thus did Mark Clark learn from the Provincial, Brother Robert Valerian Scanlan, that he would be appointed novice master in September 1968. He had a year to prepare himself, through courses in pastoral counseling at Iona College and workshops in spirituality and theology, for one of the Congregation's most sensitive responsibilities. He was a delegate to the July 1968 Chapter of the Eastern American Province and began his service as novice master, at age 39, brimming with the enthusiasm that came from the documents of Vatican 11 and, as well, the exceptional monograph, The Brother in the Church and the World, which the delegates to that Provincial Chapter had authored.
The late 1960's were exciting times, as well as difficult times, for the Church and for the Congregation. Many changes were taking place in religious formation. Mark was conscious of the fact that he was responsible for replacing some of the more traditional practices with some of the insights and programs suggested at the previous Provincial Chapter. Some of his plans brought criticism of him from older Brothers,
criticism which he found very difficult to bear. It was Mark's faith in the Lord and faith in the goodness of the novices which made these experiences less difficult. Several of his novices wrote that Mark was not a good Novice Master because he depicted the perfect Christian Brother but rather he was a good Novice Master because he allowed himself to be open and transparent to his novices. "Mark allowed his novices to see him as he really was with his strengths and with his frailties and for these we loved him."
But what strengths? What frailties?
"Mark's greatest gift, his greatest strength, was his ability to make you feel that when he was speaking with you, you were the only person in the entire world with whom he was concerned. You possessed his undivided attention. This concern did wonders for making anyone, especially a young novice, feel good about himself."
Over and over this theme is sounded. It is the happy leitmotif in the complicated symphony of Mark's life.
But what frailties? Only one commentator from these years even suggested anything was amiss. "He seemed to be missing a lot; absent for a few days at a time. He said he had a lot of head colds and flu. He was late for prayers, for meals, for jobs. I loved him but I didn't know what was the matter." Almost everybody missed the signals. Brother Michael DePaul Sinnott, who was the assistant to Mark for four years in West Park, wrote: "Mark was a loving person; he just could not stop. He loved God, he loved his family, he loved his Brothers and his friends I think that he spent himself for others each and every day and I know he died rich in their love. He poured himself out, and yet he remained full."
But did he really remain full? Something hurtful and destructive was already underway, a disease which, if left unrecognized and untreated, would bring a body to ruin, a soul to despondency, and friends to powerless tears.
* * * * * * * * * *
May 31, 1971
Enclosed is your reappointment as Novice Master and as local Superior of Santa Maria. Most sincere congratulations on a real mark of confidence. For a Novice Master especially, the acid test is ". . by their fruits shall you know them" and certainly the young monks now in Edmund Hall would lead old J. E. Ryan to comment, 'Ah, your Novice Master would be proud of you!' So thanks for the hard work, prayer and effort - and keep them up!
If you have any doubts or problems, be sure to get in touch.
Valerian Scanlan, Provincial
Almost two years later Mark finally got in touch. On May 3, 1973 he wrote to the Superior General.
"Constitution # 203 admonishes a Brother elected or appointed to an office in the Congregation that he not resign that office before a completed term without very good reason. I have been Novice Master here in West Park for nearly five years and have been sincerely happy in the work of introducing good young men into the Congregation, its Constitutions, history and traditions, and hopefully under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of laying the groundwork for their lives of deep personal and communal prayer.
"However, it also seems to. have taken a toll and healthwise this year has been a difficult one for me physically. I am just getting over a second bout of pneumonia. I have prayed fervently to reach a decision as to whether or not it would be fair to the Province and to next year's novices to remain on and really not have the stamina to do a good job. I believe, before God that it would be best in every way for a new novice master to be appointed."
And so on June 27, 1973 Brother Joseph Mark Clark joined the community of Iona College, was assigned to work on student recruitment, and happily and successfully went about this task, enthusiastically contributing to community life under the superiorship of his great pal, Dave McKenna. The autumn passed quickly enough and Mark was delighted when he saw Doug's sign on the community room bulletin board: "Any monk who wants a free round trip ticket to Florida for next week, please see me."
* * * * * * * * * *
Immediately after Mark opened the door to Artie, two other Brothers close to Mark, until then equally oblivious of Mark's circumstances, arrived. The immediate intervention of these Brothers in Mark's alcoholism was demanded: whether out of love, out of charity, out of fright, out of faith, they had to do something.
One called the Director of Guest House, outside of Detroit, Michigan, a treatment center for male religious with chemical dependencies. He arranged for the earliest possible admission for Mark. The other called an airline, and Mark's family, his doctor and his closest friends. Artie spent the night sitting on a chair in the hall outside Mark's prison, willing to be part of Mark's agony in the long and dark night, determined that Mark would not be without companionship nor would he be allowed to back away from the confrontation with his dark self which was now absolutely essential. On January 24, 1974, accompanied by another friend from his Habit group of 1950, Brother John Jeremiah McCarthy, Mark was admitted for treatment to Guest House.
"A comprehensive medical examination discloses chemical evidence of alcohol abuse which can only be controlled through abstinence from all alcohol. We estimate that with weight gain and the resolution of toxicity, Brother Clark will reach optimal health permitting him to carry out any religious obligations.
"Our psychological evaluation supports the medical diagnosis of alcoholism with the additional complication of anxiety reactions which our psychologist believes were developed as a result of increasing dependency on alcohol. The overall prognosis for Brother Clark by our psychologist is optimistic but considerably dependent upon the patient's ability to become enthusiastically involved in the Alcoholics Anonymous program."
Two months later Mark was writing to Valerian, "When I arrived here I really believed that all I needed was some rest and some psychological counseling to rid myself of problem areas. I thought I had a lot of justifiable anger which was causing my inability to sleep. For about a year and a half I knew that I wasn't eating or sleeping properly. Whether this caused the two bouts with pneumonia I don't know. I did begin taking a drink at midnight so that I would sleep. I can tell you in absolute honesty that I never drank in the mornings or the afternoons; basically I didn't like drinking and didn't experience any pleasure in drinking alone. When the doctors in Kingston gave me prescriptions for sleeping pills, no mention was ever made of the danger of using these in association with alcohol. I sincerely believe that that was a major complication.
"I feel that I have come to understand alcoholism as a disease, and accept it in myself. It is most difficult at first to make personal the words alcoholic, unmanageable, and insane. When one, with God's help, finds the strength to stand before this particular mirror, the only honest response is acceptance of what one truly sees. Consequently, gratitude to God and to the Congregation for this tremendous opportunity for help and support needs and finds expression. The anger that I mentioned earlier was really non-existent, or if in any way real, it was in and with myself.
"Valerian, if I sound happy and alive, it's because I am. I'm involved and busy - but, I believe, well-balanced, very mindful of why I'm here and what I should be doing about it - and doing it to the best of my ability."
On May 10, 1974 Mark's counselor, Lee Phillips, wrote to Valerian to invite him to attend Mark's departure ceremony to be held on Tuesday, May 21, at which time a concelebrated Mass would be followed by a supper and food fellowship. They were pleased with the way Mark had handled his therapeutic program and they believed that he had come to grips with his problems and had developed a program for adequate adjustments "which should enable him to work well within his limits which, as you and I both know so well, are almost boundless."
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The next few years went by quickly uneventfully, or, if they didn't, no one who lived with Mark at that time wrote any particular recollections to the author of this memorial. He served at Power Memorial Academy, Blessed Sacrament High School, participated in the International Tertianship in Rome in the spring of 1980, and then returned again to Blessed Sacrament to continue his work as Guidance Counselor. This last assignment may have been a blow to him since it had been suggested earlier that, after the Tgrtianship, he would likely be appointed as a local Superior or as the Province Vocation Director. Neither of these happened. Mark assumed, as he later admitted, that the Province leaders could not afford to take a chance on a recovering alcoholic. So Mark had a "slip."
"That Mark had a drinking problem was common knowledge. I never drank with Mark nor did I ever see him under the influence of alcohol. However, many years ago, after his first rehabilitation, I did see him one morning when he was visiting my community raiding the liquor closet. In those days, I did not know that some active alcoholics needed a morning drink to start their day.
"Being a recovering alcohol myself who after four years in Alcoholic Anonymous had what is referred to as a "slip" (that is, I started drinking again), I can identify with those who do likewise.
"There are those few active alcoholics who can stay dry through their own efforts, and there are some who cannot, no matter how much intervention takes place in their lives. Thank God, I am one of those who can stay dry and sober, if I live my A.A. program a day at a time.
"Mine was the classic slip. I forgot that I was not cured but recovering, so I stopped going to meetings. In other words, I set myself up, I stopped hearing the strength and hope shared in the rooms of A.A., and I stopped hearing what happens to recovering alcoholics who do not go to A.A. meetings. So when the opportunity arose I took a drink.
"From sad experience I knew that one drink would be too much and that twenty would not be enough. I had admitted to myself that I was an alcoholic, so the one drink was like wormwood. Even though it tore at my spiritual insides, I convinced myself that I was in control. It took me six months of closet drinking to get back to A.A. with the help of a recovering alcoholic, another Christian Brother."
Mark neglected his A.A. program; he said he was afraid it might reflect badly on the Congregation which he loved and served as best he could. On January 5, 1981 he was readmitted to Guest House. Ten weeks later his therapist was writing as follows:
"Brother Clark has responded to his treatment in a most satisfactory manner. A comprehensive physical examination did give initial evidence of alcohol abuse but this is completely reversible with continuing abstinence. He should be unconditionally physically qualified to return to his present duties upon discharge.
"Individual and group sessions in psychological counseling have allowed him to develop new useful insights into his emotional self and assist in his maturation process. He has developed coping mechanisms to prevent further relapses.
"Brother Clark also realizes the spiritual deterioration that has resulted from his progressive alcoholism. His spiritual renewal is evident and exemplary. Brother Clark now seems to have fully accepted his disease of alcoholism. He realizes this is a lifelong disability which can be most successfully managed by an active commitment to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
"Brother Clark's attitude towards his disease seems to have changed radically since his arrival for re-treatment. He has begun to express gratitude for his recovery and realizes the added depth and dimension this can give to his vocation. We feel confident that as Brother Clark continues the program started here, he should soon be restored to the full potential of his ministry."
During that second recovery program Mark shared some of his agony with Brother Paul Kevin Hennessy; these two had received the habit, as did this writer, in September 1950. All had been long-time friends. Mark believed that he couldn't reach his own potential as consistently as he judged some of his best friends to have done, and this saddened him profoundly. Now, with the alcoholism, the compliments of his friends and loved ones seemed as ashes; even if he had done anything useful in the past his drinking had brought disgrace, maybe even rejection.
But by the time he left Guest House he had a new resolve. There was the happy excitement of being appointed Superior of Bishop Kearney High School, the school he had founded almost two decades earlier. He was buoyed with a personal Aftercare Plan he co-developed with his alcoholism counselors: a) total abstinence from alcohol; b) no medications unless prescribed by a doctor knowledgeable about alcohol and his history; c) at least twice weekly active participation in A.A. meetings; d) daily reading from the 24-Hour Book and regular reading from the "Big Book of A.A."; e) avoid getting over-Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired; f) schedule time each day for personal spiritual, physical and recreational exercises, and take a day off work each week; g) communicate with his immediate superiors his feelings, problems and progress.
Nobody has described to this writer what Mark's personal life and community life were like when he returned to Rochester. One young Brother tried his best: "I was so angry at him for what he was doing to himself, for what he continued to do to himself, and to us, that I couldn't talk about it. Because I loved him so much."
Whatever Mark's anguish, pain, disillusionment, pride, dependency, loneliness - a report from the Hemlock Lake Holistic Health Center in April 1983 records the following.
"Joseph Clark, a 53-year-old male, sought admission to this treatment center as a self-referral. He was detoxified at Noyes Memorial Hospital in Dansville, New York. He was then transferred to this center for evaluation and rehabilitation.
"Previous treatment history reveals that this is Brother Clark's third attempt at treatment for his disease of alcoholism. He was treated at Guest House in Detroit, Michigan, in 1974 and 1977. Brother Clark has remained dry since 1977 up until three days before admission to Noyes Memorial. (Writer's note: Mark's self-referral narrative contradicts the Guest House records cited above.)
" The evaluation of chronic, acute alcoholism was confirmed at this center and this patient was admitted to an intensive program on April 28, 1983. He has been oriented to this program and to the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous. An individual treatment plan has been prepared by his therapist with input from him.
"The problem areas identified in this treatment plan are as follows: 1) Acceptance of the disease concept of alcoholism. The patient is still moralizing, resulting in guilt feelings that make him fearful of allowing others to know that he has this disease. 2) Minimizing living problems, unrealistic concerning the effect that alcoholism has had on his life. 3) Difficulty dealing with stress and tension, resulting from lack of balance in his life. 4) Lack of self honesty and honesty with others. Fearful of what others would think of him, thus becoming a "people pleaser." 5) Unable to recognize and deal with feelings and emotions. False pride has prevented this man from asking for help and telling people how he honestly felt, and keeping all the emotional pain inside himself."
So Mark Clark had to begin again, this time with a more intense Aftercare Plan (a minimum of four A.A. meetings per week for the first year) and an assignment to live at St. Patrick's Provincialate in New Rochelle on the grounds of Iona College, ". . . back to a very happy, happy space for me . . . ." And - as a ringing affirmation of the Province's love for him, belief in him, and recognition of his 'talents and devotion to the Congregation - at appointment as Director of Vocations. For the next two years Mark would greet you cheerily, his right hand shaking yours, his left hand on your shoulder: "Peace and Joy to you."
He was very happy. He had an astonishing and immediate effect on his peers in this difficult ministry of vocation recruitment. If this writer has received but a modest response for assistance from Mark's Brothers in preparing this memorial, still the spontaneous outpouring of testimonials from Sisters, Priests, and other religious Brothers was extraordinary. And this from people who barely knew him and saw him only infrequently! Within the month following his death in August 1986, the annual convention of the National Conference of Religious Vocation Directors, the largest convention of brothers, priests and nuns in vocation recruitment work, was dedicated to his memory. One Sister wrote, "He was always there for me when I needed him. What a wise counselor. I never met a person so in love with his own Congregation. What a great Christian Brother. He's the best!"
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Mark spent the early part of the summer of 1986 doing some delightful renovations in the Provincial residence. But the Lord wasn't going to delay His coming much longer. Brother Paul Hennessy, Provincial, writes: " On Friday morning, July 18, Mark did not join us for breakfast since he had had a physical examination scheduled and he had to take various tests while fasting. During the time the community was at breakfast, he was painting sections of the stairway! A few weeks earlier he had told me about various pains he was having and that he had decided to have them checked out. None of us saw any cause for alarm. When Mark returned from his physical, he came into the Council Room where Victor Chapman and I were working and told us that the physician felt that he already had had a number of heart attacks. This caused us great surprise, but he seemed so chipper about it that once again we expressed no great fear. Brother Francis Ferrick (Provincial Treasurer) drove him to the cardiologist who immediately placed him in the hospital for examinations.
"After a week he was moved to Westchester County Medical Center where it was decided to do a coronary bypass operation because of obstructed arteries. I visited with him on Tuesday, July 29, and he was in great spirits. We discussed how long he would have to remain in the hospital after the operation and when he might be able to join the community on vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey. A number of Brothers visited him on the 30th and Victor spoke with him on the telephone that evening. He again exhibited great calm and no sense of urgency whatsoever. He told us that the surgeon would be telephoning us after the operation on the day following to give a report.
"On the 31st of July, the Founder's Feast Day, the operating surgeons discovered that Mark's heart was badly diseased. They couldn't understand why he hadn't spoken to them of more pain. They completed a quadruple bypass but in a telephone call that evening we were alerted to the gravity of the situation. Once again, however, we fully expected Mark to recover. On Friday, Victor and I visited him but the nurse preferred not to wake him. We merely asked that he be told of our visit. On Saturday, when I returned from the First Profession ceremony there was a message to call the surgeon. He informed me that Mark was not improving and he wanted us to be aware of the danger. Denis Crimmins received a call from the hospital at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, August 3, but by the time Denis got there, Mark had already gone home to the Lord.
"He was waked in Spellman Hall of Iona College on Monday and Tuesday. His 90-year-old mother who had already buried a husband and three other sons was the valiant woman of the Scriptures. She was distraught but never questioned the will of God. His sister, Marge, her husband, Jerry, and their two married daughters, together with their husbands, were in attendance the entire time. The outpouring of people on Tuesday evening and their prayerful participation in the Resurrection Liturgy were of great support to the family.
"On Wednesday morning, the Mass of Resurrection was celebrated at Holy Family Church in New Rochelle. The principal celebrant and homiliest was Father William Holberton of Bishop Kearney High School. He was joined by ten other concelebrating priests. Brother Robert Fitzsimmons gave a stirring tribute on the part of the Brothers. At the burial in West Park a few hours later, I recalled at the gravesite how Mark was so concerned that I would not be distracted by his sickness that he kept his sickness quiet and kept assuring me that since he wasn't worried I should not be either. He was afraid it would interfere with the task that I had to perform. It is my final memory of Mark's great generosity and concern for others."
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The final part of this memorial is about love, about a lover, and with good reason. "We - the Christian Brothers - are sent by the Holy Spirit to be signs of the Father's love and compassion for His people." (Constitutions, 1985, I, 4.)
Mark's love was a listening love. No important to Mark than the person with whom he shared the present moment. He paid intense attention, he concentrated, he understood, he responded, and he remembered.
Time, schedules, appointments were often the victim of his loving - but even when you were delayed and waiting for him, you didn't mind too, too much - you would be next to have his attention and that would be joyful indeed.
Mark's love was a serving love. He mopped the hall when the party was over; he waxed the bedroom when a Brother returned from hospital; he planted flowers and shrubs and trees; he consoled the sick; he absolutely treasured his family, and no one more than his Mother.
And Mark's love was a courageous love. It takes courage to live a life of love out in the open, aboveboard, for all to see, when everyone who means anything to you knows that you have the disease of alcoholism. It takes courage to let them love you in return, and to accept their love as love, not as sympathy. It takes courage to know you deserve to be loved, not for the tasks you have done - no matter how enormous, extensive and exceptional - but because of who you are - sacred, special and saved.
All his life Mark was the completely charming and totally successful host. Everyone had the best time! Only towards the end of his life did Mark begin to invite himself to the party.
At the Mass of Resurrection for Mark, Brother Bob Fitzsimmons said, "For all of us, no one taught the vow of chastity - our vow to love - better than Mark. He lived it, loving as Jesus loved. Mark opened the door of his heart to everyone and took a tremendous risk by leaving it open."
Joseph Mark Clark, all his life long, loved singing: from his choir days as the boy tenor in Our Lady of Assumption Church when he sang "O Holy Night" as a soloist every year until his voice changed, through the novitiate, and all throughout his apostolic career as a Brother. He sang not only at the drop of a hat; he sang even at the sight of one! For years his party repertory invariably began with "More" - the theme music from "Mondo Cane."
More than the greatest love the world has known,
This is the love I give to you alone.
Now he has it all.
John G. Driscoll