For Msgr. Ron Marino, his 45th anniversary Mass of thanksgiving was a family affair.
For almost 40 years, Msgr. Marino has been involved in ministry to immigrants. So it wasn’t unusual that joining his Brooklyn parishioners from Regina Pacis-St. Rosalia, were the faces of people from many different nations.
“This is a family celebration,” he told the congregation. “You are my family. We make no distinctions according to language or customs.”
In the line of procession were many priests from the ethnic ministries – Chinese, Polish, Italian, Nigerian and Pakistani among them.
Msgr. Marino recalled being nervous on his ordination day, looking around and asking himself if he knew what he was doing.
“All I could say was ‘Jesus, I trust you,’” he said, and he was able to move ahead.
His first assignment as a parish priest was to Our Lady of Grace in Gravesend and he was very happy there. When he was approached by then-Msgr. Anthony Bevilacqua to join his ministry to newcomers to the diocese, Msgr. Marino said he reacted negatively.
He told Msgr. Bevilacqua, “I don’t know anything about immigrants.” The future cardinal said, “Don’t worry. They’ll teach you all you need to know.”
He was right. Msgr. Marino says, “I never expected to see what I saw in the eyes of the immigrants. They truly taught me what it means to be a priest. When they came to me and told me their lives were in terror, I closed the doctrine book and opened up the New Testament for guidance.”
He said that he has relied on the promise of God – I will give you the words to say.
He explained that he has learned how to rejoice and how to suffer, how to raise families and how to celebrate families.
“The Lord has been teaching me through the sacraments,” he said, and it has allowed him to see miracles. He has witnessed the burden of years of suffering lifted through the sacrament of reconciliation. He has seen people’s lives changed because of the power of God working through the priesthood.
Msgr. Marino said that his ministry has been one of constantly learning. As pastor of Regina Pacis for the past 13 years, he said, “I learned so much of what the Lord wanted me to do as a priest.”
Today, he pointed out that God is still calling men to the priesthood, but many are afraid to respond because of the commitment that is required.
Sometimes people will ask him why he didn’t leave and get a job that would make him a lot of money. “This is the most rewarding work that I could have devoted my life to,” is his response.
Four families, representing the Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Polish ministries, brought the gifts to the altar during the offertory procession.
Following Mass, a reception was held in the parish hall. Food from many nations was brought by the members of the different ethnic groups. A multi-cultural festival of song and dance was conducted in English, Spanish, Italian and Polish.
“I thank God today for the gift of my priesthood,” said Msgr. Marino.