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Archives ‘God’s grace is sufficient for us’

Sept. 28, 2022

Father Michael Marzan believes,
‘His power is made perfect in weakness’

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

PLATTSBURGH - If you hear someone singing Marian hymns like an angel choir, you may be in the presence of Father Michael H. Marzan, one of the new parochial vicars at Holy Cross Parish in Plattsburgh. Since his recent arrival, he has gone on adventures to the apple orchard, pumpkin patch, and even Vermont.

Father Marzan is originally from the Archdiocese of Caceres in the Philippines and grew up in a poor village near the seashore.

“I came from a simple family,” Father Marzan said. “My mother is a tailor, and my father is a fisherman. I am the oldest and have two brothers and three sisters.”

At first Father Marzan aspired to become a teacher.

“But God had another plan for me,” he said. “When I was in high school, I was recruited to serve in the parish choir. I noticed that I had the inclination, the vocation. I loved serving the parish, so I was attracted to priestly ministries. I had a desire to become a priest but, because I come from a poor family, I thought I had no capacity to do so. It’s really God’s grace – vocation is really a mystery and, if God is calling you, God will find ways to realize that vocation. So, I took the entrance exam and I passed. And I said, ‘I think that God is really calling me,’ and I was really happy. But my father said, ‘No, don’t continue because I cannot support you. I do not have the capacity to sustain you.’ But my mother was really very supportive. She went to our parish priest in order to ask for the support and I got a scholarship from the bishop.”

Then, Father Marzan attended Holy Rosary Major Seminary in Naga City, where he obtained his bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and in sacred theology.

“My first assignment as a newly ordained priest was at Saint Bernard Abbot Parish in Camarines Sur as parochial vicar, where I had three parishes,” he said. “As a pastor, I also had three parishes. I was assigned as a pioneering priest in a parish which I started from nothing. There was no church and no rectory. I created St. Francis Xavier, in Halawig-Gogon, Goa, Camarines Sur. It was really challenging for me to build ‘two kinds of Church’ – the material Church and the real Church, which are the people.”

The struggle, Father Marzan related, was “How would I build this Church, how could I do it? I went to the people and asked their help,” he said. “It was successful because of the generous gifts of the people in that place. Also, I built the ‘second Church’ – liturgical ministries and other religious organizations in the parish. I also went to communities to organize the pastoral and barrio councils because they are consultative bodies which help to realize and implement parish programs.”

Father Marzan is a strong believer in the power of prayer.

“The thing that really strengthened me and gave me hope and inspiration is my deep prayer life because without that I couldn’t effectively fulfill the responsibilities in a new parish that was growing little by little,” he said. “So, we started from scratch, from the beginning just like in the Gospel. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a small seed, but when it grows it becomes a big tree. So, it starts with a small beginning and later you will see the fruit of it. By ourselves we cannot do it, but with the grace of God and the help of the people, with prayer, of course. Because God gave me this responsibility, He will do it for me. That was my hope and my prayer. It is not my work, it’s God’s work, I’m just the instrument. The people really loved me in my first assignment as pastor. I think they will not forget me because of what I have done for them.”

Even during his formation, Father Marzan felt drawn to the interior life.

“I always heeded the call to the contemplative life,” he said. “When we were studying about monasticism, it came to my mind to become a monk. But I said to myself, ‘I don’t know where this type of community is, maybe I’m just thinking of medieval times,’ so I became a priest. After 15 years as a priest, the call to be a contemplative came back to my mind. So, I asked my bishop for permission to follow my heart’s desire and took a break from parish life and entered the community of the Trappist monks, the Cistercian Order of Strict Observance. They follow the rule of St. Benedict. After a year and a half, I went back again to parish life. But they say that ‘once you are a monk you are a monk forever.’ So, I loved it. I learned a lot from monastic formation. It really deepened my prayer life, especially devoting time for Lectio Divina and meditation, and praying the Liturgy of the Hours. And I love silence and solitude.”

Father Marzan has witnessed the fruits of monastic life in his parish work “in administering the sacraments and being with people, helping people, not only the material help but also with the spiritual needs.”

“After seven years in parish life, my original plan was to go back to the monastery and continue, but there was another plan,” he continued. “I was asked if I wanted to go on mission in the United States. This mission is a new place in my priestly ministry, because I also want to learn new things in life, especially about new cultures.”

When asked what advice he would like to share with readers, Father Marzan replied: “The young and families need guidance. There are many who are depressed, like Jesus said – they are like sheep without a shepherd. They do not know what to do, what is really the meaning of life. So, they should not be afraid of asking for help from religious people, especially priests or religious brothers or sisters.”

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