The Marians' Big Sister


By Fr. Angelo Casimiro, MIC

On May 11, 2022, Marlene Schlecht from Kenosha, Wisconsin, passed away at the age of 64. She was a long-time Marian Helper, a dedicated and devoted supporter of the Marian Fathers.

The first time I met Marlene was when she visited Steubenville, Ohio with some friends. At the time, I was a postulant living at the Marian House of Studies. Then when I came to Washington, DC, to live at the Marian Scholasticate, Marlene would make frequent visits. I remember when she was in DC for the North American Congress on Mercy in Nov. 2009. She was scheduled to give one of the talks at the Congress. I spoke with her right before she was going to give her talk. She appeared a little nervous about it, but I told her that it was going to be fine.

Catholic convert

Shortly after I was ordained to the priesthood in July 2011, I was sent to Kenosha to be an associate pastor at our Marian parishes there, St. Peter and Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii. Marlene and her husband Mark (both of whom were police officers) and their two children, Samantha and Steven, were members of St. Peter's. Marlene was a convert from Lutheranism who'd decided to convert to the Catholic faith as her children were growing up and being raised Catholic.

Marlene was deeply involved in parish life at St. Peter's. Among other things, she was a member of the St. Peter's Women's League, a catechist in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a communion and bereavement minister, a lector, and a festival volunteer. She was also involved with many local and civic organizations like Wisconsin Right to Life, the Serra Club, the Wisconsin Crime Prevention Practitioners Association and the International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners.

Marlene loved spending time with family, traveling, attending concerts, going to Green Bay Packer games (both home and away), as well as reading, computers, and doing just about everything with her shadow and best bud, her dog, Annie. As a cancer survivor, Marlene truly treasured giving and receiving support from her friends at the Circle of Hope cancer support group in Kenosha.

Warm welcome

Any time there was a new Marian in Kenosha, Marlene made sure that he was well taken care of. Since I really didn't know anyone in Kenosha when I moved there in August 2011, except for my Marian brothers, Marlene and her family warmly welcomed and embraced me.

Marlene had a great love for all of the Marians and was good friends with many of us. She was both a "big sister" and "spiritual mother" to us Marians. Marlene and her family often attended the Sunday evening Mass at St. Peter's. If I was celebrating the Mass, they would invite me to have dinner with them afterward. They were always very kind and generous.

She often joked that she unofficially headed up the Midwest office of the Marian Helpers Center since she always had many of our materials on hand to distribute to people. She had also visited our Marian mission in Rwanda and greatly supported our work there.

When Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, started the Hearts Afire Parish-based Programs (HAPP) in early 2012, I asked Marlene to help me with organizing the 33 Days to Morning Glory Group Retreat at St. Peter. It was a blessed experience as a group of 60 people from both St. Peter and Holy Rosary made their Marian consecration on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. I was very thankful and grateful for her help and assistance during that time, and also for helping to continue the programs at both parishes.

Kringles

After I moved from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Steubenville, Ohio in June 2013, I kept in touch with Marlene and often saw her when I would be visiting the Midwest or at various Marian events. When I would be in Kenosha, I would have dinner with Marlene and her husband Mark at their favorite Mexican restaurant. She also made sure to send Kringles, a pastry from Racine, Wisconsin, to all of the Marian houses every year.

I will greatly miss Marlene, as will my Marian brothers and many others who knew her well. My heart and prayers especially go out to her family during this very difficult time. I was blessed to have known her. Not only was Marlene a good friend and kind individual, but she was a woman of deep faith, a caring and loving wife and mother, a woman of action, and a strong fighter against the adversities of life.

EFBK

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