Monsignor Anthony C. Marra, pastor emeritus of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Dunmore,and a resident at the Church of SS. Peter and Paul, Scranton, died on Tuesday, May 12, at Mercy Hospital, Scranton. Monsignor Marra, son of the late Pasquale and Ermelinda DeCristoforo Marra, was born in Jessup on Sept. 21, 1925.
He received his early education in the Jessup Public Schools and graduated from Jessup High School. After completing his studies at St. Charles College, Catonsville, Md., he began his studies for the priesthood at St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, where he received his Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1949. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 1951, in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton, by late Scranton Bishop William J. Hafey.
Monsignor Marra was then assigned as an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Grace, Hazleton,where he served for 15 years and was involved in the construction of two parochial schools and a new parish rectory. He taught in the school and also took an active role in the administration. Monsignor Marra was appointed to his first pastorate in December 1966 at St. Nazarius Church, Pardeesville, where he built a new parish rectory. In 1970 he became pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, Scranton, where he began a renovation of the parish building to reflect the liturgicial changes of the Second Vatican Council.
In May of 1983, Monsignor received a Master of Science Degree in Religious Education from Marywood University. On July 10, 1990, Pope John Paul II elevated Father Marra tothe Rank of Domestic Prelate with the title of Reverend Monsignor. In November 1994, Monsignor Marra was named pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Dunmore, where he renovated the church and parish school. He remained there until his retirement and appointment as pastor emeritus on July 6, 2006. After his retirement, Monsignor resided at SS. Peter and Paul Church, Scranton, where he celebrated daily Mass.
In addition to his parochial duties, Monsignor Marra served on the Priests’ Retirement Advisory Board; the Advisory Board for the Bishop’s Annual Appeal and moderator of the 1991-1992 Appeal; as a member of the Council of Priests; the Diocesan Finance Review Panel; the Blue Ribbon Panel for Parish Assessments; and the Diocesan Building Commission.
Monsignor was also an original charter member of the Jessup Carbino Sports Club; a member of the Founder’s Group of La Festa Italiana; the Board of Directors of St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen and the Lackawanna County committee that prepared for the 500th
Anniversary of Columbus’ Discovery of America.
He is survived by a sister, Angeline Manci, Dunmore, a brother in-law, Sandy Cancelleri, nieces and nephews, and great nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a sister, Anne Cancelleri, and a brother, John Marra. Visitation took place at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Dunmore, on May 15, and a Vigil Mass was celebrated there that evening with Father John V. Polednak, Dean of the Dunmore Deanery, presiding. A Pontifical Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated in the church the following day by Bishop Joseph F. Martino. Entombment was in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Montdale.
The Catholic Light-May 21, 2009
There was a movie in the sixties called “Lilies of the Field,” starring Sidney Portier, who played an aspiring architect who helped a group of German nuns build a chapel. The nuns thought that he was sent from God, but then they found out that he was a Baptist. The final scene has Portier leading the sisters in singing the
great “Amen.” Monsignor Marra, when asked to say grace, would often conclude his prayer by singing that “Amen” — and he would get everybody to sing it. I remember him doing it at my sister’s wedding some fifteen years ago. We all looked at him a little sideways when he did it. He did this at public functions,and I learned that he did it at family gatherings as well. While it furthered our belief that he was — as we say here in Dunmore, “Mezzo-motto” — it really spoke of who he was and what he believed. As you know, Amen means “I believe.”
Monsignor Marra was a man of belief. That is what today is about — belief, faith. The world views what happened on Tuesday evening as an ending — death. We, through the eyes of faith, know it to be a beginning, or more precisely, a continuation of our journey on the way. Faith tells us that this is not the end, that death hasn’t won, but that Jesus Christ has conquered death and darkness. The Christ candle reminds us that nothing can ever extinguish the light of life that God has given to us in Jesus Christ. And, so even though our hearts are troubled by the loss of Monsignor Marra and our hearts are aching, we believe that Jesus has prepared a place for Monsignor and for all who believe.
Because we have loved Monsignor deeply and have been loved deeply by him, this particular parting is very difficult, but we have an added advantage today because we have known God through Monsignor Marra’s love. He has been a person of faith –– a person who witnessed to God’s ove in his life and who sought to follow Christ on the way. He was on the journey to the kingdom — to that place Christ has prepared for him, and today we believe he is ever closer to that place. Not only was he deeply committed to his family, but he was committed to his faith. He was committed to church and to the building of the kingdom of God. Today, as I said, is about belief, our faith and Monsignor’s faith. His faith in God and in the church was very strong.
I met Father Marra probably in 1970 when he came to St. Francis in South Side, and I was ten years old. I have known him for forty years, and for each of those forty years he has been a consistent witness to the faith— of belief. He was a voracious reader, seeking to learn as much as he could while incorporating the teachings of the Second Vatican Council into his parish. His desire to learn led him to receive an advanced degree while at St Francis. He worked tirelessly to empower the laity at a time when that wasn’t done. He involved as many people in the work of the church as he could. He called people to serve in the church as liturgical ministers, in the hospitals, at funerals and at every kind of function, teaching them of their shared priesthood in Christ. His faith was so strong that he challenged others to willingly answer God’s call no matter where it led them. He was very comfortable with “his” people. One of his favorite terms was “My People."
I am a priest today because Father Tony Marra led me to God. He took the time to relate to me — to reach out to me with God’s love. I will never forget the day he brought me to St. Pius X Seminary when I was in
high school to think about the priesthood. His witness and willingness to challenge me gave me faith and the ability to say "yes" to God’s call. AMEN –– I believe. He lived his faith, seeking to bring comfort and consolation to those who were sick or suffering or experiencing the death of a loved one. His commitment to visiting the hospitalized was unparalleled. Even when his neuropathy was bad, he found a way to get to the hospitals and visit his people. He agonized over funerals in order to capture the essence of the deceased so that the family would be comforted. This was following Christ –– "the Way, the Truth and the Life."
Monsignor believed, and in many ways, because he believed, many of us believe.
Today, as we celebrate his funeral during this Easter season, he leads us to an understanding of our faith: Christ is raised from the dead –– AMEN –– I believe.
Monsignor Anthony Marra will rise with Christ –– AMEN –– I believe!
by Fr. William J. Byron, SJ TheCatholic Light, May 21, 2009