Regnum Christi Spotlight – introducing Father Mark Haydu, LC

Fr Mark Haydu, LC is our newest member of the LC Rye community.  Fr Mark will be serving as the National Chaplain to the Lumen Institute, and the local Lumen Chaplain to the NJ Circle.  We are delighted to have him here in the NY Tri-State area!

Father Mark Haydu was born on July 15, 1972 in Akron, OH and was baptized and confirmed at St Matthew’s parish in Akron, OH, in the diocese of Cleveland. He is the 6th of 7 children.  Fr Mark shares,  “Life with six brothers and sisters was usually exciting, sometimes sad, never dull. Being the next to last kid not only made me the perpetual tag along. It gave me perspective, too. I watched my older brothers and sisters grow up. Seeing them search for happiness and not always find it, made me want to find it for myself. Their example and my parent’s advice made it clear: happiness was to be found in doing God’s will and not my own.”

Here is an excerpt from Fr Mark’s Vocation Testimony, “Lead on Kindly Light”:

My calling is like a painting. God is the artist. I am the canvas. During the creative phase, it all seems pretty chaotic, ugly even. Naturally the canvas can’t see what is happening to it, yet the master painter knows exactly what he is about. He busily goes about his work, and little by little the image takes shape. And then, with the proper light, voila! – it all comes into focus.

On one Sunday morning I woke up early for Mass and as I waited for everyone, I sat on my bed talking with God. “Tell me what you want me to do with my life today at Mass.” Not your typical prayer for a 13 year old. “If you are who you and my parents say you are —and I believe you are— then it shouldn’t be too hard for you to just tell me at Mass what my mission in life is.” I really believed it was that simple. And it was. God called my bluff. After the gospel, the congregation sat down. The priest began his homily with these words: “The Church needs priests.” They entered my heart like a breeze through an open window. I thought to myself. “Well, Mark, there you go!”

Although God spoke very clearly, I had no way to act on it. “Some day when I am older,” I thought. So, the priesthood shifted to the back burner.

The years went by, and after I did a year of studies at Franciscan University of Steubenville and a year of missions in Guatemala and Mexico, followed by a year of studying nursing at Akron University.  I finally returned home to face the question of my future and the priesthood. I had never really thought about a career, so I was at a loss for what to study. A friend suggested I take an interest survey at our local university. A little embarrassed, but needy enough, I took the survey. Analyzing my answers, the psychologist pulled out a list of ten professions in which I would be happy. Eight of ten pointed to the medical field, but number one was… a funeral director! Thanks for the help, doc! The last profession he mentioned was… a minister. “You know,” said the psychologist, “the strongest elements in your answers were dealing with people in matters of importance. Like, resolving crisis situations: life and death, marital problems, and so forth.” Then he said. “The other strong element is your religious inclination.”

“Yes, I am pretty religious.” I admitted.

“Now, being an employee of a State University with no religious affiliation, I can’t really say too much, but if I were you, I would consider being a professional minister in your particular denomination.”

“Like a priest,” I answered.

“Yes, like a priest,” he replied.

After this experience and a late night conversation with a friend, I decided to tell my parish priest of my “potential” interest in the priesthood. Fr Hilkert answered matter of factly. “You should go visit the Legionaries of Christ. You would be happy there. I’ll write them.” I had just mentioned that maybe, that perhaps, that I was thinking … and Fr Hilkert already knew where, why, when, and how. Things were moving faster than I expected.

Letters came and went and within three months I was visiting Cheshire, Connecticut, the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ in the United States. Before going, I drew up a list of pros and cons. Then I met with the vocations director, Father Owen Kearns. Ah, I was so proud of myself – so organized and responsible before this decision! Yet, he wouldn’t answer me if my pros and cons amounted to a vocation. So I pressed him a little. “Well, can you at least tell me if they point in the direction of the priesthood?”

Father Owen: “No.”

Mark: “Why not?”

Father Owen: “Because the vocation doesn’t work that way; at least not in the gospels.”

Mark: “Now you really have me confused. If I can’t figure out if I am called or not, then how else am I supposed to follow it? And what does that have to do with the gospel?”

Father Owen: “You see, if you look at yourself, add up all your talents, subtract your weaknesses, and then decide that this equation adds up to you having what it takes to be a priest, then it would be you calling yourself to follow Him. If you focus on him, ask him, and respond to him, then you are on solid ground. He never changes. In the gospels, Jesus calls, and the apostles simply leave all and follow. Not much analysis there.”

Mark: “So pros and cons don’t help?”

Father Owen: “Very little. They help a little to see if you could be called, but not to decide if you are called.”

Mark: “But that is exactly what I am trying to figure out! Is he calling me?”

Father Owen: “Well, is he?”

Mark: “I don’t know. That is why I am here.”

Father Owen: “So what are you going to do?”

Mark: “I guess I will go to the chapel ask him. And just like the apostles, I’ll listen. And if he calls, I will follow. I’ll let you know in the morning how it goes.”

Father Owen: “Now you’re facing it like a man.”

At about 11:15 pm I walked into that dark chapel. The only light came from the flickering sanctuary lamp that brushed a soft hue across the wooden crucifix. Walking down the long isle, and stopping in front of the polished stone altar, I knelt down on the first hard marble step. It didn’t give. Kind of like this decision. It was hard, and no matter how I tried to make it easy, comfortable or logical, it just didn’t give.

As I focused my eyes on the tabernacle amid the dancing shadows on the wall, my heart settled on this petition. Give me light. It wasn’t one of those prayers you think about. It just burst onto my lips like tears you can’t hold back. I was confused, even less sure now then before I spoke to Father Owen. It seemed I was back to square one again. “Are you or are you not calling me? Give me light. I can’t see, I don’t understand. Every time I try to figure this vocation out, I just can’t. I’m afraid of what it might mean, where I might have to go, what I will have to leave behind. Yet, if it is you calling, what have I to fear? If you want me, here I am.” So there I was, kneeling in the darkened chapel asking for light. Then, as if on cue, lights! All the lights in the chapel came on!

A bit bewildered with how all the lights went on at 12:00 at night I looked around the chapel. No one was there that I could see. The light brought comfort and clarity. Rather than closing my eyes and thinking, I fixed my eyes on the crucifix. Beginning to dialog with him, I found my soul illumined. What was interior confusion just seconds before now started getting very clear. I recognized that every time I really considered my future, the priesthood was there. Sure, many other things attracted me, but nothing as profoundly or as constantly as Christ. I was free to do other things with my life. He wasn’t going to oblige me. I was free, and freedom is tough. I felt the responsibility squarely on me. In that moment of prayer, face to face with him, I heard the question in my soul “So, will you follow me?”

I responded, “Yes, Lord, you can count on me.”

The question was resolved. Simple? Yes it was, once I started to love more than calculate. And as I left the chapel, I saw Father Owen praying his breviary in the hallway. There in the corner, was a light switch.

Fr Mark entered the novitiate in Cheshire, CT in 1993, and finished his Humanities degree there in 1996 where he first began to fall in love with Art and History. After two years of Philosophical studies in Rome, he did four years of apostolic internship in Salamanca, Spain, Dublin, Ireland, and Cheshire, CT. Fr Mark returned to Rome to get a master’s degree in Philosophy with a thesis on moral legislation, and then began his Theology studies in 2004, until he was ordained a priest on December 22, 2007.

That same year in October, Fr Mark became the Director of the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums, a position he held until June 15, 2015. During that time he finished a License in Moral Theology focused on the effects of cohabitation on marital happiness and perseverance. He also published two award winning art books in a series Meditations on Vatican Art.

Fr Mark’s response to – what does Regnum Christi mean to you?

“When I first heard about Regnum Christi in the Novitiate, I immediately became excited. A group of Lay people (now I know it includes us Legionaries) passionately committed to Christ and the apostolate, who would get into the crossroads of culture, business and family life to transform it from within just as Christ would transform them from within. I loved the idea and thought it made so much sense to dedicate my life to help diocesan priests and bishops by serving and forming those kind of apostles.”

Fr Mark enjoyed being a spiritual director for the legionary seminarians and consecrated women of Regnum Christi while in Rome. He is glad now to be in the NY Tri-State area working as National Chaplain of Lumen Institute. He enjoys sports, playing guitar, reading and writing.

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