Tuesday, Aug. 30th 2016

Humans of Conception: Mark Famuliner

Anyone at Conception Seminary College can see from a mile away (if Conception were a mile long) that Mark Famuliner is a country boy. From boots to Carhartt jacket to cowboy hat, you know that Mark comes from country roots. Although recognized around seminary for his country quirks, he is known more so for his hilarious jokes and antics. The aspiring priest with a farmer’s heart is looking forward to providing the people of God with the Gospel in a way that they can “swallow it and work with it.”

Mark Famuliner (pronounced: fuh-mew-luh-ner) grew up on a farm twelve miles outside of Carrollton, MO, population: 3,000. He spent most of his time on the farm and was involved with Future Farmers of America. When he wasn’t working, he liked to “not get caught doing stuff.” He enjoyed sports, especially basketball and football, and he also ran track.

Mark kept much of the same interests in high school, but he also discovered he liked music. He loved old artists: Dean Martin, Bing Crosby —pop standards of the mid-twentieth century. He also listed to classic country music like Johnny Cash. Mark credits his mother for his taste in music, which strangely enough developed out of a passion for Southern Gospel music. In college Mark was a member of both a barbershop quartet and a country band. Mark attended the University of Missouri, where he earned a degree in agribusiness management which as he describes “is basically a business and economics degree with cowboy boots on.”

“If I did not go to Mizzou, I would not be in seminary,” says Mark. The experience he had during his three years there was a turning point in his faith. At Mizzou, Mark had no Catholic friends, and his best friends were adamant atheists. In the religious study courses he took for fine arts credit and out in the public university, he heard many different perspectives on religion. The more he heard the more he asked, “Well what do I believe?” Although he was a cradle Catholic, he was “never big into Church stuff.” He studied the Catholic faith more in college to defend his positions. This led to a personal dissection of his religious beliefs. “I went from cradle Catholic to ‘Eh, I’m probably Catholic’ to ‘I know I’m Christian’ to ‘I believe there is a God.’” When he pieced everything back together, he found he was Catholic again. He never left the Church, but he went on an intellectual journey and became a better Catholic. Says Mark, “I saw so many young people thirsting for God whether they knew it or not. If I were at a Christian school, I wouldn’t have felt the longing to help people find Christ . . . I needed to go through the fire . . . It made me a better Catholic and it made me care about people—their health, and wealth, and prosperity, but also their souls.” So why did he enter the seminary? “I finally just gave up.”

The first time he felt called to be a priest, Mark was a junior in high school. A teammate on his football team had been hurt in a car accident and was in a coma. The town wanted to do a prayer vigil for him, and because Mark was the head of the school’s “Fellowship of Christian Athletes” he was told to lead it. However, he said the ministers of the town could do it since they would be present. The evening of the prayer vigil, all the ministers said that they just wanted to be there. With a great task back in his hands, Mark thought, “Well I don’t know what to do.” Then, he said one of the most authentic prayers of his life, “God, I’m gonna lead this thing … help me out here.”

It was almost straight out of a movie: Mark in the middle of a football field surrounded by the community. “I don’t know what I said, but I talked for 10, 15 minutes. I gave a sermon in a way— about the kid, God, how to incorporate suffering into one’s life, and aligning yourself with the cross of Christ.” Outside those vague things he doesn’t remember what he said, “Truly I felt like the Holy Sprit was like, ‘Let me take care of this, Mark.’” Afterwards, he played something on his harmonica. It was first time he saw the impact the Holy Spirit can have on people. Afterwards, people asked him if he had ever thought about being a minister. He said ‘no’ because that would mean being a priest.

He did not think about being a priest again until his junior year of college when he had a dream. In it, Mary, the Mother of God, wanted him to come to her. Moving toward her, he replied, “Take me where you want me to go.” As soon as he said it, he felt a great joy. All of a sudden, she started going away, and he felt he needed to follow her. He tried to do so but the image faded too quickly. Then he woke up. It was 1:00 A.M., and Mark was drenched in sweat, screaming. The dream bothered him and he wondered what it meant. Eventually he realized, “It was all in my head. It wasn’t in my heart, yet . . . Maybe there’s more to this than just a passing interest in religion.” But he ignored it, thinking it too weird. Yet, he still asked, “God what are you calling me to do?”

The last summer before graduation, Mark took a job with a grain company in Kansas City, KS. It was a classic case of country boy goes to the big city. During the summer, Mark learned a lot about himself. Near summer’s end he was offered a job to work as a manager in a terminal facility. It had a nice pay and good benefits, a dream job for a college grad. It did not feel right to Mark, though. The moment he was offered the position, something inside him said, “You really don’t want to take that job.” According to college standards he had succeeded. He had good grades, internships, job offers, and honors upon graduation. Mark did not feel successful, however. “I reached this peak where I was offered this job, and I felt like my dog died.” The night before his internship was to end, Mark prayed to God, “God, I’m tired of doing it my way. What do you want me to do?” The response: be my priest. Mark finally gave in. When he did, he felt total peace.

“That summer, when I was growing in my own faith, and feeling this tug of being a priest, I would go to communion, and I would love going back to my seat and looking at the parishioners obviously having that great, intimate moment with Christ.” Ultimately, this is what attracts Mark the most to the priesthood, “Just being that instrument of God’s love to people . . . I want people to realize who they are and who they belong to. And that they’re worth loving.”

Mark Famuliner is a Catholic guy, who doesn’t take things too serious “cause no one gets out alive.” His favorite phrase is, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.” He likes to make people laugh. Above all else, Mark is one of the most authentic guys you will ever meet. Whether at a Church or in a restaurant, you will get the same Mark, and he will be the first to admit that might not be so great. He is a self-described, “brutally honest, Catholic humorist.” He is a guy who just wants to be God’s joyful farmer.


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