Celebrating Pat Marrin

Pat Marrin
Pat Marrin

by Caitlin Hendel

President / CEO

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You've heard often enough that NCR has been publishing since 1964. But did you know we have another publication, a monthly magazine, that has been around almost as long?

Celebration was founded in 1971 as a planning guide for liturgy ministers, and month after month it does a thorough job of covering the upcoming readings.

But more than just a reflection on the words of Isaiah, St. Paul, the Gospel writers and the psalmists, Celebration also relates those words to the social issues of the day, challenging the men and women who put together the prayers and praise for their local worship communities to take the message of Christ to the margins, where they will do the most good.

On June 1, the leadership of this remarkable publication will change hands. Pat Marrin, the editor of Celebration for almost two decades, will step down, beginning that new chapter known as retirement (or, as Tom Fox calls it, "rewirement.")

And, just as Tom Fox was the face and voice of NCR, Pat has been the heart of Celebration. A onetime Dominican priest, Pat brought a knowledge of the Testaments and of the church, as well as a passionate belief that laity are as important as -- if not more than -- clergy and hierarchy to the future of catholicism (small "c" intended).

Priest was not the only line on Pat's résumé, though. He also had worked as an editorial cartoonist for The Topeka Capital-Journal in the Kansas state capital. His talents now show up regularly in these pages in the "Francis" cartoon strip. (NCR Vatican correspondent Joshua McElwee was able to present a book of "Francis" cartoons to the pope on a recent plane trip. After accepting the gift, Pope Francis joked, "So I can have a little fun?")

We asked members of the NCR staff to describe Pat in one word: Storyteller. Jokester. Artist. Historian. Theologian. Mentor.

One of Pat's greatest contributions to NCR has been his connection with the younger journalists who have come through our building over the years.

"Pat more than anyone embodies the spirit of NCR," reporter Brian Roewe told me. "He's always willing to try something, to laugh, and to extend a welcoming hand.

"But being the spirit of NCR isn't just social. Pat often shares his wisdom and insights (and his personal views) on many stories, editorials and projects, providing historical context to current events that's critical for young and old reporters alike. Even if you don't agree with him, you respect the conviction and passion with which he speaks.

"In many stories, sections and editorials, it's been Pat's illustrations that have poignantly made a statement or provoked a thought that words or a photo couldn't. With his Francis comic strip, he has taken it to another level.

"For all these reasons, Pat will be deeply missed."

Pat may be retiring, but "Francis" the cartoon is not ready for such a life change, so Pat will continue to draw for NCR.

As for Celebration, Denise Simeone, director of mission for NCR, is taking over as editor. Like Pat, Denise brings years of experience, knowledge and passion to the job. Before joining NCR in 2012, she spent more than 25 years in parish and diocesan work for the dioceses of Albany, N.Y., and Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.

Her sense of humor, while not quite as quirky as Pat's, is still refreshing, and her sense of right and wrong and how that applies to the church today is sure to guide Celebration into its future.

In his farewell column in the most recent issue of Celebration, Pat assured readers that Denise "knows firsthand the challenges you face as preachers, presiders, liturgy and music directors."

"As Celebration marks its 45th year, I can only say I am deeply grateful to have been here for part of that, able to use my small gifts to help build up the mystery of the body of Christ in the world."

A version of this story appeared in the May 20-June 2, 2016 print issue under the headline: Celebrating Pat Marrin.

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