CV NEWS FEED // A group of Maryland Catholics still remembers a priest who served their area 100 years ago, and some hope for his canonization.
During the late 1800s, Fr. Narcisse Martin served the community of Waldorf in southern Maryland for nearly 30 years. Though he was an accomplished theologian and scholar, Martin embraced his assignment in the small town community that was made up, at the time, of many Protestant farmers and former slaves who were baptized Catholic. The community was poor, uneducated, and isolated, and previous pastors did not remain long.
In Martin’s obituary, Fr. H. Garriguet, Superior of St. Sulpice, wrote of Martin: “Zeal he gave to all, but he lavished it” on the former slaves of the community, encouraging them to “recognize their status as citizens and Christians.”
“He was his own sacristan, his own bell-ringer, his own caretaker – the man who, always on the alert, did all the jobs, even the most humble,” continued the obituary.
Martin “used his own modest resources” to financially support the parish and the needy, never even taking up a collection.
“One will ask himself how this pastor was able to carry on worship, build a very decent rectory, lay out a fine parish hall, provide a shelter for orphans, arrange from time to time for missions at the parish, always have something put aside to help the needy. How?” continued the obituary.
Along with his priestly duties, Martin worked the farm that a benefactor donated to him. Garriguet remembered him as working “without rest or respite—loving his people with zeal and passion, depriving himself, working, suffering, sharing in every possible way the misery which he looked on every day.”
He was involved in over 2,000 baptisms during his time as priest. He is remembered for reaching out to orphans and the sick. Martin also restored the church, building a rectory that, after 111 years, is still in use.
The parish at Our Lady Help of Christians celebrated a mass on Aug. 6, the 100th anniversary of Martin’s death. Father Alain Colliou, the pastor, recalled Martin’s commitment to the eucharist.
“The Mass will celebrate the top priority given by Father Martin to the Eucharist as the center of worshiping God as a community in communion with one another. An entire community, made up of different cultures being One in the Eucharist, all becoming one in Christ,” said Colliou on the parish website.
Local Bishop Roy E. Campbell Jr., a visiting priest from France, and several other priests attended the mass, according to Catholic Standard.
Father Alain told Catholic Standard that the parish has built up a connection to France, recalling Martin’s birthplace.
“He was an inspiration. And since that time, we have had many activities – a pilgrimage to France, a pilgrimage from France to here. In that process, we started to initiate the canonization process for Father Martin.”
Colliou and Monsignor Bill Parent founded the Father Martin Society in August 2010 to promote the canonization of Martin.
“I always thought this 100th anniversary of his death would be an event that could help people to know more about Father Martin. To show that 100 years after his death, people still remember him, care about him, care about his legacy, and how can this be applied to our world today?”