Just like any family, the Mercedarians have those elders who paved the way for our redemptive work in the United States. One of these friars is Fr. Marino who came to the United States from Italy to serve the Italian immigrants in Cleveland, OH.
There in Cleveland as Pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel he faced many challenges including the changing neighborhood around the parish. With all the challenges he faced the soft-spoken optimist persisted, and often asked, “Why not?”
Frascati’s undertaker and longtime parishioner, Jim Craciun, called him a renaissance priest who inspired a renaissance in Cleveland.
Plain Dealer columnist James Neff once called the white-robed priest “the most popular and powerful man in the neighborhood.”
Ray Pianka, Cleveland Housing Court judge, said, “He would never give up at City Hall or in the halls of Congress.”
The priest prophesied a neighborhood of condos and restaurants instead of noisy trains and idle factories. One of many skeptics called it “the Coal Coast.” But the prophesy came true.
Frascati was a founder, president and eventually president emeritus of the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. Pianka, the group’s long-time director, later the neighborhood’s councilman, said the priest helped the 1973 group become a national model, with breakthroughs such as the first federal urban development grant outside of a downtown.
Overall, the group has raised about $100 million and spurred more than $1 billion in private investments.
Frascati formed other organizations at Mount Carmel, which added a few million dollars’ worth of more projects to the near West Side neighborhood. He led the construction of a seniors’ high rise called Villa Mercede for his order, Our Lady of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. He created condos and houses through a group called Nolasco Housing Organization for the order’s founder, St. Peter Nolasco.
Frascati was born in Castel Viscardo and entered the order at 14. In 1948, he began to study theology at a Franciscan seminary in Teutopolis, Ill. He was ordained as a priest in 1951.
He briefly worked at Our Lady of Mercy Monastery in Middleburg Heights, St. Rocco Church in Cleveland and other local sites. Then came 13 years as Mount Carmel’s associate pastor and 25 as pastor.
Frascati said a weekly Mass in Italian. He helped dry up controversial bars. He blessed new homes and an ice cream shop called Blessings. He served as dean of Holy Name Societies for the West Side.
He started many activities for youngsters. He founded and led a Boy Scout troop. He took children to the Alleghenies, Great Smoky and more. He gave Bibles to Craciun and other young adults to smuggle into Communist countries. Frascati left Cleveland in 1995 to become his order’s vicar provincial in LeRoy, N.Y. Nine years later, he chose to return as Mount Carmel’s pastor emeritus.
His many awards included a Star of Italy from his homeland’s consulate and a Medal of Honor from Pope John Paul II.
The Mercedarian friar died November 1, 2009 from heart disease at Regina Health Center, Richfield, his home the past few years. He was 84. His funeral Mass was led by Bishop Emeritus Anthony Pilla several day later.
We remember Fr. Marino in our prayers and thank God for all he was able to accomplish through him.