LOPEZ: Did you always know you were headed to Harvard?
MARKS: Not at all. I only had the faintest hope of getting in and still can’t believe it happened.
LOPEZ: I don’t know Harvard to be a great incubator or beacon of religious vocations. Am I wrong?
MARKS: Yes, Deo gratias! A couple of years ago, a young man who finished Harvard in three years entered the seminary in St. Louis. A little further back, a young woman who attended Harvard and lived in the same women’s residence that I did joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. One of my friends, whom I met while she was pursuing a degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy two years ago. This July 25, two young men from Harvard joined the Eastern Province of the Dominicans.
LOPEZ: Were you able — even encouraged, by elements on campus — to pursue a spiritual life as much as an intellectual one?
MARKS: The pace of life at Harvard is fast. Tackling challenging course work and myriad extracurricular activities, and surrounded by others doing the same, even those students who desire a spiritual life are often impeded from developing one. Only the grace of a religious vocation gave me the insight and willpower to carve out a part of each day for prayer. That said, those seeking spiritual resources at Harvard will not find them lacking. A strong Knights of Columbus group complements the very active Catholic Student Association, two parish churches are within walking distance of campus, and the men’s and women’s Opus Dei houses nearby are sources of superb spiritual direction and enriching weekly and monthly events.
LOPEZ: You’re from New York. Why are you going to Ann Arbor?
MARKS: The Ann Arbor Dominicans are on fire to spread the witness of faithful religious life throughout the country and to revitalize the Church in America from the ground up, through classroom teaching, retreats, catechesis on EWTN, and whatever other means of preaching the Lord provides. They combine love for the monastic traditions of the Dominican order passed down since the thirteenth century with a zeal for Pope John Paul II’s new evangelization and for the challenges of today. Their particular devotion to Mary and to Christ’s Eucharistic presence is evident in the community’s name — Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist — and finds concrete expression in each sister’s consecration to Mary according to the formula of St. Louis de Montfort and in the daily period of communal Eucharistic adoration written into the constitutions. The community also emphasizes support of priests through prayer, word, and action.
LOPEZ: The Dominicans’ love of learning and teaching attracted you. Where and when did you come to love these things?
MARKS: Before the age of three. I used to observe the yellow buses lined up next to the local public school and ask my father wistfully, “Daddy, when can I go to school?” The moment I set foot in preschool was the beginning of an ongoing love affair. The first and last school day I missed was in fourth grade, when a doctor forbade me to infect my classmates with strep throat. They thought I had died when I didn’t show up that morning. My relish of learning only grew stronger in college, in those thrilling moments as a professor unfolded a new way of looking at the world, in those wrenching moments as I sat in the library walled in by piles of books hammering out an argument. The love of teaching grew up simultaneously as I encountered brilliant, enthusiastic, and imaginative teachers from my earliest years and enjoyed volunteering as a tutor.