Family tragedy was turning point for deacon candidate

By Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass | May 7, 2014

LeGreve says brother’s suicide led him to attend retreat and to pursue diaconate

MANITOWOC — For 10 years, Mark LeGreve’s father, Ken, wanted him to attend a Christian Experience Weekend retreat at St. Francis of Assisi Parish.

And for 10 years, Mark said no.

Mark LeGreve
Mark LeGreve

“I just wasn’t interested in religion very much back then,” he said. “I was Catholic, but it wasn’t strong inside me.”

Then, in June of 2003, Mark’s brother, Matt, committed suicide. In the wake of the family tragedy, another CEW retreat was held a few months later and Mark agreed to attend with his father.

“I went for myself, but I think even more I went for my dad because I thought that’s what he needed at that time,” said LeGreve. “As it turned out, that whole retreat experience really ended up changing my life. It was the sparkplug, that conversion moment that turned my eyes to faith.

“When my brother died my life went in a tailspin, and from that I found religion.”

LeGreve ended up attending eight or nine more retreats in the following six years, in both Manitowoc and Denmark.
He felt a higher calling to serve the religious community, so he joined the Commissioned Ministry (now Emmaus) program in fall 2006. After a year or so, he stepped back to make sure he was going down the right path.

Four men to be ordained deacons May 10

Bishop David Ricken will ordain four men to the diaconate on May 10, 10 a.m., at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. The men include John Bundra, Ernesto Gonzalez, Jr., Mark LeGreve and Mike Zebroski. Each candidate is profiled here.

“I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a hobby, but a true calling,” he said. “It didn’t take me long to say to myself, ‘This is really what I want to do. I want to serve. I want to give my life to the church.’”

He then spent five years in diaconate formation. Now, the 45-year-old Two Rivers man is preparing to be ordained as one of four new permanent deacons for the Diocese of Green Bay. LeGreve is a member of St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church in Two Rivers, and also is involved with activities at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc.

“I’m definitely looking forward to my ordination, and seeing my family and friends there,” said LeGreve, who works in Sheboygan as a product development engineer. “But I’m looking forward to everything that comes after it as well. The ordination day is kind of like a wedding day — if you’re only looking forward to that day and nothing after it, then you’re missing the point.”

LeGreve said his wife of 20 years, Pam, and daughters Meredith and Natalie, have been very supportive, as have numerous deacons and parishioners throughout the diocese.

“It’s life-changing for the whole family,” he said. “There’s always some stress because you have to balance your time, and Pam has helped a lot with that.”

As for the transformation that happened after Mark’s brother died, Pam said, “There was so much sadness to think his brother couldn’t think he could reach out to someone for help. Mark wants to be that person to stick his hand out and help people and say, ‘I’ll hold it. I’ll help you.’”

LeGreve didn’t waste any time reaching out to help others after his brother’s death.

“The only healing I found was reaching out to the marginalized, who were lost or harmed or wounded,” he said, noting that he was searching for more in life even before his brother’s death. “It helped me get out of my ‘woe is me’ attitude and help others. It helped show me that everyone hurts to some degree, and that I can be there to help them. … In reaching out to others, it connects to what Jesus did.”

In addition to helping as a catechist at St. Peter the Fisherman, LeGreve became involved in jail ministry and visited the homebound.

More recently, he spearheaded the effort to open The Haven, a men’s homeless shelter that opened April 15 at the former St. Boniface School in Manitowoc.

The Haven can accommodate up to 20 single, adult men. The pre-screened residents are allowed to stay for up to 90 days while they seek stable housing and employment (if they don’t already have a job).

“Serving the marginalized is absolutely what I want to do,” said LeGreve, who serves as board president and co-founder of The Haven. “It’s not only serving but being a positive influence in people’s lives and letting them know I want to help.”

LeGreve reiterated that the family tragedy he experienced with his brother’s death is something that fuels him to this day. “Within every tragedy, there are great signs of resiliency and hope,” he said. “Through things that appear to be great tragedy, people can be inspired to great hope. You can take bad things in life and use them as motivation.

“For me, I can’t let another person feel alone. I still hurt and mourn, but his death lives on to make sure other people don’t feel alone.”


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