Hello Neighbor | Mark Griswold, Everyday Hero

If you're ever looking for something to do on a Sunday evening, stop by St. Norbet in Paoli for their evening Mass.  You'll be very welcome, and treated to the beautiful sounds and message of the youth choir and worship band led by Mark Griswold.  The community at St Norbert named him as a T&E Care Everyday Hero this fall because of his dedication and service to the families there.  Mark works hard as the the Director of Religious Education and Family Life Ministry and cares deeply about all of the families he serves.  Mark's enthusiasm is inspiring, his passion for life is contagious, and (fun fact)  if you'd like some advice on game show strategies, he's the guy to ask!

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I've lived in Pennsylvania for 15 years and prior to that I grew up down south. I spent most of my life in New Orleans Louisiana and was originally from Southern Arkansas near Little Rock.  I came to Pennsylvania specifically for this job here at St. Norbert.  I've been here on staff now for 15 years and it's been a wonderful move. It was a great choice. I came here specifically because I was looking for a position in a in a church and youth ministry and was looking to explore a new area of the country.  I had a sister that lived up here in Pennsylvania who I'm very close to and wanted to live closer to her.  I came across this job here near Philadelphia and it was a great, great move for us. 

I decided to work in ministry right after college.  I actually studied theology and philosophy in my undergrad years and really had a motivation to work with young people in the church. My first job out of college was teaching theology at a Catholic high school for five years. I also worked in campus ministry at that high school and I've been in guidance counseling as well.  After working in the high school for a number of years, I moved into a church parish ministry working as a religious educator and as a youth director at a couple of churches down in New Orleans.

The community at St. Norbert is a very alive and welcoming community. I'm always impressed by the abundant talent that's here in our parish. The people have so many gifts and they use those gifts in service of others to build up our own community but also the wider community as well.  I'm just very impressed by how much people give here.  It really has made a difference in our community here.  The more you give the more you receive.  And you can definitely see that in our community - a giving community - and we get so much back because of it. 

Working with children is fun and challenging.  It’s fun in the fact that kids are just fun and they don't have the same hangups oftentimes that adults have.  They’re much more free in their expression and they're able to laugh and cry.  And the range of emotions in reacting to things without all the filters is kind of inspiring to see. It’s also challenging in that sometimes kids ask the hardest questions.  Especially when you're working in ministry they can hit you with questions that are doozies that make you stop and think for a second. Like, how do I respond to that or what's the best way to to answer that ,or maybe I should be asking that same question myself. 

It inspires me to inspire others. It inspires me when I see other people having a change of heart or mind in a good direction, in a good way.  Or when I'm able to offer something that lifts someone up and helps them to find a more positive perspective.  Maybe some difficult things are going on in their lives and you help them find that silver lining that that is often there in very difficult circumstances. It inspires me to see people picking themselves up out of those places and and really making a difference in other lives as well.  It’s like  the whole ripple effect of if we plant a good seed, that seed grows and it bears fruit. And oftentimes those seeds scatter and they and they go on and on.  And that's the the ability that we all have to really make a difference in little ways. We don't realize oftentimes the great effect that we are having on people. 

Involving the whole family is so important. I've found through the years working in church ministry, that when you bring the family together you bring about a unity in the family. One of my favorite quotes is by a priest Father Patrick Peyton. He said “The family that prays together stays together”.  And I really do believe that that if you can cultivate family spirituality together it really does bring the family unit together.  There's so much competing in our culture, in our society, that sometimes can pull families apart - just so much competing for our attention. There’s so much going on in the world. And we really have to make a concentrated effort to really focus on the family - really stay together and united because children grow best in that situation and parents grow through that as well.

My family is my heart. I've been married for 20 years to my wife who I met in college. She's from Florida I'm from Louisiana and we met in college, in Ohio.  I got married a couple of years after she graduated from college and we now have four kids. My oldest is a freshman in college, I have one who is a junior in high school, my daughter will be a freshman in high school next year, and my youngest who is in fourth grade this year.  It's the joy of my life, you know, being a dad. 

One of my favorite memories at St Norbert is awesome. I'm a musician as well and I'm the choir director for our high school youth choir here that sings on Sunday evenings every week.  A few years ago when I turned the big 4 - 0, the youth ministry was trying to think of a great gift to give me. I had been playing the same old guitar for years and years and years. One day f a couple of our teens said “Hey, let's go let's go out on Saturday”. So they took me out and they surprised me. They stopped at a guitar store in King of Prussia. I thought we were just going in to look at guitars and fiddle around. I walked into the guitar room and picked up a Taylor and I just fell in love with it.  This young adult who's one of my volunteer leaders now said “Well, do you want it?” and I said “Yeah, I definitely want it but I'm not going to get it.” He's like - you can have it! I said  “What are you talking about?!?” He told me the youth group and the families and the parents took up a collection for my 40th birthday to buy me this gift. I was completely overwhelmed. I was speechless. I didn't know how to respond to that. It was just such a beautiful surprise. But also, in many ways, it really affirmed the fact that I was making a difference. Knowing that people noticed that was really awesome. 

Something that might surprise you is that I was a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire many years ago when Regis Philbin was the was the host, and it was like the number one show, and everybody watched it like three nights a week. I appeared on the show on my wife's birthday in 2001.  I was one of the contestants who got onto the show but didn't make it into the hot seat. So, we had two fastest finger competitions to get into the hot seat. The first one I came in second place and the second one I came in third place. I was like *that* close! But it was a fun trip to New York City.

The last photo I took was at a concert on Thursday night. I went to see two awesome contemporary Christian artists: Chris Tomlin and Matt Maher that played in concert in Redding on Thursday and I took some pictures during the concert.   My spirituality is the foundation of my life and my purpose. I find purpose, I find meaning in life through my spirituality and my faith.  I feel like without that foundation I wouldn't exactly know where I was going.  It does give a lot of meaning and significance and focus to who I am. 

Occasionally my wife and I get to go out on a date together. it's crazy with four kids and I'd like that to be more often, but occasionally we get to spend that time together.  Every day I try to find something to be grateful for. You know, whether it be big or small. Some days are tougher than others but I find that if you can find one thing to be thankful for in that day, it really changes everything.   

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Photography and Interview by Emily Brunner Photography

To find out more about the community at St. Norbert visit ttp://parish.stnorbert.org/
To find out more about T&E Care visit www.tecare.org