The Rev. Monsignor Fredrick James “Martin” Rauscher, who died on Sunday, went by many names during his 86 years.
At Morristown High School (’50), where he was a star blocking back on the football team, he was “Jupe.”
Decades later, when he oversaw the expansion and renovation of the place where he was baptized, Assumption Church on Maple Avenue, people called him “Bricks and Mortar Marty.”
To generations of Catholic parishioners, he was simply, “Father Martin,” a man of compassion, warmth and gentle powers of persuasion that few could resist when he came knocking for the poor.
“He saw the face of Christ in every person, no matter what walk of life they came from–but especially, the marginalized and the poor. When he spoke, people listened,” said Assumption Parish Coordinator Linda Macios, who came to the parish shortly before Father Martin returned in 1990 to become its 15th pastor.
Dozens of priests joined parishioners Friday in Morristown at a funeral Mass for the Monsignor, who retired in 2009 after a half-century religious ministry that included stints in Germany, New Orleans, Baltimore and Tanzania.
Monsignor John Hart, Assumption’s present pastor, said his predecessor personified the Benedictine motto, Ora et Labora: Pray and work.
“He was a man of deep prayer and great work,” a highly intelligent and talented administrator, in addition to being a humble servant of the downtrodden, Father John said. “There are so many stories of lives he impacted. In tragic times and happy times, he was there.”
‘I TRUST GOD FOR ALL THAT WILL BE’
Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore, who was a Benedictine seminarian with Father Martin, led the service, and the Rev. Mark Olenowski, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Montville, eulogized his mentor.
“Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?” Father Mark began, quoting the 1968 Dion hit Abraham, Martin and John.
Born in Newark and raised in Morristown and Whippany, Rauscher took the name Martin as a seminarian. One of the first stops on his pastoral journey was Munich, Germany, where he served as chaplain to U.S. Air Force personnel. In New Orleans, he joined other clerics attempting to quell civic unrest in the late ’60s. For two years in Baltimore, he was chaplain at the Maryland House of Corrections.
Before returning to Assumption Church, Father Martin helped start Resurrection Parish in Randolph.
Visiting a seminarian classmate working in Tanzania during a 2001 sabbatical, he became an ardent supporter. He also backed missionary projects by Assumption parishioners in Sierra Leone and Guatemala.
At Assumption, he established an Endowment for the Poor. The church assisted sister parishes in Passaic and Mississippi, and launched an annual food drive for Haiti. Father Martin was a founding member of the Interfaith Food Pantry, the Community Soup Kitchen in Morristown, and the Interfaith Council for Homeless Families, according to an obituary by the church.
He also made countless pastoral visits to hospital wards, nursing homes and home-bound parishioners.
“My heart is full of gratitude to God for all the graces he has given me in my ministry, for the beautiful people I have shared all this with over the years, and for the youth of this community who have kept me young in the Lord’s service,” Father Martin reflected as pastor emeritus, adding thanks to staff members.
“I thank God for all that has been. I trust God for all that will be,” the church quoted him as saying.
‘BRICKS AND MORTAR MARTY’
Marc Marowitz, owner of the Morristown Deli, described his longtime friend as “a humanitarian…without a malicious bone in his body.”
Marowitz treasures his memories of a German vacation with Padre, as he called Father Martin, a few years ago.
The priest had studied with Benedictine monks in Germany and shared historical tidbits about places they visited on the trip. “It was amazing. We had an unbelievable time,” Marowitz said.
Morristown First Lady Mary Dougherty, who has taught catechism classes at Assumption for years, said Father Martin was like a member of the family.
“Coming to Mass with Father Martin was always such a joy. He had an amazing wit,” Dougherty said.
The Monsignor’s humorous side surfaced at a Morris County Freeholders meeting years ago, Father Mark recounted in Friday’s eulogy. Invited to deliver opening and closing prayers, Father Martin asked the elected officials to remember the poor…while innocently referring to the Freeholders as “the Freeloaders.”
A reception was scheduled afterwards. “Needless to say, we didn’t stay for the Swedish meatballs,” Father Mark said.
Even when a stroke hindered his ability to speak, Father Martin kept his sense of humor. Parishioner Paul Bangiola fondly recalled getting a hearty laugh from the Monsignor, an avid golfer, with an old Lee Trevino joke about how to survive a lightning storm:
Stand on a golf course and point a one iron at the sky. Even God can’t hit a one iron!
The legacy of “Bricks and Mortar Marty” includes the 1993 addition of a parish center–renamed Rauscher Hall–and the 2002 re-acquisition of an old convent on Macculloch Avenue for a ministry center. In 2007, Father Martin led a $2 million capital campaign for major interior renovations at the church.
At Holy Rood Cemetery–where he now is buried–Father Martin helped create an endowment and oversaw office refurbishments and the addition of two new mausoleums.
What was the secret of his fundraising prowess?
“I think other pastors are still trying to figure that out,” Macios said.
“He saw a cause, and became passionate about it, whether it was building an addition or better health care or a school in Tanzania. He was passionate about it, and people responded to it,” she said.
Most of all, Macios said, she will miss Father Martin’s smile. She’s grateful for it.
“We’re all better for having known him.”