July 18, 2005

Father Martin sought personal connections
in his priestly ministry

If you have any comments or stories about Father Martin that you would like to share, send them to bevans@archindy.org and they will be posted here.


By Sean Gallagher

Father Justin Martin, administrator of Our Lady of the Springs Parish in French Lick and Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Parish in Paoli, died on July 17 at Bloomington Hospital in Bloomington.

A Mass of Christian Burial, celebrated by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, took place at 11 a.m. on July 22 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 2222 E. 3rd St., in Bloomington. Benedictine Archabbot Justin DuVall, superior of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, was the homilist (click here for the text of the homily).

Burial followed in the Priest's Circle at Our Lady of Peace Cemetery in Indianapolis.

The wake was held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on July 21 and from 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. on July 22 at St. Charles Borromeo Church.

Two prayer services also took place. The first was at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19, at St. Monica Church in Indianapolis. The second was at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20 at St. Luke Church in Indianapolis.

Parishioners at the French Lick parish found the 28-year-old priest ill in the rectory after he failed to arrive at the church to celebrate Saturday evening Mass.

Father Martin had started a new assignment on July 6 as administrator of the two Bloomington Deanery parishes.

Yet, according to his uncle and mentor in the priesthood, Msgr. Frederick Easton, archdiocesan vicar judicial, he had already touched lives there.

A husband and wife who are members of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Parish drove to Bloomington on Sunday evening to show their gratitude to him for drawing back to the faith their son after he had been away from the Church for some time.

Msgr. Easton said that making personal connections with people was an important part of Father Martin’s priestly identity that began to emerge during his theological formation in Rome when, as a young seminarian, he met some of the highest leaders of the Church.

In the years leading up to his 2002 ordination, Father Martin spoke on a number of occasions with then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. (Click here to read the original profile on Father Martin written three years ago at the time of his ordination)

He also became acquainted enough with American Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household for both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, that on the day of the recent papal election, as its successful conclusion was just becoming known, the prelate sent Father Martin a cell phone text message which simply read, “White smoke.”

But one of the most important people that Father Martin would speak with while in Rome and after he returned was his uncle, sharing openly with him in long telephone conversations and dinners together all of the blessings and challenges of his time in the seminary and pastoral ministry.

“We talked gut to gut all the time,” Msgr. Easton said. “There was no persona. He was just who he was all the time.”

The close bond that Father Martin had with his uncle through their family was increased through their shared priesthood. Msgr. Easton said that he experienced this through intense emotions on the day of his nephew’s ordination, emotions which would only be matched by those he felt at the time of his nephew’s death.

Despite becoming acquainted with bishops and cardinals in Rome, Father Martin showed in his life and ministry as a priest a desire to make connections with all the faithful.

Father Stephen Giannini, pastor of St. Luke Parish in Indianapolis, said that Father Martin did this especially with the youth of the parish, where he ministered as associate pastor in his first pastoral assignment following his ordination.

He also emphasized that Father Martin paid special attention to those at the other end of the age spectrum, including the residents of the St. Augustine Home for the Aged on the north side of Indianapolis.

No matter what age group he ministered to, Father Martin desired to make personal connections. Father Giannini said he often did this with youth through his love for electronic gadgetry and with the aged through his hobby of performing magic tricks.

But in all cases, Father Giannini said that it was Father Martin’s bright personality that shone through.

“Justin had a joy about him,” he said. “I just think that there was a goodness about him and an innocence about him that God calls us all to be. And I think those aspects of Justin’s life are things that I hope everybody who knew him will be able to carry forth.”

In 2004, Father Martin became the associate pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis and served under its pastor, Msgr. Paul Koetter.

Ministering to those participating in the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was one of Father Martin’s primary responsibilities in the parish. But according to Msgr. Koetter, Father Martin made his broadest connection with the parish simply by being the celebrant of Sunday Masses.

“Justin came across as a very approachable person,” Msgr. Koetter said. “He had a sense of humor about him. He was a person that a lot of people felt some affection for and I think a lot of that was just his presence at Mass, in how he preached and how he celebrated Mass.”

“He did not know a stranger,” Msgr. Easton said of his nephew. “He felt comfortable with teenagers. He felt comfortable with the cardinals of the Church. He would be comfortable in the Church wherever it was.”

Justin David Martin was born on Nov. 23, 1976, in Sacramento, Cal. to David and Beth (Easton) Martin. He graduated from Denbigh High School in Newport News, Va.

As a seminarian for the archdiocese, Father Martin studied at and graduated from Saint Meinrad College in St. Meinrad. He completed his priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome where he earned a Master of Divinity degree.

Archbishop Buechlein ordained Father Martin to the priesthood on June 29, 2002 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

Father Martin celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving the following day at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bloomington.

On July 3, 2002, he began his first pastoral assignment as associate pastor of St. Luke Parish in Indianapolis.

He became the associate pastor of St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis on July 7, 2004.

He had served less than two weeks in his current assignment as the administrator of Our Lady of the Springs Parish in French Lick and Our Lord Jesus Christ the King Parish in Paoli.

Surviving are his parents, who are members of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, and his sister, Sheila Kelly, of Newport News, Va.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the St. Augustine Home for the Aged, 2345 W. 86th St., Indianapolis, IN 46260. †


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