Mark Searle died August 16, 1992, after a fifteen month bout with cancer. He was born September 19, 1941, in Bristol, England. As a young adult, he joined the Franciscan community in England, and then he went to Europe to complete his studies.
Mark came to the United States in 1978 and taught at the University of Notre Dame. He left the priesthood and married Barbara Schmich in 1980. There three children are Anna Clare, Matthew Thomas, and Justin Francis.
After his marriage, Mark worked at the Center for Pastoral Liturgy and then on the theology faculty at Notre Dame, where he served as coordinator of the graduate program in liturgical studies and, from 1983 to 1988, director of the master's degree program in theology. He also influenced numerous students in summer programs and lectures throughout the United States and in other countries from England to New Zealand.
Mark was a lecturer of keen insight, the editor of Assembly magazine, a consultant for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, and the editor of several books. He was a word crafter, a person who cared about what he said and how he said it. While he limited the number of times that he accepted speaking engagements, when he did choose to speak, he never failed to challenge the best that is in us. And just last year, in what became his final article for Pastoral Musician (15:6 [August-September 1991]), he challenged us to trust our rituals or face "the triumph of bad taste," calling us to remember that "the whole of the liturgy, beginning with the very congregating of the people, is sacramental."
He had a deep affinity with the National Association of Pastoral Musicians because of his personal commitment to the development of pastoral liturgy as a field of academic study, an equal partner, as he would say, with the historical study of the liturgical rites. His development and reporting of the Notre Dame Study of Parishes, especailly the component on liturgy and music (see Pastoral Music 10:5 [June-July 1986] and 10:6 [August-September 1986]), were instrumental in providing a more scientific approach to pastoral liturgical studies.
But I knew Mark best through the North American Academy of Liturgy and its social sciences subgroup. Each year, for two or three days, we gathered with others of similar interest to share "our latest thinking" about the church and the world of social science. Those discussions led to his studying semiotics in the Netherlands.
Mark was a scholar of unusual insight. When sickness invaded his body, he told me that he could make some meaning of the sickness for himself, a little meaning of it for his wife, but no meaning whatsoever for his children. So he turned to prayer and diet. As the homilist at his funeral indicated, Mark was in search of the source of life. He did not allow the sickness to take away his search, striving for the fullness of life even in his illness. And he believed that, if you eat the bread of life, you will live forever.
Each of us who knew him will have our own best memory of him, and mine is a memory of our two-day visit to Disneyland in 1981, which took place after several days of intense discussion at an Academy meeting. Mark's first child had just been born, and he was still delighting in that wonder. I can see him now, shaking hands solemnly with Mickey Mouse and saying that he had looked forward to this meeting. I love a man who does his research.
Tribute prepared by NPM staff, published in Pastoral Music, October-November 1992, pg. 10. Reprinted with permission.