by Fr. Blaine Burkey, O.F.M.Cap.
The Capuchin-Franciscan general chapter, assembled in Rome from 40different nations, on Sept. 7 chose Brother Mark Schenk, a lay friar, toserve for six years on the order's Rome-based general council.
Bro. Mark, till now provincial vicar of the Denver-based Capuchin Province of Mid-America, is is believed to be the first lay brother ever to serve on the general council.
As one of eight general councilors or definitors, Brother will live at the order's general headquarters in Rome and be involved in all the major decision-making of the order. He will also spend a good part of each year serving as a traveling liaison between the order's general minister and the various provinces and other divisions of the order, especially those in North America.
Bro. Mark has been a member of the Denver staff of the Capuchin Province of Mid-America since 2000. He was elected to the provincial council in 2001 and has served as provincial vicar and provincial treasurer since 2004.
A 1957 native of Olmitz, Kan., Bro. Mark attended Thomas More Prep inHays, Kan., 1971-75, and returned there in 1984 to teach religion,computer science and space science. He also served as campus minister, director of the religious vocations program, registrar and residency advisor, and area vocation director.
Bro. Mark served in Rome as under secretary general of the order 1988-94, and during the year 1994-95 was secretary general of the order pro tem. During these years, he helped bring the general curia into the computer age. He returned to Rome 1997-2000 as the order's information systems manager.
Brother studied at Rockhurst University in Kansas City and St. Thomas Seminary in Denver and holds graduate degrees is theology, divinity and business administration from Aquinas Institute in St. Louis and Regis University in Denver.
Other offices he has held include assistant superior of the friary at the order's Roman curia, local superior of friaries in St. Louis and Denver, provincial director of initial formation, and executive secretary of the North American-Pacific Capuchin Conference.
The Capuchins have about 11,000 friars serving in over 100 countries and are a 16th-century reform branch of the Friars Minor founded by St.Francis of Assisi. Over a third of the friars are lay brothers.
Among the better-known members of the order are St. "Padre Pio"Forgione, Apostolic Preacher Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Cardinal SeanO'Malley of Boston, and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.
Bro. Mark is the son of Bernard and Mary Jo Schenk of Great Bend, Kan.