Serenity is a reward that is won, not a gift that is given.
– Father Fred, S.T.
Father Frederick Lawrence, S.T. (1914-1990) believed in living life to the fullest. He was fond of saying, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the most important day of our lives. Living it with and for God brings an increase of serenity here and an eternity of serenity hereafter.”
Father Fred died of cancer at the age of 75. He had been a Missionary Servant of the Most Holy Trinity for 53 years, 45 of them as a priest. Before his illness forced him to curtail his missionary activities, almost his entire priestly ministry had been devoted to working with alcoholics and their families.
In 1964, an Al-Anon group in New Jersey asked Father Fred to lead them in a retreat. Al-Anon had been organized more than a decade earlier to offer support and encouragement to families of alcoholics. Its members follow the same philosophy of life contained in the “12 Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous. A retreat program for men and women involved in A.A. had been working effectively for over 20 years, but nothing was offered for their families. Father Fred agreed to lead the group, and the Serenity Retreat League was born in Stirling, New Jersey, taking its name from the “Serenity Prayer” used by both Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon members.
Father Ralph Frisch, S.T., began working with Father Fred in 1986 and took over the apostolate when Father Fred died. It was during one of the weekend retreats that he met Mrs. Martha Bartone, who had been involved in the Serenity Retreat League since making her first retreat with Father Fred in 1978. “I cannot tell you exactly what day, month or year Fr. Fred and I became friends,” Martha recalls, “but it was the most fulfilling friendship of my life. He became a surrogate member of our family. We adopted him and he adopted us.”
Shortly after Father Fred’s death, Martha founded the “Father Fred Memorial Golf Tournament” as an expression of her respect for him. In 1996, it was incorporated as a non-profit organization with the purpose of supporting the missionary works of the Missionary Servants. Through her connections as the primary shareholder of New York Paving Co. in Long Island, New York, Martha and a dedicated committee of family, friends and co-workers have orchestrated the annual event for 25 years, and have raised more than $1.5 million for the Missionary Servants!
“Father Fred was keenly interested in all the missionary works of his religious Community,” Martha remarks. “He was especially interested in giving people a second chance. I think he would be deeply touched to see the results from the proceeds of the Fr. Fred Memorial Golf Tournament.”
The missions and projects Martha has helped the Missionary Servants fund during these past years include the construction of a ministry center at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in South Tucson, AZ; the construction of a new church in Camden, MS; the renovation of inner city houses to advance the work of the Hezekiah Movement in Baltimore, MD; the ministry of our former Hospitality House in Philadelphia, PA, with former prisoners; and the work of the Regional Recovery Initiative in Baltimore, MD, and Stirling, NJ.
Father Ralph has participated in every one of the annual tournaments. Although he couldn’t play in last month’s game because he is still recovering from a broken arm, he rode along in the golf cart for moral support! Br. Richard McCann, S.T., has participated in all but two of the tournaments through the years, and Br. John Skrodinsky, S.T., has attended in recent years. Rounding out this year’s golf “foursome” was Rosa Tirado, BTMI — an avid golfer who has been part of the “Trinity Missions” golf team for many years.
In 2010, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the tournament, Martha told all the participants: “I regret that each of you did not have a chance to know Fr. Fred. I can never give back all that he gave to me. Because of Fr. Fred, I try to be ‘a better whatever I am today.'”
Thank you, Martha, for all you have done for the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity and the poor men, women and children we serve!