What Happened to the Bishop's Brother?

By Marc Massery

Mark Ricken of Dodge City, Kansas, died in 2014, but about five years before his death, Divine Mercy changed his life. 

Mark was the older brother of Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. “Before Divine Mercy, he had no real heartfelt connection to Christ,” Bishop Ricken said. “He went to Confession regularly. He lived a good ecclesial, spiritual life, but he never was impacted personally by that close, personal relationship with Christ. But Divine Mercy sealed the deal for him — I’ll tell you that.”

One Sunday at Mark’s parish, a priest with a thick accent was giving a homily. Mark had a hard time understanding everything the priest said, but he did recognize one word that the priest had been saying over and over: the name “Faustina.”  

“So, he went and did some research on that name, and he ended up discovering Divine Mercy,” Bishop Ricken said. “And boy did he ever get into it.” 

Mark and his wife owned a hobby ranch in La Junta, Colorado. One day, while his wife was out, he was out on his property doing chores on his four-wheeler. “He heard this voice ‘Mark, Mark,’” Bishop Ricken said. “It was a woman’s voice.” 

Mark shut off the four-wheeler and listened again. He heard the same voice calling his name. 
He said, “Yes? What do you want?” 

And the voice said, “I want you to pray for all these souls who are on their deathbed today and every day that they may have the grace to accept the mercy of Jesus.” 

Mark thought he recognized a similar quote in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (probably 1777). When he looked it up, he discerned the voice calling to him must have been St. Faustina’s. 

“And it completely changed his life,” Bishop Ricken said. Mark proceeded to start a 3 o’clock prayer group in La Junta, which still continues today. “He prayed two hours every morning doing what [St. Faustina] asked Him to do,” Bishop Ricken said. According to Bishop Ricken, Mark read St. Faustina’s Diary straight through four or five times.

Unfortunately, Mark was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2014. “It was diagnosed on Ash Wednesday, and he died on Monday of Holy Week,” Bishop Ricken said. “I told him, ‘Mark, you’re living the most intense Lent you’ll ever live.’ He said, ‘I sure am.’ But he was at peace because he knew he received the mercy of Jesus.”

Praying on his deathbed as long as he was able, Mark didn’t let his suffering go to waste. On his final day on earth, he lay in bed unconscious, so his family gathered around him to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for him. “[As we prayed] you could tell he was kind of mumbling his lips a little bit,” Bishop Ricken said. 

When it came time for Mark to draw his last breath, Bishop Ricken told his brother, “‘Mark, don’t wait for us now. You can wait for us on the other side in Heaven. Jesus is coming to welcome you. You know Him, and you know His mercy, so don’t be afraid to move into that mercy.’ He took a final breath and died in front of all of us. It was beautiful. He was only 63 years old.” 

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