Marc Girard, 18, looked like your ordinary Catholic teenager. But he was not.
He had a Facebook page. He was a part of the Fairy Tale Novel Forum (even though, like most guys, he hadn't read the books :) ). He was careless about spelling. He hated having his picture taken. His avatar was a man making funny faces. To his four younger siblings and to most of his friends, I am sure he sometimes seemed very ordinary. Even though he took his Catholic faith seriously, and sometimes challenged his high school friends on different issues.
His friend Paul Ethier was surprised when Marc told him that he was planning to join the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who had a friary near the Girard home in Griswold, CT. Marc was accepted as a postulant, and was going to join the Maine, NY friary in August.
The Girard family had been through a lot. Last year they suffered two hardships in a row: first, their home burned down. The only thing in Marc's room that survived the fire was his picture of Padre Pio.
The family lived on a trailer through the winter, but then this spring, the property was foreclosed.
Marc's father Thomas was working hard to keep the family together. In his free time he helped the Friars of the Immaculate on their outreachs: this past spring he was "Grand Master" knight for their group, The Knights of Lepanto, as Catholic fathers and the friars "initiated" their sons into Catholic knighthood. The photo at the top shows Marc carrying a "penance pack" of 15 pounds of rocks during the "intiation."
Thomas found a new house for the family, and they were going to move on the first day of July, yesterday, in fact.
The day before the big move, Thomas took his two sons, Marc and Lucas and daughter Hannah swimming at a pond down the street from their old house. There was an island a short distance from the shore, and they decided to swim out to the island.
Marc took his younger brother Lucas, 11, along and they swam safely to the island. Mr. Girard took their daughter Hannah, age 7, in his arms and came along behind them.
Hearing his sister Hannah screaming, Marc turned back and the boys saw her bobbing in the water. Their father was gone. Marc stopped several feet before reaching the island. He sent Lucas ahead and went back for his father and Hannah.
Marc swam out to Hannah. He pushed her towards shore until she was safe, told her to pray, and then dove back in to find their father.
He died trying to save him.
Rescue personnel speculate that Mr. Girard died of a heart attack suffered while swimming. Marc was brought to the hospital, barely alive. His mother Carol, some of his friends, and the Friars of the Immaculata prayed with him. He received the Annointing of the Sick and was blessed with a relic of St. Padre Pio. Then at 1:50 AM, on the Feast of the Precious Blood, he died.
It is terrifying how fast death can come. Earlier this past month, Marc was on the forum (screen name: The Illustrious Marceg) and on his blog, joking and laughing with his friends, running for "President" on the forum against Barak Obama and Mr. Darcy, and offering "words of wisdom" about following one's vocation:
Topic: Lord, what are You calling me to do? (Read 460 times) Illustrious Marceg
member is offline Joined: Feb 2008
Posts: 30 Re: Lord, what are You calling me to do?
Jun 19, 2008, 10:35am I was so happy to find a thred wich focased on vocations. Just some words of wisdom, First, you are so right when you say long and short term vocation. Like being a good student was mine and being a good son, but now that I'm done with school. It's now to be a good son as well as a good friend. In August I will be leaving to enter the FI (Fransican Friars of the Immaculate) and am very excited about doing so. The thing is though, in my case, I'm almost poitive that this is Our Lords will for me, but as I grow closer and closer to the day i leave, I get spiritually attacked more and more (with emotions and worries such... I'm not talking about Emily Rose stuff ). I was warned by two very holy Friars about temptation and think it would be very helpful to everyone on this fourm especally for those who are looking into religious life. And that is that you will be tempted in ways you didn't think were possible, and if you do end up entering religious life it's still pretty hard. Its the transistion of being more contempt and 'unplugging' your self from the world. Many of the Saints went trough temptation and trial so just be prepaired and persivere. This also goes for those who are asking the question "what do you want from me". Satan will try to lead you against your vocation, just pray, hope, and don't worry and you'll end up doing His will.
Marc was ready to follow his call from God. But this week, he was called to be a hero. And he answered, without hesitation.
I am so sorry that Marc couldn't save his father, and that he couldn't save himself. But I am struck by his courage, and I will always remember him. Marc's friends were unanimous in calling him, immediately and from the start, a true knight.
I'm a novelist: I write modern adventures in which young adults carelessly tagged as "knights" and "ladies" battle modern demons and dragons. My friends and I play games and hold ceremonies similar to that of the Knights of the Lepanto: serious but always a bit tongue in cheek. We have to ask ourselves at some point: is any of it real? Are we really knights and ladies, or are we just moderns playing an odd game?
And then life overtakes us, and for a moment I recognize that for some of us at least, it is real. For Marc, it was real. He truly attained knighthood.
Just now I went on the Fairy Tale Forum and voted that Marc be elected president-forever of the Forum. Post mortem yes, but I think his qualifications are out of this world.
I love to write about young men who are heroes: it's one reason why I retell fairy tales. Marc Girard is a hero to me, a real knight of Our Lady and the Sacred Heart. I am so honored that he was part of our little online group and that our paths intersected for a short time.
Please pray for Carol Girard, and for the remaining children, Adam,17, Jaqueline, 15, Lucas, 11, and Hannah, 7. Pray especially for Lucas, who witnessed the entire tragedy.
As the Girard family has been under such financial stress, I can only imagine that this tragedy has left them even more at risk. I would like to ask the Christian community to consider helping them during this hard time. I know how much it helped our family when we suffered the loss of our son Joshua: please let this family know that they are not suffering alone.
Condolescences and donations can be sent to:
Carol Girard c/o the Ethier Family
133 Lake Shore Drive
Pascoag, Rhode Island
UPDATE: a fund has been set up for the Girards at the local Bank of America.
Bank of America
590 West Main St (Rt 82)
Norwich, CT 06360
Until I find out if they have a way to make donations online, I will continue to collect donations
through my PayPal account and send them to the Bank of America fund.
If you would like to make a donation through Paypal, you can send a donation to me at email@example.com or use the button below. Attach a note or send an email to me saying that your donation is for the Girard family and specify the amount in your email. I will make sure it gets to them.
My husband and I attended the funeral at St. Mary's Church in Connecticut. It was beautiful. I hope to post more about it later.
For more about the Girard family, see this link from the Friars of the Immaculate.
UPDATE: Since some of you have asked, by all means feel free to copy or excerpt this post for your own blog or email.
St. Padre Pio, pray for us. The first martyrs of Rome, pray for us.
To donate to the Girard family via my paypal account, click below.