Franciscan Brother Mario Vasquez, who spent most of his 55 years with the order at the Franciscan Renewal Center — the Casa — in Scottsdale, died May 3. He was 85.
His funeral was in California near headquarters for the Franciscan Friars Province of Saint Barbara where Br. Vasquez spent his final three years. Plans are underway for a memorial Mass at the Franciscan Renewal Center.
Br. Vasquez’s face, quiet presence and green thumb was a mainstay there since 1980. His dedication to the Casa garden yielded produce for the kitchen, for André House and, sometimes, for God’s four-legged friends.
“It was like a salad bowl to all the critters,” Cheryl Rexford quipped.
She met the friar while working in the retreat office 30 years ago and later volunteered in his “bountiful” garden. Although Br. Vasquez never entered his produce, Rexford was convinced he would have earned formal recognition for it at the state fair.
“We sat in the garden during breaks and talked about faith [and] everyday problems. He was the big brother I never had,” Rexford said. His death left a void in her life.
“He was my St. Francis. He was pure of heart, pure of faith, pure of spirit. He was probably the purest individual I have ever known,” Rexford said.
Br. Vasquez was also an avid golfer. A small putting green at the Casa afforded him extra practice. Fr. Peter Kirwin, OFM, rector of Our Lady of the Angels Church at the Casa, said the brother played his left- and right-handed sets of clubs equally well.
“He was a very devout human being and his faith meant everything to him,” Rexford said.
Br. Vasquez was born and raised in Los Angles and received the Tertiary habit in 1954. He entered the First Order in 1957 at the age of 26. He had short assignments at Mission San Luis Rey in San Diego and Mission Santa Barbara plus a two-year stint at Holy Cross Retreat in New Mexico as a maintenance worker.