Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 13, 2004
CSS's perpetual motion man
Marc Barylo left his priest studies but lives a faith-filled life
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Like the energizer bunny, Marc Barylo is always on the move.
When he is not raising funds for Catholics Social Services or getting a new program started, he is volunteering at St. Joseph's Basilica or organizing a big event somewhere.
Right now he is busy getting Christmas hampers ready to distribute to needy Edmonton families.
"In many ways he is like the energizer rabbit; he just keeps going and going and going," joked Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, whom Barylo assisted for many years. "He has so much energy it's almost like he is in perpetual motion."
Msgr. Bill Irwin had observed the efficient Barylo for years and in 1984 he decided to offer him a job as a part of Catholic Social Services' management team. During a Mass at St. Joseph's Basilica, Irwin asked Chris Leung, the agency's current CEO, to talk to Barylo about the job after Mass.
H1 class="sub">Always on the move
"By the time I reached the altar where Marc had been standing only moments before, he had already vanished to another area of the building," Leung recalls. "And we've all been trying to catch up to him ever since."
In his 20 years with Catholic Social Services Barylo has earned a reputation as an efficient fundraiser, a skillful organizer and a tireless volunteer.
As the agency's director of development and community relations, Barylo deals with the media, organizes all the agency's events and is the heart and soul of the annual Sign of Hope Campaign and the Christmas Hamper Drive.
He works tirelessly even after hours and on weekends. And as Leung puts it, "he is very effective in what he does."
It's estimated Barylo has helped fundraise about $25 million for Catholic Social Services in his 20 years with the agency.
Born the second of four children in Kamloops in 1953, Barylo and his family moved to Edmonton that same year. His father, a French immigrant, made his living as a house painter. "We didn't have much and Christmas was always tough," he recalls. "I remember getting Christmas hampers at Christmas time."
When man landed on the moon in 1970, Barylo decided he wanted to become a physicist in order to work for NASA one day. He studied theoretical physics for more than three years at the University of Alberta and drove a cab at night to help pay his tuition. He recalls giving free rides to needy families during the Christmas season.
Then Barylo had a "spiritual experience" that took his life in a completely different direction. He wanted to learn more about God and considered the priesthood.
But after more than three years at St. Joseph Seminary and Newman Theological College in the late 1970s the idea of the priesthood fell through.
"It became very clear to me at Newman College that I couldn't live a celibate lifestyle and it wasn't just the sexual issue," he said. "I felt that in order to be fulfilled as an individual I needed a close companion and, as well, I wanted to have children."
He married his wife Sue in 1981. The couple soon learned they couldn't have children.
Barylo ran his father's painting business for a couple of years until Msgr. Irwin approached him with a job offer. At that time Catholic Social Services had pulled out from the United Way and needed to set up its own fundraising scheme.
"I didn't know anything about fundraising but I felt I needed to give it a shot," he recalled. He admitted to being "terrified" at the idea of raising money but thought if God really wanted him in that ministry, he would support him.
Over the years Barylo has done all kinds of different portfolios with the agency and has never been bored. Within six months he was made vice-president with the added responsibility of coordinating the agency's volunteer program and the Christmas hamper drive. Later on he also took charge of all internal and external communications, the overall management of St. Andrew's Centre and the agency's project in the Philippines.
But where his work is best known is around the Sign of Hope Campaign, which has never failed to meet its goal and last year raised $1.75 million.
Barylo plays down his accomplishments, saying the heart and soul of Sign of Hope is not himself but the campaign volunteers, the people who support the agency financially and God himself. "I think it is the good Lord's spirit who is really the core and drives the whole thing," he said. "I just consider myself a little instrument open to being used by God."
Leading the agency's Christmas hamper drive is one of Barylo's pet projects for it brings joy to needy people at the most sensitive time of the year. He began delivering Christmas hampers to single shut-ins as a university student and cab driver in the early 1970s.
So when Irwin asked him years later to take over the hamper drive as part of his CSS portfolio Barylo was happy to oblige. "It's a very enriching experience," he says matter-of-factly. "I think it's a great honour to be able to help people in this way."
Barylo coordinates some 400 volunteers who sort, pack and deliver the food hampers. This year the agency expects to deliver 1,850 Christmas hampers to needy families. CSS has been part of the Christmas Bureau since 1968.
"Marc is very hard working, very committed and very persistent," said former CSS president Al Pierog, currently a Caritas Health Group executive. "When he approaches a project, he makes sure it gets done. And he walks the talk. He lives his faith through helping others and improving their lives."
"He lives his faith through helping others and improving their lives."
- Al Pierog
Barylo is a popular figure at St. Joseph's Basilica, where he has been chair of the liturgy committee since 1979. As such, he has trained countless liturgical ministers and has been behind many major liturgical celebrations, including the 125th anniversary of the archdiocese at the Coliseum. He also helps organize the Chrism Mass, the Easter Vigil and most ordinations.
But Barylo said not everybody is happy with his involvement and some have vented their displeasure. "I have endured a lot of grief and criticism over the years," he said.
"They think I do what I do because I want to be in the limelight but that's the farthest thing from my mind. I do it because I think the Lord would expect me to use my talents and gifts in this way."
He said he even got a couple of "nasty calls" criticizing the attire he wore at Msgr. Irwin's funeral. He wore a tuxedo that day because he wanted the monsignor to go with class but some thought it was ostentatious and inappropriate.
"Marc is a very dedicated person, someone who knows a great deal about helping people and a great deal about the various liturgical celebrations," says Archbishop MacNeil, who sought Barylo's assistance throughout his tenure. "In many, many ways it is very much as if he was an ordained priest who has studied liturgy for years."
The Easter Vigil is a complex celebration with a great deal of movement, but Barylo always knows exactly what is supposed to happen and where everybody is supposed to be, according to MacNeil. "It's like producing a play or an opera and he is the conductor, he is the director and he has all of that in his head; he never has a book or a note with him. It's incredible how much he commits to memory."
And through it all "Marc is very, very serious about the whole thing," MacNeil noted. "He looks so serious that he seldom would smile; he is not relaxed at all because like the director of a symphony he has to be very serious and very direct, I guess, in what he's doing."
"Whatever he does, he does it with perfection."
- Sr. Annata Brockman
Leung, the Catholic Social Services CEO, said Barylo may look serious, intense and even cold but he is not. "In reality he is very warm if you know him," he said. "He would go beyond the call of duty for anyone."
Sister Annata Brockman, the basilica's pastoral associate, describes Barylo as a "person of integrity" who is very dedicated and generous with his time. "Whatever he does, he does it with perfection," she said. "He is very conscientious and very prayerful."
So prayerful is Barylo that he gets to the basilica at 5 a.m. every morning to pray before going to work. After 30 minutes of personal prayer, he heads to his southside office for a cereal breakfast. "If I'm not centred on Christ, I can't function," he admits. Whenever possible, he heads to Cochrane for a spiritual retreat.
The little free time Barylo gets he spends with his wife Sue, who is as busy as he is. "We don't see each other very often so we strive for quality time," he laughed. That might include Sue cooking his favourite meal, usually steak and potatoes, or playing the piano or simply relaxing in front of the television. He also enjoys weightlifting, but doesn't go at it as hard as he did before 1987, when he had a heart attack.
Sue, a volunteer services manager with Northlands Park, said she wholeheartedly supports her husband because she knew from the beginning he was committed to serving the Lord. "He feels called to do God's will and in Catholic Social Services he found the ideal place to develop his gifts and help the community."
One of her roles, Sue said, is to provide Marc with a safe place when he gets home.