Mrak, Ignatius

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Second bishop of Marquette, MI; b. Hotovle, Carniola, Austria, Oct. 16, 1818; d. Marquette, Feb. 1, 1901. After education at the Royal Gymnasium and the Seminary of Laibach (Ljubiljana), he was ordained there on Aug. 3, 1837. Influenced by the work of his countryman Frederic baraga, Mrak sought admission (1845) to the Diocese of Detroit, Michigan. Upon arriving there, in October of 1845, he was immediately sent to assist another countryman, Rev. Francis pierz, at Arbre Croche (Harbor Springs). Two years later Mrak was given his own mission at La Croix (Cross Village) with Middletown (Good Hart), Castor Island (Beaver Island), and Manistee (Manistique) included. Here and later at Grande Traverse the missionary spent 13 years ministering to the indigenous people of the lakelands. Much to his dismay, Mrak was chosen (1868) to succeed Baraga as bishop of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette. He was consecrated in the metropolitan cathedral at Cincinnati, Ohio, on Feb. 7, 1869, wearing secondhand regalia.

Devoted to a life of simplicity, Mrak continued his work among the Native Americans and struggled to meet the pioneer needs of the Catholic Church in northern Michigan. He made special efforts to improve the caliber and education of his missionary clergy and opened Catholic schools wherever possible. He also organized elected lay boards to assist pastors in the material administration of their parishes. Because of a painful rheumatic condition, he resigned his see (1878), which then had 20 priests serving 27 churches with missions and a Catholic population of 20,000. Appointed titular bishop of Antinoe, Mrak returned to his beloved missions. During the last nine years of his life he remained at Marquette, where he performed chaplain duties at St. Mary's Hospital. Mentally alert to the end, the old missionary made his last public appearance in August of 1899 at the consecration of Marquette's fourth bishop, Frederick Eis, whom he had ordained.

Bibliography: Archives, Diocese of Marquette, Mrak Papers. a. i. rezek, History of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette, 2 v. (Houghton, MI 190607).

[c. j. carmody]