In Memoriam: Dr. Mark J. Rollo

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. - J.R.R. Tolkien

It is with sorrow that I send this message today, yet it is an honor to reflect on the good man about whom I write. As you might have learned, Dr. Mark Rollo, longtime MCFL Board member and lifelong Massachusetts pro-life warrior, passed away suddenly on August 19. His death shocked all who knew him and prompted many to comment on the unjust loss of a man who spent years ensuring just treatment of others. 

He spoke directly and made people think. Whether presenting elegantly indisputable testimony on Beacon Hill, challenging legislators’ grave inaccuracies during virtual hearings or broadcasting life-affirming truth via First, Do No Harm, the radio program he hosted as a retired physician, Mark’s influence on our state’s landscape was like a summer sunrise: bold, far-reaching, warm, affecting and unforgettable. A fellow doctor told me she’s certain an entire segment of our state’s population is safer today due to his staunch determination to prevent the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

Many of us gathered at Mark’s wake and funeral Mass this past weekend. During his homily, Father Juan Ramirez described Mark’s dedication to faith and healing as more than mere interests; exercising his Christianity as a beloved physician and life advocate, Father Ramirez said, proved to be Mark’s identity. And he was right. Mark not only carried a gentle confidence with joyful strength and undeterred optimism but, unknowingly I think, spread those beautiful qualities to all he encountered. 

In their poignant eulogy, Mark’s three adult children recalled his devotion to the precious lives that comprise their family. Regardless of circumstances or sacrifices he and his wife had to make, supporting children and grandchildren by sharing the Rollo home with them, Mark once told his daughter, “were the best years of my life.” 

Mark appreciated Bob Dylan and, with his son, saw him in concert numerous times – a musical preference few were aware of, but all smiled upon hearing of it – it was the celebration’s inevitable “who knew?” moment. 

Finally, Mark’s daughter recounted an experience that took place a few days after her father’s death. At dawn, she said, she suddenly felt his presence with her in her parents’ home. She paused and looked up from the lectern. Then her tone changed, and she spoke to those of us seated in the church with urgency in her voice. She was no longer a sentimental storyteller but a messenger entrusted with critical information. 

“He wanted me to tell this to all of you here today,” she explained, saying she had scrambled to write the words she’d heard him convey to her that morning.  

The concept of time doesn’t exist in eternal life, Mark told her. Time won’t matter anymore. What will matter, he said, is how a person spends their time in this life. She looked up from her notes, paused again and asked us – Mark asked us – “What are you doing with your time?”

He spoke directly and made us think.

Mark spent his life doing good, speaking truth and exemplifying what is beautiful. And when you think about it, our pro-life movement thrives on nothing but those same ancient, Platonic notions: the good, the true and the beautiful. I cannot think of a better way to spend time given to us, limited as it might be, than to advance a culture of life. This is how I will spend my time. I look forward to achieving our mission alongside you, moment by moment.

Message received, Mark. Rest in peace, dear friend.