The following story will appear in the September 23 edition of the Idaho Catholic Register.
By Gene Fadness
Mark Raper, who served the Diocese of Boise, for nearly a quarter century, first as the Director of Canonical Affairs and later as Chancellor, died suddenly on Sept. 16 in his office at Sacred Heart Parish in Boise. He was 54.
A funeral Mass is set for Friday, Sept. 30, at 4:30 p.m. at Sacred Heart with a graveside dedication on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 10 a.m. at Pioneer Cemetery in Horseshoe Bend.
Raper had “retired” from his 23-year career at the Diocese of Boise in mid-June and began duties later that month as the Coordinator of Adult Education at Sacred Heart Parish.
A constant presence at diocesan headquarters, Raper was just as comfortable in a suit and tie, acting in his capacity as a canon lawyer, as he was in a camo shirt and blue jeans, getting ready to go to his cabin near Idaho City or in his Broncos gear (Denver or Boise State) getting ready to cheer on his favorite teams. “His varied life made him the perfect person to mix and work with people of all types,” said Bishop Peter Christensen.
Raper’s love for the outdoors came early in life, growing up in Horsehoe Bend and taking frequent trips to grandparents’ cabin in Warm Lake. “His favorite place on earth was Warm Lake,” said Kristine Raper, his wife of nearly 10 years. “From childhood up until now we made a point to get to Warm Lake at least once a year,” she said, especially when it came time to pick huckleberries.
He graduated from Boise State University with a degree in communications, after which he worked for the State of Idaho in two different programs that assisted small and minority-owned businesses seeking government contracts. His communications degree gave him the foundation to become involved with broadcasting, both commercial and public, working for Boise State Radio.
Though baptized Lutheran, Raper became a Catholic in 1998 and soon became a Benedictine Oblate for the Monastery of the Ascension in Jerome.
He began his work for the Diocese of Boise a year later in 1999 as a case manager in the tribunal office that primarily handled marriage annulment cases. He was also an “apprentice canon lawyer.”
He decided to take that apprenticeship a step further by enrolling at St. Paul University in Ottowa, Ontario, Canada to pursue an ecclesiastical degree – a Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL) – as well as a secular master’s degree in canon law.
Degrees in hand, Raper was appointed by Bishop Mike Driscoll to head the Office of Canonical Affairs for the Diocese in May of 2004.
His life prepared him well for his new career in canon law, he told the Idaho Catholic Register at the time of his appointment to head the canonical affairs office.
“I see everything in my past, whether my spiritual path or my secular work as preparing me for this work I am doing now,” he said. “In my past jobs, I learned how to deal with a multitude of different people, different ages and ethnicities. I learned how to listen and how to draw people out of their shells. Listening is a big part of this job.”
He told former Idaho Catholic Register editor Colette Cowman that as a Benedictine Oblate, he had come to the conclusion that St. Benedict would have made a good canon lawyer because he wrote the rule on the life of monks, just as canon law is often considered the rule of the life of the juridical side of the Church.
Further, Raper noted, Benedictine spirituality is centered on hospitality, St. Benedict teaching that we must greet all who come to see us as if were greeting Christ. “Ninety percent of what the Office of Canonical Affairs does is marriage cases,” Raper said. “Most of what we do in the office touches people on a very deep level in their lives. We always have to remember that. What we deal with – especially in marriage cases – is not easy. Many times, we are working with people with broken lives. We have to remember that we are meeting Christ in those we work with, and we must treat them with respect, compassion and truth.”
When Bishop Peter arrived in late 2014, one of the first people he met was Raper. “Right away, I was impressed with his genuine, joyful presence. He was a man of integrity and kindness and one that I would recognize later as a true Idahoan,” the Bishop said.
Just a few months after he arrived, Bishop Peter appointed Raper as Chancellor of the Diocese. While he continued his direction over the tribunal office, his new duties now expanded to include all canon law matters relating to the Diocese, often very sensitive matters dealing with priests, employees and overseeing child and young adult protection.
“He was a wonderful support for the Diocese, especially as his service is steeped in canon law,” Bishop Peter said. “He knew what he was talking about, and what he talked about was always shared with a good dose of common sense.”
Bishop Peter got to know the “genuine Idaho” side of Raper when Raper persuaded the Bishop to adopt a horse from the Bureau of Land Management. “Never did I imagine that I would be a horse owner. But, thanks to Mark, he introduced me to a 4-month-old Palomino. Although a pet short-lived, I loved the genre it allowed me to enter, attending rodeos and horse shows with Mark and Kris and their daughter, Peyton,” the Bishop said. “He loved life, especially anything to do with nature. He loved the Church and we loved him. He will be missed. Mark, pray for us!”
Raper had two children, David and Marnie, from a previous marriage. When he married Kristine Sasser in May of 2013, he welcomed her daughter, Peyton, into the family. Peyton is now a senior at Bishop Kelly High School.
Mark and Kristine met later in life, both having been previously married. “My life will never be the same, both because he was part of it and now because he is gone,” Kristine said. “I will forever be grateful for the 10 years I was blessed to call him my husband.” Kristine Raper is an attorney, a former commissioner on the Idaho Public Utilities Commission and now an executive vice president with the Western Electric Coordinating Council.
In the short time between Mark’s sudden passing and our publication date, many tributes came to the Idaho Catholic Register offices. Excerpts are below:
“I was blessed to work for Mark and to share an office area with him for two years. Mark always enjoyed showing me photos of his beautiful wife, Kristine, his oldest Marnie, his son Dave, and his youngest, Peyton. He always had me laughing when he shared about his priest friends, stories about hunting, traveling, guns, motorcycles, and rock and roll.” – Meri Price, Administrative Assistant, Office of Canonical Affairs and Marriage Tribunal.
“Mark was a generous coworker. He always had time for a chat about work or family and was so genuine in his encounters. When Mark knew I loved a picture of the Virgin Mary in his office, he told me to take it and to remember how much she loves me. I will miss our jovial conversations.”
– Jackie Hopper, Director of Religious Education and Catechetical Leadership.
“What comes to my mind when I think about Mark is a steady and calm force with the disposition of a true leader. From my vantage point, Mark was one who stood strong and steady when the winds would inevitably blow and rock the boat, and, at the same time, he was a kind and gentle soul.”
– Sheri Boicourt, Administrative Assistant, Office of Marriage and Family Life and Catholic Schools office.
“I have worked across the hallway from Mark for almost seven years. His office door was always open for me when answering Church law questions on marriage or other topics. Mark was a good listener and researcher, working to get the best answers to often very difficult questions. He was balanced in his approach to Church law and knew the need for the importance of insightful pastoral care in difficult situations and circumstances. Mark had a warm, easy-going way about him that set me at ease when trying to figure out a problem or issue. He was a great storyteller and loved to laugh. Often the sounds of loud laughter, like rolling thunder, could be heard from his corner office.”
- Jay Wonacott, Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life
“I met Mark in the mid-2000s after I returned to the Church. In addition to his work at the tribunal, Mark led the RCIA class at St. John’s Cathedral. As a revert, I spent a lot of time studying the faith and eventually returned to school to earn a Master of Arts in Theology. Mark was one of the first to ask me to lead sessions on scripture and divine revelation. ... Mark was always happy to explain matters to me and gave me great advice on (marriage case) petitions with which I assisted. And he always responded affably and with good humor. It was Mark who began to encourage me to take the path of canon law studies.”
– Deacon Bill Burns, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
“Mark was such a blessing for Sacred Heart Parish as our adult education coordinator. ... Of course, there were the conversations about his cabin in the mountains and his love of the outdoors and hunting, two topics we shared in common. … Last week we were talking about getting together for coffee, now something I won’t be able to share with him.”
- Deacon Dan Vawser, Sacred Heart Parish.
“Mark, aka ‘The Chancellor,’ your contribution to the Catholic community will always be remembered. Your personality inspired hope, showed compassion and displayed humility. You are a man with a great heart of service and you sacrificed much for the benefit of others. The memory of the righteous is blessed. You may be gone but your memory is always with us. You left a good and great imprint in our hearts with your kindness, love, and sacrifice. Thank you for a life well spent. I leave you with one last Latin phrase: Requiescat in Pace!
– Bryan Taylor, Chancellor, Diocese of Boise
To share a memory, plant a tree, or add a photo to the tribute wall visit: https://accentfuneral.com/tribute/details/294216/Mark-Raper/condolences.html#content-star
Kristine and Mark Raper were married in 2013.