Deep Vincentian Roots

“Growing up, we attended the novena every Monday night at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal,” Rita Esselman recalls. “Our faith and the Vincentian ‘way’ were central to our family life – I wanted to pass it on to our children.”

Born and raised in Perryville, Mo., Rita and her future husband, Eugene Esselman, knew Vincentian priests and brothers since their early childhood days. Eugene worked at the local newspaper and, in his free time, helped to publish the seminary paper, The DeAndrein. Rita was active in the parish and school, and worked as a full-time mother – instilling a solid prayer life and good Christian values in her children.

“The Vincentian priests and 
brothers made a wonderful
impression on our family and our community,” Eugene Esselman
 says. “In addition to the seminary,
 shrine and local parish, the
Vincentians founded a library at the school and a museum that was very popular.”

“The Vincentian priests and brothers made a wonderful impression on our family and our community.”

– Eugene Esselman

While they love reminiscing about their time in Perryville, the Esselmans still have a close connection to the Vincentians of the Western Province. Their son Tom, after attending St. Vincent School and The Cape, was ordained in 1981. Fr. Tom has been blessed with more than 35 years of priestly ministry and service.

“I remember when Tom came to us and said he thought he had a vocation to the priesthood,” says Eugene. “We were just delighted,” Rita adds. “It took some effort to get him ready to enter the seminary, but we were very excited and proud of him.”

Rita and Eugene thank God for their son, who has taught in seminaries, pursued advanced degrees, developed a distance-learning program for theology students and even moved to Kenya to serve as formation director for more than ten years. “His ministry is a great gift for our entire family.”

Fr. Tom Esselman, C.M., has played a central role in growing the Vincentian mission in Kenya and developing new programs for the seminarians studying at DePaul Centre in Nairobi. He continues to use his scholarly training and spiritual experience to shape the future pastors who will serve
in the Region of Kenya.

Eugene and Rita were married in 1951 by Fr. William McKinley, C.M., at St. Vincent Church in Perryville. The couple now live in Quincy, Il., and enjoy spending time with their eight children, twelve grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. They are faithful supporters of the Vincentians of the Western Province.

A Voice for the Voiceless

In 1988, Martin and Madeline White began attending Holy Trinity, a Vincentian parish in Dallas, Texas. The couple was immediately drawn to the Vincentian outreach
ministry that 
was central to 
parish life.

As a physician, Martin saw firsthand the overwhelming and pressing needs of many people in his local community.
 He began searching for ways to meet these needs outside of his medical practice. Promoting social justice and advocating for underserved populations became his passion.

“Madeline and I had such a wonderful life,” recalls Martin. “We wanted to find ways to share our gifts with those in need.” After retiring from active medical practice, Martin befriended Fr. Tom Stehlik, C.M., and Fr. Paul Sauerbier, C.M., who encouraged him to play a more active role in creating positive change for those without a voice in the community.

Martin began working with a group of parishioners to reach out to the Hispanic families in the area – some of whom were immigrants being victimized by landlords. Many did not speak English or know the culture.

“We love the work the Vincentians do throughout the Western United States. Right here in Dallas, they have made our neighborhood and community a better place to live.”

– Martin White

“We helped them with language skills and empowered them to be more confident in speaking to people and groups that might take advantage of them – their landlords, elected officials or whoever
was keeping them down.”

Over the 
years, the Whites became increasingly invested in supporting the work of the Vincentian priests and brothers. Their close family friend, Fr. Jack Cawley, C.M., inspired them with stories from his ministry in the Kenya mission and throughout province.

“We love the work the Vincentians do throughout the Western United States. Right here in Dallas, they have made our neighborhood and community a better place to live,” says Martin.

Martin and Madeline White have been married for 54 years and live in Dallas, near their four children and eleven grandchildren.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam – A Vincentian Family Man

Antoine-Frederic Ozanam was an ordinary guy with extraordinary talent who lived an ordinary life but loved in extraordinary ways. St. Vincent de Paul was Frederic’s inspiration, exemplar, patron and star.

Frederic was born in Milan, Italy, on April 23, 1813, but he was thoroughly French. He grew up in Lyon, France, was homeschooled until nine, and then attended the Royal Academy of Lyon. There Frederic started to write prose and poetry on a wide range of subjects.

Frederic suffered a crisis of faith between 15 and 16 years old. The doubts disappeared when he dedicated his life to the service of truth – a promise he kept until death.

At the request of his father, Frederic enrolled in the School of Law at the Sorbonne in Paris. There he became an apologist as he defended his faith relentlessly in the university lecture hall and through his writing. He joined a study-discussion group on Saturdays, called the Conference of History. He found that this intellectual activity resulted in a lot of talking, but no real action.

On his twentieth birthday, in 1833, Frederic and five other college students and friends met in the Catholic newspaper offices of owner and editor Mr. Emmanuel Bailly. They were tired of all of the talk when they saw the poor begging and living on the streets of Paris.

Frederic said, “Let’s do what Jesus did… let’s go to the poor.” They agreed and organized a Conference of Charity, which later became the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Bailly was chosen as its first president.

The Society kept expanding in France and throughout the world, now with active communities in 152 countries.

Frederic received a Doctorate of Law, followed by a Doctorate of Letters, and worked as a professor of foreign literature at the Sorbonne in Paris where he had studied.

On June 23, 1841, Frederic married the love of his life, Amelie Soulacroix, in Lyon. On July 24, 1845, Amelie gave birth to their daughter, Marie, the joy of her father. Their marriage was incredible. He remembered his wife on the twenty-third of every month with a gift of flowers and often a poem expressing his love for her.

Frederic continued his academic work and ministering to the poor. As a confrere of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, he made home visits to the poorest of the poor. Although an intellectual genius, he was devoted to the poor and illiterate, with whom he spent countless hours. The Society kept expanding in France and throughout the world, now with active communities in 152 countries.

As his health deteriorated, he resigned from the university. After many attempts for a cure, Frederic died from Bright’s disease in Marseille, France, on September 8, 1853, the Feast of the Birthday of Mary. He was 40 years old.


Companions on a Journey

“We see ourselves as companions on a journey with those we serve,” says Mary Frances Jaster, co-director of Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. “Our volunteers learn to see the face of Jesus in everyone they meet, especially the poor and the marginalized.”

This Vincentian ministry, established 30 years ago, provides faith formation opportunities to young adults from across the country, while they serve in the Denver area. The Colorado Vincentian Volunteers has received generous support from the Western Province in the form of grants, donations and, above all, the selfless service of priests and brothers. Since the beginning, the Vincentian charism has been at the heart of the program.

“Fr. Tom Nelson, C.M., served as our first chaplain. He, along with Fr. Paul Golden, C.M., and many other priests and brothers have infused our mission with a distinctly Vincentian spirituality,” explains Bill Jaster, co-director of CVV. “They taught us to ask, ‘what must be done?’– to consider where the need is greatest and to invest our energy, time and resources.”

“We find that young people are hungry for a real transformation… Deep down, they are searching for the values that come from serving and from being in relationship with people who are economically poor.”

– Mary Frances Jaster

The program attracts college students and young adults, ready for a life of community, prayer and service. Participants serve for one year in a variety of agencies, ministries and outreach settings. For many, the CVV program challenges them to discover what God is asking of them.

“We find that young people are hungry for a real transformation,” Mary Frances explains. “Deep down, they are searching for the values that come from serving and from being in relationship with people who are economically poor.”

Bill and Mary Frances emphasize that participants learn humility, simplicity, gentleness, mortification and zeal – the five Vincentian virtues – through their interactions with those in need.

“By the end of the year, volunteers realize that they have something important to offer – that they are doing something to make a difference in the lives of others. Even more, they learn that they have gifts from God and a calling to share those gifts with others.”

Fr. Toshio Sato, C.M., Becomes U.S. Citizen

He grew up a farm boy in a rural area of Japan, 150 miles north of Tokyo. The nearest city is Fukushima the site of the nuclear reactor disaster caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people.

His father was a leader at the local Buddhist temple. Every morning his grandmother faithfully said her prayers and invited the boy to sit next to her as she chanted before the Buddhist shrine in her home.  This family was a traditional rural farming family growing rice.

The boy’s name is Toshio Sato. He was an excellent student who finished 5th in the local English speech competition narrowly missing qualifying for the Japanese national competition. As a seventh grade boy he was fascinated by the American DJ and radio personality Casey Kasem making weekly charts of the Top 40 rock and roll songs.

Toshio had a goal of studying international economics and enjoying the riches that come with a successful career. He came to Chicago in 1996 to work at the Japanese consulate, and found his way to DePaul University. As a student he had no idea who the Vincentians were but the influence of one priest changed his life. He attributes his conversion to the influence of his devout Buddhist family who instilled a distinctive spirituality in him and the powerful witness of the Vincentians. He converted to Catholicism in 2004 and was ordained in 2013.

“Freedom,” he says, “comes at a price and I feel a responsibility to be a good citizen and recognize the value of liberty for all.”

Most recently Toshio has completed the requirements for citizenship in the United States. “Freedom,” he says, “comes at a price and I feel a responsibility to be a good citizen and recognize the value of liberty for all.” Fr. Toshio has responded to the worldwide Vincentian call for international missionaries and will be serving the poor in Bolivia. Toshio encourages other young men around the world to listen to the call to serve.

Toshio Sato, CM. A Japanese boy. A servant of the poor in South America. An American citizen. A Vincentian priest of Jesus Christ.

New Director of Formation In Kenya

Fr. Pat McDevitt, C.M., recently was assigned to the Vincentian Region in Kenya, where he serves as Director of Formation. In his new role, Fr. Pat oversees and supports the education and formation of more than 30 seminarians at the DePaul Centre in Nairobi. Since his ordination in 1986, he has been involved in parish ministry, seminary formation, spiritual direction, counseling, teaching and preaching retreats. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy, Masters of Divinity, Masters of Science and Ph.D. in Pastoral Counseling Psychology.