This is the first of a three-part article in the spring 2023 issue of The Vincentian newsletter on the Apostle of Charity Residence at St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, its residents, and those that care for them.

Fr. Jim Osendorf’s office workspace bears all the markers of a busy schedule: a full bulletin board, sticky notes sprinkled across his computer, and neat stacks of paper arranged according to task and category.

As Superior at the Apostle of Charity Residence on the St. Mary’s of the Barrens campus in Perryville, MO, he keeps busy. With a medical staff and varying levels of assistance for the residents, the facility is the retirement center for the Congregation of the Mission Western Province. It currently caters to approximately 30 residents, senior priests and brothers and one deacon who have “retired” from active ministry, though that word can be misleading where these Vincentians are concerned.

Many of the men here are still quite active. Fr. Paul Golden, C.M., served as president of Niagara University and is still involved in canon law cases. Fr. Jerry Herff, C.M., reads to preschool children once a week at the St. Vincent de Paul parish school in town. Fr. Larry Asma, C.M., visits prisoners at the county jail once a month. There are many more examples.

In addition, the priests are on rotation to say daily Mass in the chapel, and a smaller group handles Mass at the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal on the campus. Others pick up Masses at the parish as needed and help out in other ways, such as hearing confessions or anointing the sick.

“Fr. Tom Hinni manages prayer ministry,” Fr. Jim said. “They receive names to pray for on a regular basis. Mass intentions are also given to us by the Association of the Miraculous Medal. People come in for blessings or confession, or they might just want to talk to a priest. Whatever they can do, I try to empower as much as I can.”

Fr. Jim has been in this role since 2019, prior to which he served as Vocations Director for the province for six years.

“Fr. Mike Joyce was superior before me,” Fr. Jim said. “When he retired, Fr. Joe Williams (Assistant Provincial Superior at the time) asked me if I wanted to come do this. I’m a fairly organized person, so I’m good at putting together schedules and such. It’s an enjoyable place to be, and I’m glad to be doing it.”

The residence opened in 2006 on the site of the student and novitiate buildings of the former St. Mary’s of the Barrens Seminary. Prior to that, retired priests were housed for many years in another building on campus that was repurposed for that role and has also since been demolished.

“They knew they needed to build a new place,” Fr. Jim said. “We are lucky to have good medical care in the area. It’s a good location in that respect.”

Fr. Jim said the atmosphere is enjoyable and collegial, owing to the Vincentians who live at the facility.

“There is a lot of life experience here,” Fr. Jim said. “I never use the word ‘old’ when referring to the confreres. I refer to them as the elders of the community, because they carry an awful lot of wisdom with them. When you get them to talk, they have a lot of great stuff to share. Sometimes, you have to initiate a conversation, but then they just come alive.”