Meeting, Seeing, and Being Jesus

Vincentian Priest Inspires Donor’s Faith Journey

This article originally appeared in the spring 2023 issue of The Vincentian newsletter.

In 2007, Dave Baranowski was approaching the height of a successful career at Anheuser-Busch. He enjoyed the blessings of good health, a loving family, lifelong friends, and a vibrant parish where he coached kids’ sports and attended Sunday Mass.

“But something was missing,” he recalls. “I started asking if this was all I was meant to do.”

Attending a men’s weekend retreat at his pastor’s suggestion, Baranowski received an unmistakable answer. “I think I just met Jesus,” he shared with newfound wonder in a brief call with his wife Sharon.

Returning with a vibrant, maturing faith, Baranowski joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society conference at St. Francis of Assisi. “I had assumed everybody living in our part of town was in good shape. But working in the food pantry and delivering furniture, I found out how many people really struggled.”

The fulfillment of giving back led Baranowski to begin volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul parish just south of Downtown St. Louis. “Fr. Ed Murphy was the first priest of the Congregation of the Mission I’d ever met.”

Father Ed would often use the phrase, “To see the face of Jesus, and be the face of Jesus.” The words were to become for Dave his own spiritual mantra: “That really summed things up for me. I felt good being part of their parish’s ministry. Soon, Sharon and our kids would join me, as well as some of the teams I coached and some of my friends, too.”

“It was a great way to help our children realize that poverty doesn’t go on just halfway around the world. We can help one another. And that’s why God put us here.”

In 2012, Baranowski left a nearly three-decade career at Anheuser-Bush/InBev and was named director of stewardship education with the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Other C.M. priests he has met continue to influence his faith.

“Fr. Milton Ryan and Fr. Dan Thiess come to mind,” he said. “They’re awesome and have made a positive difference in my life. Becoming more and more aware of all that these priests are doing opened my eyes to the order’s worldwide impact, and I love being part of it. So many people only think of the lay parish Society when they hear St. Vincent de Paul or Vincentians. The order of priests and brothers isn’t as visible. But they’re doing so much good.”

Today, Dave serves on the Congregation’s Development Advisory Board; he and Sharon make regular gifts to support its needs.

“Until my conversion, money was my absolute god; Sharon was more generous. But after my encounter with Jesus, we found that the more we gave, the more God blessed us. We continue to support the Congregation to help them build relationships with more people and deepen our relationship with Jesus.”

In 2019, parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul celebrated the parish’s 175th anniversary. Led by Vincentian priests throughout the generations, their service to vulnerable neighbors has benefited not only the poor, but countless souls like Dave’s, who have grown in the spirit of charity.

“When you wake up with the disposition of, ‘Lord, let me see your face in others and be your face for others,’ you have more compassion for people. I’m grateful to try to live that out every day, aligning myself with what God wants instead of what I want.