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Caterer for Christ cooks for most needy

2019 Ambassador of the Year serves with palatable faith

Craig Henry, a founding member of Legatus’ Lafayette-Acadiana Chapter, was honored as the 2019 Ambassador of the Year at the Legatus Summit East in January.

Henry, 51, runs Holy Trinity Catering, a ministry that serves meals for church groups, civic organizations, the poor, and those who find themselves in need during a disaster.

A married father of three, Henry is also the managing owner of Bradford Food Group, a U.S.-based food distribution company that co-owns multiple bakeries in Mexico. He sits on Legatus’ Board of Governors. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How does it feel to be the 2019 Ambassador of the Year?

It’s a fantastic feeling. I think I’m receiving the award because I’m trying to truly live out the mission statement of Legatus. I’m just trying to be an ambassador for Christ in all areas of my life, especially in the aspect of helping the poor and helping kids stay Catholic, especially high school and college kids. A lot of the work I do with Holy Trinity is tied to keeping folks connected and involved with the Catholic faith.

How did you get into the food business?

I went to work for several national chains right out of high school. I started out with Sonic Drive-In and ended my career with a company called Old Country Buffet.

When did you venture on your own?

I always did a lot of cooking for different charity things, but I was kind of piece-mealing it from the back of my truck. In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, Acadiana [in Louisiana] was home to many of those who were evacuated or displaced. I was approached by Catholic Charities to help coordinate and feed some of those evacuees. I rounded up a bunch of volunteer help, and we ended up serving 600 to 700 people. The love and appreciation we were shown brought me pure joy. That’s when I realized I needed to be more organized.

What is the mission of Holy Trinity Catering?

To keep people focused on what Christ has called us to be and do. Cajun people are known for their culture and their food, and it’s a good way to bridge the gap and brings folks together. I cook traditional Cajun food. Many are dishes my grandmother cooked for our family. I even came up with a little slogan: “Made with faith and seasoned with love.”

Where does your strong Catholic faith come from?

I attribute it to my late grandmother, my dad’s mom. She and my grandfather were the epitome of the Catholic faith. I grew up in a very small town. They were the keepers of the little mission church in town. It wasn’t uncommon for me to walk into her house to see her sitting at the table praying the rosary. I didn’t understand her dedication to the rosary as a younger guy. Once I joined Legatus, I was on a Men’s Enclave with Tom Monaghan and others. Tom challenged me to say a rosary every day for the rest of my life. I made that commitment, and now I understand why my grandmother was so faithful to it.

How has Legatus impacted your spiritual life?

We attended the Legatus Summit in 2014, where I had a life-changing moment in Confession. It reignited my faith like nothing else. Legatus does so much in helping you be secure with what your faith is and how to live it. It gives you so many tools and opportunities to grow. Our circle of friends is all tied back to the Church because of our commitment to Legatus.

Craig Henry truly personifies the mission of Legatus through all aspects of his life and example. He is exemplary of the role the New Evangelization plays in the Church, as evidenced through his Legatus experience and transformation that resulted in his embrace of the faith. He has become the Ambassador of Christ in the marketplace that we all strive to be.

Finding out ‘what’s up’ with millennials

Pete Burak, 31, is the director of i.d.9:16, a young-adult Catholic outreach initiative of Renewal Ministries. Burak, a 2010 graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, has a master’s degree in theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He is a frequent speaker on discipleship, evangelization, and young-adult topics. Burke, a married father of four children, will be speaking at the 2020 Legatus Summit, and recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

 What will you be speaking on at the Legatus Summit?

The focus of my talk will be how do we understand, encounter, and engage the next generations, millennials more specifically. Looking at the state of the Church in the culture, there’s no question about the unprecedented decline in religious affiliation in my generation and below, particularly in the Catholic Church. So my talk will be a hopeful analysis of what we’re up against, the challenges, but also some practical, personal and Spirit-filled strategies for starting to do something about that and helping this generation meet Jesus, fall in love with Him, and get to the point of sharing Him with others.

Why are millennials so skeptical of organized religion?

I think some of it has to do with age. Being a young adult is a time of questioning and beginning to really think for yourself and consider why I believe what I believe. If those questions don’t come with strong, compelling, life-giving answers, it’s easier to walk away.

I also don’t think you can underestimate the effect of the scandals, the moral erosion that has happened within the Church structure herself. My generation has a deep sensitivity about authenticity. When we look at the Church and see significant levels of hypocrisy or perceived hypocrisy, moral decay, terrible decision making, poor leadership and cover-ups, that doesn’t present a compelling image of something we would want to be a part of.

What drew you to young adult ministry?

 I was raised in a strong Catholic family, from a very early age I knew God was real and He loved me. That was a fundamental reality in my life, that I just knew Jesus was alive and I had a relationship with Him. What became clear as I was discerning what the Lord had for me in terms of vocation and career, the thing that most energized me was the idea of helping people meet Jesus and fall in love with Him.

 Why did you name your outreach ministry i.d.9:16? 

ID stands for our identity, which is to be intentional disciples of Jesus Christ, and 9:16 comes from 1 Corinthians 9:16, where St. Paul is basically saying, “If I preach the Gospel this gives me no grounds for boasting. Woe to me if I do not preach it.” We’re trying to emphasize that our identity is not only to live a life of personal holiness, but to go out and bring the Gospel to others.

What are some key ingredients to a successful young adult outreach?

I’d say building something that looks more like an extended family as opposed to a group or an event. It doesn’t mean you don’t have some of those components in whatever you build, but as best as possible you try to invite people into a common rhyme of life together where there are both structured and organic elements to our lives. Also, creating an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is both welcomed and encouraged, and infused with everything we’re doing.

 How can we break down barriers between millennials and older generations?

One of the best ways to defuse some of these things is genuine conversation and understanding, where if the older generations could pause a little bit and listen a little bit more to what millennials are actually saying, and millennials could pause for a minute and listen a little bit more to what elders are actually saying. Millennials would feel that they are heard, and then could humble themselves a little bit more to hear what the older generations are saying. If that happened, I think there would be a little more harmony there.

Former transgendered ‘woman’ turned to Christ; reverted back to manhood

For eight years, Walter Heyer lived as a woman.

“The seed was planted the second my grandmother saw my interest in cross-dressing and put me in a purple chiffon dress when I was four years old. That’s where the gender dysphoria began to grow,” said Heyer, who was a married, successful businessman when he underwent cosmetic surgery to alter his sex at age 42.

But surgery and hormone treatment failed to address his underlying psychological issues. After undergoing therapy and turning his life to Christ, Heyer said he learned to accept his true identity as a man.

Now 78 and married to his second wife for 22 years, Heyer today is an author and public speaker. His new book, Trans Life Survivors, tells the stories of 30 people who reflect on the consequences of their gender transitions. Heyer will speak at the 2020 Legatus Summit.

What will you speak about at the Legatus Summit?

I’m going to be talking about the truth of transgender identities, gender dysphoria, diagnosing children and adults, what that is all about, and what the consequences are. I’m calling the talk, “Reclaiming the truth about gender identity.”

What do you think of the growing acceptance of transgenderism?

 The culture has been led to believe that people are becoming transgender when the truth is, the word “transgender” is an umbrella term for a group of people who behave in a way where they exhibit a cross-gender identity. There are drag queens, cross dressers, transvestites, people with transvestic fetishes and those who have autogynephilia, a condition where a man will dress up, look at himself in the mirror as a female, and the female he sees in the mirror becomes the object of his sexual affection. Then you have another group of people who suffer from body dysmorphia, dissociative disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. The term “transgender” doesn’t tell you anything except that the person puts on the opposite gender clothing. Why they behave that way is a bit more complicated.

How did your grandmother “plant the seed” for your own gender confusion?

By her affirming me and going gaga over how cute I looked as a little girl, she restructured the way I thought about myself. That is where the destruction comes, in affirming someone in a cross-gender identity and why I’m totally against affirming anyone in a transgender identity. I call it child abuse.

What do you think of modern gender theory which holds that gender is not fixed at birth?

People don’t actually change gender. It’s really an elaborate masquerade, childlike behavior where people themselves are acting out the behavior of a different gender, but they’re really not. Biologically, they’re still the same. There are deep emotional and psychological issues that, with proper psychotherapy, a person can work through without going through a gender change.

Pope Francis has spoken out against gender theory, which he has called a “global war” against the family. What do you think?

He’s right in that it’s a social contagion. If we put this into a context where we’re talking about kids, we know kids go through identity issues in many different ways over a period of time. We’re now in a cycle where this social contagion of transgenderism is taking place, but it’s really young individuals who are opting for this. These are usually people who aren’t really good at social adaptability and this is sort of an instant way for them to steal the attention that they don’t get or wouldn’t have gotten as who they really are.

What is your new book about?

I’ve had emails come to me from hundreds of people asking for help. In the book, I’ve taken some of their stories and changed the names and locations to allow them to share with the mass population what’s really underlying this whole issue. The book also has my latest research and goes into why transgender ideology is destructive and why it’s not what the Lord wants for us.

Summit speakers reveal how families can restore culture


The January 2020 Legatus East Summit is set to feature renowned chastity speakers Jason and Crystalina Evert as masters of ceremonies. Each is also expected to deliver an individual chastity talk.

Jason and Crystalina Evert – who have been married for 15 years and have seven children – have spoken about the virtue of chastity on six continents, to more than one million people. They have also co-written more than 15 books

Currently living in Arizona, they have also co-founded the Chastity Project and operate the website chastity. com. Jason recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

What are your talks going to be about at the 2020 Legatus Summit? 

G.K. Chesterton once said that the family is a cell of resistance to oppression. God wanted to bring redemption into the world through the Holy Family. God wants to continue to restore culture and heal culture by means of the family. We’re going to address how much the family is under attack and how big a crisis we’re seeing in the culture, in the Church, and in the family, and how Legatus members can bring renewal to the Church primarily through their families.

What are your thoughts about Legatus?

I think Legatus s is a crucial ministry within the Church. It’s a real gift to see how people can take their spirituality and bring it into a secular setting, not to proselytize their employees but to be a leaven in the world. I’ve been impressed with the Legates I’ve met, their interior life, and how seriously they take their Catholic faith.

How did you get into chastity speaking?

When I was in college at Franciscan University of Steubenville, I led many high school retreats and became aware of the struggles that young people were having there. I also did three years of crisis pregnancy counseling where I was in front of an abortion clinic, talking to women about other alternatives to abortion. But when you’re meeting a woman who’s having an abortion in 45 minutes, you start to feel pretty late. Why am I meeting her in front of an abortion clinic? Why can’t I meet her when she’s 15 years old? Because if she can understand chastity and real love then, then she probably would have never dated this guy to begin with, and wouldn’t be in this difficult situation.

After 21 years of chastity speaking, how do you keep the message fresh?

By listening to the young people. After every assembly, I make myself available as long as I can to be with them. I told one school, “Hey, I’ll be here if you have any questions afterwards,” and the students formed a line seven hours long. They would come up and just pour out all the details of their abortions, molestation, cutting, and addictions. They’re my professors. Their hearts are what I’m listening to, and that is why I think the teens relate to me.

Are kids today different than when you started speaking about chastity?

Kids today are up against a lot more. You look at everything from cell phones, Internet porn and sexting, which wasn’t on the radar two decades ago, to the question of gender, which was not something that kids wrestled with to this degree. All the chaos of what it even means to be human wasn’t nearly at the levels that it is today

Are you and Crystalina working on anything new?

We’re going to be releasing a lot more YouTube videos. We’re building a little TV studio in the house. I can’t believe how many kids come up to me and say, “Your talk changed my life.” I’ll ask where they saw the talk, and they’ll say, “YouTube.” From our generation, I don’t know too many people who have had YouTube conversions. But these kids live on their phones. So we’ve got to find effective means to bring them the Gospel where they are.

With a ticket to ride, he wrote the book on how buyers say yes


Joseph Burke, a married father of three, had promised to write a book. To get it done, he jumped on a train and rode up and down the coast of California for nearly four days.

“I had to handcuff myself to the project. All I did was get on a train and write,” said Burke, 51, a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter.

The strategy worked. Burke’s first book, The Anatomy of Yes: The Story Behind Every Sale, released on May 1. The book shares Burke’s insights on the three-act structure that is woven into the story of every human being and company.

In a recent interview with Legatus magazine, Burke, who is also the creator of an award winning indoor children’s ball, discussed those insights and other lessons he’s learned in his years as a top marketing executive.

Why did you write your book on a train?

I had the outline ready. I was talking to my wife, and I said, “I gotta finish this thing.” I had promised a group of people that I would write the book in a year’s time, and I had to pay off that promise. So I took a train up and down the coast of California, going nowhere. I just knew I needed to be on a train with nothing else to do, and handcuffed to the project, and 46 hours later, I’d have the book.

What does it teach businesses about customers?

The basic premise is that there are five stories that have been told in business, no matter what the product or service it is. And that comes from my perspective as a marketing executive at two of Forbes’ 25 Top Most Inspiring Companies in America.

Basically, the human mind is hard-wired to a recurring three-act story, and that story is crisis, conflict, and resolution. It happens in every story, book and film. If companies and business leaders can understand how to look at their customers as heroes in their own quest, they can better understand what the customer needs.

You divide the book into ‘three acts’ – what are they?

Act 1 details “The Five Archetypes.” The second act is about stories, specifically my personal stories in business. In the third act, I basically talk about what people are going to do with their legacy.

What are the “The Five Archetypes.”

Every single human being will go through these five archetypes in their lifetime. In the early part of our lives, we go on the “Quest for Identity,” where we seek to discover who we are. That turns into the archetype called “Dragon and Treasure,” where everyone gets good at something. Then all of a sudden, as we build our skills and our professional career we get hit by something called “The Descent into the Underworld.” It’s a setback, it can be personal or professional, and we don’t see the crisis coming. The next archetype is “The Restoration of the Wasteland,” where we emerge from the abyss with this knowledge we want to share with other people and mentor them. The final archetype is “The Quest for the Holy Grail,” which is our legacy. It’s about what story are we going to write with our lives and what impact are we going to leave on this earth for the people we leave behind.

How did the three acts figure into the invention of Ollyball?

First there is the crisis. About five years ago, my kids were playing inside with a soccer ball. That was a bad idea. There were broken picture frames, lamps, and a knocked-over spaghetti plate that stained our new couch.

We went on a quest to make a ball the kids could play with in the house. We looked at other products that kids could play with in the house. We looked at 100 prototypes at our kitchen table, and eventually we got a patent for Ollyball. The resolution was that we found something that worked, something we loved, something our kids loved, and something other parents loved.

 Ollyball won a 2019 Toy of the Year Award, in the “Rookie of the Year” category.

Brian Burch – 2018 Defender of the Faith

Co-founder of catholicvote.org helps Catholics apply faith to public issues

As the President of CatholicVote.org and a married father to nine children, the youngest being a three-month-old, Brian Burch doesn’t have a lot of time for hobbies.

“Life goes by too quickly. Thankfully as Catholics, we believe there is something after this. Otherwise, it would be very odd,” said Burch, 43, who in 2008 cofounded CatholicVote.org, a nonprofit aimed at presenting a Catholic voice and perspective in the public square.

Burch is also a member of Legatus’ DuPage County Chapter in Illinois. In that capacity, Burch received the 2018 Defender of the Faith Award at the Legatus Summit in January. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How did you feel about being named the 2018 Legatus Defender of the Faith?

I felt both honored and undeserving at the same time, given the caliber and prestige of many of the past recipients. But certainly, I’m grateful for the recognition of the work that, not myself on my own, Catholic Vote has accomplished over the last decade in trying to serve the Church and to help Catholics better understand and apply the teachings of our faith to American public life.

What is CatholicVote.org’s mission?

It’s in the world of public policy and law, which incorporates elections and the virtue of prudence, which is often misunderstood. This is why it’s important that lay people carry out this work. The Church doesn’t have specific blackand-white answers on every political question. It involves certain principles that must be faithfully applied to the greatest extent possible by people of good will seeking the common good.

How would you describe CatholicVote.org’s work in the last ten years?

The longer you are involved in politics, the more you grow to be chastened a bit by the reality of how difficult and how cyclical things sometimes seem to be. At the same time, the fact that the Church, in spite of its extraordinary mistakes and lack of courageous leadership on the part of some, remains a critical and viable voice in the public culture and in the public debate on issues of perennial importance is a testament not necessarily to the work we do, but to the triumph of the truth despite our human condition.

What are some issues you see playing a critical role for Catholic voters in the 2020 elections?

There’s the basket of issues that apply to any election that involves what the Church calls the foundational issues. In any serious moral culture and in an American context, that includes the sanctity of life, the continued efforts to protect the autonomy of religious institutions and persons of conscience, and certainly protections for the traditional understanding of the family.

Of course those issues extend to all sorts of other issues that involve prudence, such as the good of the economy. Increasingly health care will be a prominent issue driving the debate. Immigration will certainly be there. Federal judges have also been cited as an important issue for Catholics.

Mixed up in all those particular policy debates is also the question of what kind of country we hope to become. I think that debate in many ways is playing out in the minds of many Catholics today when they hear some proposals, particularly on the Left, to revolutionize the way we understand our economy, protect the environment, provide medicine, while throwing into doubt the ideas of gender, the family, of traditional institutions such as churches and the role of religion itself.

When did you join Legatus? Has it benefited your spiritual life?

I’ve been a member for about two years. To have an opportunity to pray the rosary, go to Mass, to hear from a fantastic speaker is itself a gift, but the caliber of speakers and the relationships we’ve established with the members of our chapter have really been a wonderful aid in living out our faith in the midst of the chaos of this world.

His Excellency Bishop Edward Scharfenberger – Diocese of Albany

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York is dealing with the fallout of the state legislature’s approval earlier this year of the Reproductive Health Act, a law that increases access to abortion, including those of late-term pregnancy

Bishop Scharfenberger, the chaplain of the soon-tobe-chartered Albany Chapter of Legatus, said he is considering all options available to him in Church law to sanction Catholic politicians who supported the law, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Speaking to Legatus magazine in mid-February, Bishop Scharfengerger also discussed his hopes concerning the Vatican summit on the international clergy sex abuse crisis, which was held Feb. 21- 24 in Rome.

How big a setback to the protection of life is the Reproductive Health Act?

The point I’ve been trying to make publicly is that this is far more than a Catholic issue. People see the protection of life in its most vulnerable form as something so essential to the foundation of any civilized society. We warned of the consequences of this act, and people are already beginning to see them. I think it’s a marvel to see the law being exposed so quickly for what it really is.

Are you considering sanctioning Catholic politicians who supported that law, including Gov. Cuomo?

I don’t discuss publicly the way I am dealing with the politicians on a personal basis. The reason I don’t is because my concern is to actually change their hearts and to move them so they see the gravity of what they are involved in.

As far as any sanctions, I have left all doors open. I have not said I would exclude any sanction whatsoever, but before imposing any sanction I need to identify what the crime is, for which a sanction would be given. I know it’s my responsibility to make that investigation. You can be sure I’m doing what I need to do, and what I feel both the law and my conscience direct me to do. I’ll follow where the facts play out, and then I’ll decide accordingly as time goes on.

What are your hopes for the abuse summit in Rome?

Naturally, I would hope that out of the summit, some of the very positive suggestions that have been advanced from our part of the world and others to establish the proper codes of accountability are considered. There has to be accountability. The hope of the bishops conference certainly would be all of the bishops consenting and the Holy See approving, that those codes would be developed in all dioceses. I’m doing that anyway. I haven’t waited for the conference or the meeting at the Vatican to determine that.

If nothing else, I hope what comes out of the meeting is a clear awareness and statement or some form of public accountability by the Holy See that this is an international problem. To put it another way, the protection of young people and vulnerable adults is something that must be part of our law. There need to be clear procedures as to how we do this and clear expectations as to what codes of behavior need to be followed.

What do the bishops need to do to rebuild the trust of the faithful?

The only trust we have is in preaching and living the Gospel, the truth of the presence of Christ, which includes the sinfulness of humanity, our own weaknesses, our own failures and our need to turn to the only one who can save us from them, which is Jesus Christ.

We recognize that people in power, including bishops, are not always the most morally outstanding people. Bishops must be held to higher standards, certainly in terms of virtue, but their ability and their obligation to fulfill their office does not change by the status of their own holiness. You could go to a priest who is the town drunk and he can still absolve you of your sin.

Steve Cameron – 2018 President of the Year

Steve Cameron, a Chicago native, knew he wanted to move to California the first time he visited the Golden State on a business trip.

“I flew in to San Diego, then drove up the coast to Newport Beach, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the ocean on the left and the mountains on the right. This is absolutely beautiful. I’m moving here.’”

Cameron, 58, established himself in Southern California, becoming a successful real estate developer. He is the president and CEO of Foremost Communities, a land investment and development enterprise based in Newport Beach.

Cameron is also president of Legatus’ San Juan Capistrano Chapter, which has developed a distinct missionary approach to seeking out and welcoming prospective members. For his leadership of the Chapter, Cameron was recently named the 2018 Legatus President of the Year. He spoke with Legatus magazine.

How does it feel to be named the 2018 Legatus President of the Year?

I think it’s really more a recognition of the great job by our board, and by Ty Soto, the West Region director for Legatus, and our chapter administrator, Breanna Molinaro. I’m just fortunate to be the captain of a really great team of people who have pulled together to revitalize our Chapter.

How has the San Juan Capistrano Chapter been revitalized?

We’ve gone from having six to eight people attending Mass to now having about 30 to 40. We have real vitality in the Chapter and now we’ve seen a lot of growth. We did a few things last year to shake things up a bit. We used to have our meetings in different places like rec centers and hotels. Since we’re the San Juan Capistrano Chapter and we have this beautiful mission basilica that was built in the 1700s, we were able to work with the mission staff to be able to say the rosary and celebrate Mass there.

We also changed up the music. We went back to traditional music that we grew up singing and we all recognize. We brought in a really good professional tenor cantor. The whole beauty of the Mass is just elevated through the music.

How do you approach your role as a Legatus Chapter president?

I really view our chapter as a missionary, evangelical outreach to South Orange County. We try to be a very inclusive organization. With that outlook, you stop looking at how much cash you have on the balance sheet. You figure God is going to direct people to us, and our job is to accept them and help them become part of this because we have a lot to offer.

How long have you been a member of Legatus?

For about five years, and I’ve really enjoyed it. My faith has grown and I’ve met a lot of really good people, and many interesting speakers, which has piqued my interest to explore a variety of topics that I otherwise would not have.

Are you a cradle Catholic or convert?

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. My wife Suzanne is a cradle Catholic. We were married in the Catholic Church and I agreed to raise our children Catholic. After being married for 10 years and going to Mass every Sunday with Suzanne, I started going to an RCIA class. It wasn’t easy for me. I think I went to four RCIA classes and on my fifth one, I made the decision to convert.

How does the Catholic faith affect the way you conduct your business?

It brings a real sense of perspective to what matters. While business is important, and I need to do a good job to provide for my family, it’s not the most important thing and it’s not the only thing.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I have five children, two in college, two in high school and an eighth-grader, so I’m not big into hobbies right now. I’m also chairman of the board of JSerra Catholic High School, and I’m on board of Father [Robert] Spitzer’s Magis Center. Between work, my family, JSerra, and the Magis Center, that about takes up all the time I have.

George Esseff, Sr. – 2018 Ambassador of the Year

George Esseff, Sr., Estimates he had probably heard the story of the rich young man and Jesus Christ “more than a hundred times” when he and his family went to Mass one Sunday morning in the early 1980s.

But on that particular Sunday, the Gospel passage struck a chord. It motivated Esseff, then a successful and wealthy Titanium entrepreneur, to divest himself of his wealth and devote his time and resources to alleviating poverty and suffering around the world.

Since its founding almost 40 years ago, the Esseff Foundation has provided money and resources to individuals and organizations across the globe who assist and house the homeless, feed and clothe the poor, and provide medical care to those in need.

Today, Esseff, 89, a lifelong practicing Catholic, continues to be active in his foundation and in his faith. He is a member of Legatus’ Ventura-LA North Chapter in California. Esseff and Rosemary, his wife of 66 years, together had four children, one of whom is Deacon George Esseff, Jr., who presented his father with the 2018 Ambassador of the Year

Award at the Legatus Summit in January. In a recent interview with Legatus magazine, the elder Esseff spoke of that honor as well as his unique spiritual journey

What was a turning point in your life?

It was 1984. I had a change of heart after I heard the gospel about the rich man having a hard time getting to heaven. Here we were with four homes. I had a Rolls Royce, an airplane, a sport fishing boat in Hawaii. I had everything a man could have, and I decided to turn it all in. I had started the foundation a few years before, so I ended up putting everything I had into it. It took me about 10 years to liquidate everything.

What kind of work has the Esseff Foundation done?

We’ve done stuff from Vietnam to Haiti, Africa, Ukraine, and elsewhere. In the Philippines, I helped a Salesian priest establish a business for the poor in Manilla. I brought 10 nuns from Vietnam to St. Louis, and supported them for a couple of years until they got on their feet. We started a microbank in Uganda, and helped the people built a town with a school, a bank, a dispensary. In Haiti, we got involved with the Salesians who built a home for street boys.

Where does your passion for the corporal works of mercy come from?

I attribute that to my grandfather, who probably never made more than $5 or $7 a day in his life. During the Depression, he would collect rags and scrap in the winter time, and in the summertime he’d sell vegetables from a horse and wagon. Every Tuesday, he would save every dime he collected and put the money into a jar. On Fridays, he would buy and deliver seven or eight bags of groceries to widows and people who were very poor. I’d be sitting next to him on the wagon as he would be making his deliveries. That was the kind of education in the faith I received.

Has the Catholic faith long been an important part of your life?

I would say so. I’ve gone to Mass probably almost every day of my life, from my youngest days in Catholic school through college. In my business, I tried to go to Mass anyplace I ever traveled.

How does it feel to be named the 2018 Legatus Ambassador of the Year?

I am really aghast. I’m sure they could have found a lot more guys better than me to honor, but I really do appreciate it. It’s quite an honor.

How do you try to be an ambassador for Christ in your everyday life?

By trying to be a good example to my children, my family, and in my prayer life. I’m also pretty active in the Church. I’ve gotten involved with rosary makers in our parish. We make about 100 rosaries a week that we send to the missions.

Dan Cellucci – 2019 Summit speaker


Dan Cellucci, 36, is the CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute, an apostolate that provides leadership training and consulting to more than 250 bishops, as well as thousands of priests, deacons, religious, and lay leaders across the country

Under Cellucci’s leadership, the Catholic Leadership Institute has embarked on an ambitious plan to define what the “Next Generation Parish” will look like in the next 10 years. Legatus magazine recently interviewed Cellucci, who will speak at the 2019 Legatus Summit.

What will you be speaking about at the Summit?

I’ll be speaking on the truth about where we are as a Church, as well as the research that we’ve been doing the last six years on parish life in the United States. We’ve surveyed over 100,000 parishioners in North America, so we have a really robust data set on what’s going on in our parishes and our Church.

What are some insights you will be sharing?

What we find and what we’re trying to help leaders recognize and respond to is that even with the people we are blessed to have in the pews, we have a lot of work to do to help them understand the truth, beauty, and goodness of the faith. They may be coming to church, but our research would show that they don’t necessarily know why.

Another insight I’ll be speaking to is just how important our leaders are and the effect that one pastor can have on a parish. Intuitively, I’m sure Legatus members know that, but statistically we have evidence to support that.

What is the Catholic Leadership Institute?

We are an apostolate that walks alongside our bishops, priests, and lay leaders in their challenges of leadership, whether that’s through training we provide, tools they can use, or even getting in the trenches with them and helping them execute a project or a strategy they want to implement. Our job is to really just equip them and inspire them to be who God called them to be.

What is going on with the Next Generation Parish project?

What we’re doing right now is basically picking 50 parishes in the United States to just invest everything we can into the leadership there, to walk alongside them and to see how much we can move the needle from a growth standpoint. We want to make sure that we’re not only providing relevant metrics for our priests, but that we’re also supporting them and doing something about it.

What is your message for Church leaders during this time of crisis and scandal?

I think the best advice is that of Pope Saint John Paul II, who said, “Be not afraid.” I think the crisis that we face is one of authenticity and courage more than anything else. All of us, certainly our bishops and priests, but all of us, are called to be courageous in this moment and to recognize it as a real opportunity for renewal, not to think that we can’t evangelize in this moment, because I actually believe this is the best moment to evangelize.

What have your previous interactions been like with Legatus?

I’ve been blessed to be a frequent presenter and guest at various chapters around the country. I always appreciate not only the caliber of speakers that Legatus attracts, but also just the caliber of conversation among chapters and really just the insightful questions as well as the degree of commitment that I see from Legatus members in their local Church. If there is one thing our research would say it is that that type of leadership on the part of lay men and women, like the men and women of Legatus, is absolutely essential to a vibrant Church.