Father Michael Esswein, aka Father Mike, felt the Holy Spirit pulling and nudging him into the priesthood as early as Kindergarten. Growing up and knowing a number of older relatives who were priests and religious sisters, he thought the religious life was nothing unusual and he had moments where these relatives impressed him as living lives that were pretty cool. He then starred as a priest in a second grade play at St. Stephen Protomartyr in South St. Louis and at once was sold on the idea.
His first two years of high school at Prep South weren’t so great, and he seriously doubted his desire to become a priest. But the Holy Spirit had bigger plans. When Prep North closed and merged with his high school (what is now the building of the Shrewsbury Civic Center) for his junior and senior years, he connected with the priests that joined the new, combined faculty. In particular, Father George Lucas, who taught history, influenced his vocation. “The priests there were happy and joyful. Father Lucas was authentic. He took people for who they were. He was living the priesthood, and that’s when it all connected for me.”
Through seminary, discerning how he wanted to serve God, he pictured himself serving as a diocesan priest and the people of the Church. An automobile accident his senior year of college left him paralyzed. He recalls the first thought he had when the accident happened, and he knew he was paralyzed, was whether or not he could still be a priest. He and the Church discovered that it was possible and he was ordained with his class five years later in 1998.
A typical “Father Mike” day entails rising at 5:30 a.m. He prays and prepares for 8 a.m. Mass. When Holy Cross Academy is in session, he will spend some time with the students, and may meet with school administrators and the priests of the other Holy Cross parishes. He often joins the students in the cafeteria for lunch and sees them off at dismissal.
He’ll visit parishioners in the hospital, and prepare for weddings and funerals. Hearing confessions and meeting with parishioners who want to talk round out some days. Evenings include being with the students of PSR on Wednesdays, and may entail meeting with parish council, the finance committee or one of the numerous parish volunteer and social organizations. He finds some free time on Sunday and tries to have dinner with his parents.
“My day is never the same. I love what I’m doing and can’t imagine not being a priest.”
Father Mike most enjoys being with people, feeling blessed to become a part of many families during good and bad times. He also counts his blessings for a strong family, growing up in South City as one of seven children. They were close as youngsters and remain so today, having baptized 14 of his 16 nieces and nephews, one of whose wedding he’ll preside over next May.
“We are each other’s best friends.”
Ordained in 1998, Fr. Mike's first assignment was associate pastor at St. Clare of Assisi in Ellisville. From 2005 to mid-June 2015 he served as associate pastor at St. Peter in Kirkwood. He has served as pastor at Annunciation since June 2015.