Leaven Blog

Saints alive


by Todd Habiger

This summer, while covering a story for The Leaven, I was part of an entourage, and it was kind of surreal.

I wasn’t hanging with Brad and Angelina or Beyonce and Jay Z. No, I was hanging with Francis and Helen.


Francis and Helen. You might remember them as the couple from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Onaga who make large rosaries. See that story by clicking here.

I had just finished interviewing the couple when Francis invited me for lunch in nearby Centralia. Now Francis is a guy you just can’t say “no” to. He is such a fascinating and engaging person that “no” is not an option.

So we piled into my van with Father Mariadas Sessetti, MSFS, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, and headed to nearby Centralia.

One thing I didn’t put in my article was that years before he and Helen made rosaries, Francis made small Marian grottos that he would just give to people out of the kindness of his heart. During the trek to Centralia, Francis proudly pointed out houses that still had his grottos in the yard. He must of pointed out a dozen houses along the way.

When we arrived in Centralia to eat at a local restaurant, Francis and Helen had no sooner hit the sidewalk than a teenage girl came bursting out of the restaurant to give warm hugs to both of them. She was soon followed by three other teenage girls who surrounded the couple, showering them with hugs.

Once we got inside the restaurant, it took awhile to be seated because all the restaurant employees had to greet the couple with handshakes and hugs, followed by most of the patrons.

Once seated, I asked Helen if the girls on the sidewalk were grandchildren.

She said, “Oh no. Just kids we know from church.”

I was in shock. The only thing I had seen that resembled the reaction the couple received was celebrities, being mobbed by fans, or close family getting together after being apart for a long time.

This was neither. This was respect of the highest order.

Francis and Helen had touched people’s hearts through their faith. And people loved them for that. Whether it was making rosaries, grottos, attending daily adoration or leading the rosary at St. Vincent de Paul, Francis and Helen had modeled faith.

Some people are loved because they’re excellent actors or athletes. This couple was loved because they are excellent Catholics.

How cool is that?

About the author

Todd Habiger

Todd has been the production manager for The Leaven since 1995. Under his direction The Leaven has won multiple design awards from the Catholic Press Association. Prior to working at The Leaven, Todd was an award-winning writer for The Catholic Key newspaper in Kansas City, Mo. Todd is married to Lori Wood Habiger, a former Leaven employee herself. They have two children — Paige and Connor, and one dog — Joli.

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