Leaven Blog

An act of kindness

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

I believe any time you take the opportunity to extend kindness; you open a door for God to walk through.

This week, 25 descendents of the family of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne are coming from France to Kansas.

The pilgrimage will celebrate the bicentennial of Saint Philippine’s journey from France to Kansasas a missionary Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart, an order that ministered to the members of the Potowatomi Tribe in Sugar Creek. 

A story about the pilgrimage will be in The Leaven soon, but there’s some interesting background to how it all came about.

More than a year ago, I was out shopping and ran into Sheila Berry, a fellow parishioner at Holy Trinity in Lenexa.

Sheila is the daughter of Bob and Esther White, who owned the famous White Haven Motor Lodge in Overland Park, Kansas.

Bob White also headed thecommittee to build St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park in 1988, the year the saint was canonized.

The White family helped build the park memorials and monuments commemorating Saint Philippine’s work with the Potawatomi Tribe there.

When I saw Sheila that day, I stopped briefly to say hello and she told me she was getting ready for her mother’s 85thbirthday party; it was to be a big celebration and family reunion.

I knew Sheila’s father was recently deceased and the White Haven had permanently closed. She also told me her mother was in poor health, and she feared it might be her last birthday.

On a whim, I asked Sheila if she would like me to photograph the birthday party, and she gladly accepted.

It was a little moment of kindness in a shopping-center parking lot. But I know now that it opened the door for God’s work.

That next weekend I photograph the party, and I was so charmed by Esther White that I was inspired to write a blog about her for The Leaven website.

The family was delighted with the photographs and the blog recognizing their mother.

One month after the blog was published, Esther died.

I felt like God had used me to bring this family a nice memory and I was so happy I had offered to take photographs and had written the blog.

But God had bigger plans, as he so often does.

A year after the blog was published; I received an email from a gentleman in Washington D.C., Pierre Oury, which began, “I found your name online from a blog you wrote about Esther White…”

Pierre wrote that a group of descendents from the family of Saint Philippine Duchesne wanted to make a pilgrimage to her memorial park in Kansas.

A similar pilgrimage had taken place 30 years ago on the anniversary of her canonization.

At that time, the pilgrims were hosted by Bob and Esther White at their motor lodge and they were greatly impressed with the hospitality and deep Catholic faith of the White family.

Pierre hoped this new group of pilgrims could repeat the experience with the Whites and was trying to reach out to the family.

The only link to them he could find on the internet was my blog about Esther.

I replied to Pierre telling him the sad news that Bob and Esther were deceased and the motor lodge no longer existed.

But I told him I could put him in touch with the Whites’ daughter, Sheila, and I did.

After months of planning between Pierre and Sheila, the pilgrims will finally arrive from France this week.

They’ll visit Sacred Heart Church in Mound City and tour St. Philippine Duchesne Park. They’ll attend a dinner hosted by Sheila and her brother Rob.

It will be an amazing visit and I’m glad I could be a little part of its coming about. I’m also grateful to be reporting on it.

Keep an eye on The Leaven for the rest of the story.

And remember that any act of kindness can open a door for God’s work.

Even a small act can have big results because God’s goodness is always greater than yours.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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1 Comment

  • amazing ! Wonderful for us who are so lucky to be these pilgrims
    Thanks to Sheila, Pierre and Jill ! and an act of kindness of Aunty Holy Philippine Duchesne