Fr. John Essel Comes to Ste. Anne’s
Reverend Father John Christian Essel arrived on Mackinac Island January 3 to begin his new assignment as associate pastor at Ste. Anne’s Church on Mackinac Island, St. Ignatius Loyola in St. Ignace, and Immaculate Conception at Moran.
This is Reverend Essel’s first assignment in America. He was born in 1959 in Gomoa Fetteh in the central region of Ghana, Africa, and has lived and served his entire life in Ghana. At the age of 10, he left home to live with his aunt in Apam, Ghana, a bigger city that offered better educational opportunities. It was in Apam that Rev. Essel was introduced to the Catholic Church. He was baptized in 1970 and confirmed in 1971. Soon after, Rev. Essel says, his dedication and commitment to the church grew.
“I began to be more interested in the church and its activities,” he said.
His pastor in Apam took special interest in him and asked his aunt to allow him to stay in the rectory. Living with the priest helped Rev. Essel to grow in his faith and discern what to do with his future. He soon decided he wanted to pursue a calling to the priesthood.
He made his intentions known to the priest and his aunt. After completing his basic education, he wrote the entrance exam to the minor seminary. In October 1976, at the age of 17, Rev. Essel entered St. Teresa’s Minor Seminary in Amino, Elmina, also in Ghana. He completed minor seminary in 1983 and entered St. Peter’s Regional Seminary in Pedu, Cape Coast, in central Ghana. There he studied two years of philosophy and four years of theology. He was ordained to Catholic priesthood for the Archdiocese of Cape Coast in 1989.
From 1989 to 2005, Rev. Essel served in the parishes of Cape Coast. In 2005, he was sent on mission to the northern region of Ghana to assist with a newly created Diocese of Yendi. He served in Yendi for nine years, and then returned to Cape Coast. In November 2016, Rev. Essel and a colleague, Reverend Augustine Essel (no relation), came to the Upper Peninsula to serve in the Diocese of Marquette. After orientation, Father Augustine was assigned to Escanaba, while Father John Christian was assigned to St. Ignace, Moran, and Mackinac Island. He will reside in the rectory of Ste. Anne’s Church on the Island.
Rev. Essel’s duties will be to assist Father Frank Ricca in all of the pastoral duties of the three parishes. Because he will reside on the Island, he will be available to parishioners for home visits and pastoral care. Deacon Tom McClelland of St. Ignace said that having Rev. Essel on the Island makes it easier to provide the necessary pastoral care.
“Father John will, in a very real way, be able to pastor those on the Island,” he said.
“My role is to help people spiritually, physically, and materially,” said Rev. Essel.
Rev. Essel replaces Father Edward Baafi, who was assigned to pastor the three parishes of Rudyard, Brimley, and Trout Lake. Father Edward was also from Ghana. Deacon McClelland said that Ghana has an abundance of priests and that many are essentially sent to America as missionaries.
“His complete role is still to be determined, and I’m interested to see the different ways in which Father John will serve,” said Deacon McClelland.
Deacon McClelland familiarized Rev. Essel to the area and his new home.
“I’m enjoying my time with Father John. He is very intelligent and very well studied. I think he will be a great pastor to the people,” he said.
Rev. Essel is enjoying his time in America and is looking forward to connecting with people in the community.
“My aim of being here is to join the bishop, priests, and the lay faithful to continue building the kingdom of God, and retain and win souls to Jesus Christ by proclaiming the message of salvation and administering the sacraments,” he said. “I want to be with people, get to know them, learn from them, and use my experience in the priesthood and in life to support, counsel, and build them spiritually. In doing so, I will build my own spiritual life. I want only to build upon what our predecessors have done for many years.”