By: Bill Skowronski, Director of Communication and Marketing
Frank Esposito lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. The nearest Dominican Central Province ministry is St. Paul’s Catholic Center at Indiana University, more than 50 miles away, in Bloomington. So, how is it that he and his wife, Valerie, are raising their five children in a Dominican family? And why?
After graduating from Marquette University with degrees in Economics and Philosophy, Esposito attended Northwestern University’s Business School, and eventually moved to Indianapolis in 2002.
When he was younger, Esposito never distinguished between Fenwick, the high school he attended outside Chicago, and the Dominican Friars. He thought they were one and the same because recruiters from Providence College would visit and several of his most influential models were Friars: Fr. Walter O’Connell, O.P., Fr. John Gambro, O.P., Fr. Michael Mascari, O.P., and Fr. Rick Peddicord, O.P.
Having been raised by a single mother, Esposito credits the Dominicans on staff at Fenwick for forming him, educating him, and challenging him to become the man he is today.
“When it comes to actualizing my potential and believing in what I could do, I was pushed really hard. That all happened at Fenwick,” Esposito said. “The Theology got me thinking. It gave me a really good base and it made me really like my Philosophy courses at Marquette.”
Theology was required at Marquette, as it was at Fenwick. It forced Esposito to see his faith through a particularly intellectual lens.
“I remember the heavy philosophy and deeper theology,” Esposito said. “I remember the Dominicans taking the readings and doing an exegesis of them, saying, here’s how these three things work together. Here’s what was happening in the culture at the time. Here’s what these words meant in the language in which they were written versus how we think of them today.”
Esposito argues that it isn’t necessary to create some interesting subtext to the Scripture. He thinks there is more than enough to talk about simply by diving deeply into the theology. And that is the attitude he brought with him to Indianapolis, where he found the Catholic Church to be more evangelical than in many places.
Even without a strong Dominican ministry present, Esposito built good relationships and joined groups within local churches to form ministries. He and Valerie went on formation retreats, and met other parents with young children, all seeking an opportunity to dive deeper into their faith. It seems the ideal model was already in action to the north in a group spearheaded by Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P. and John and Angela Bursch, in Michigan.
“We don’t have a Dominican community, but we still have community,” Esposito said. “We started by getting families together in these basic Christian communities (like the Bursches). We’d get four families together for dinner, prayer, and discussion.
“I think the real upside of the Dominican Family movement will be partnering with groups of people, taking great theology and using it to address practical issues that have significant theological implications on our lives,” he added.
Esposito notes a significant difference in the way Evangelical Christian churches draw massive, growing numbers as opposed to the Roman Catholic Church.
“Non-denominational Christian churches are getting people to turn out, and a lot of that has to do with the preaching,” Esposito said. “If we can leverage this long history of St. Dominic, ordained by God to be preachers, and help the preachers be better preachers, hopefully, we can evangelize more. That’s the big picture and I believe in that.”
This big picture approach to reformed preaching by way of Catholic Dominican influence brought Esposito back to his Fenwick roots, which led to conversations involving additional ways to support Dominican education in the Central Province.
“Look at the education that goes into preaching,” Esposito said. “Aquinas Institute of Theology (in St. Louis, MO) is not only educating the Dominicans themselves, but also the lay people who are working in other areas at a time when education is becoming less accessible. Instead of forcing people to come to a brick and mortar building at an inconvenient time and pay a lot of money, Aquinas Institute is doing a lot to leverage technology, making the barriers to entry low, and making courses as inexpensive and as convenient as possible, so you can learn as much as possible. I think that model is the future of education.”
As much as anything, Esposito feels compelled to share the impact Dominicans have had on his life. Today, two decades after graduating from Fenwick High School, he’s still interested in pursuing ways to preserve that quality of education and preaching for his own children.
“Our primary vocation is making sure our children are well-formed. I’m just trying to trust what God wants me to do and follow it,” Esposito said. “I just felt that I’ve been given so much, I want to give back and keep that cycle going,” Esposito said. “It’s a gift. What better way to be a good steward than to provide opportunities for other people.”