Fr. Pacificus Von Essen, SA – Franciscan Friar of the Atonement
(July 5, 1926 – January 27, 2019)
(February 6, 2019 – Graymoor, Garrison, NY) Rev. Pacificus (nee Edward Anthony) Von Essen, SA, a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement, passed from this life on Sunday, January 27, 2019 at Fujisawa Shonandai Hospital, Japan. A wake service was held on February 1, 2019 at 6 p.m. at St. Joseph Church, Tsurumi, Yokohama. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on February 2, 2019 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Joseph Church.
Fr. Von Essen was born on July 5, 1926 in Brooklyn, NY. He attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School in Cypress Hills, NY and high school at St. John’s Seminary in Garrison, NY, from which he graduated in 1946. He attended Catholic University in Washington, DC and received a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Theology in 1951. Fr. Von Essen earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Catholic University in 1955.
Fr. Von Essen entered the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in 1942 and received the habit upon his graduation from the Seminary in 1946. He professed first vows in 1947 and made his final vows in 1950. Fr. Von Essen was ordained to the priesthood at Graymoor by Francis Cardinal Spellman in 1953.
Fr. Von Essen worked as a teacher and librarian at St. John Seminary in Montour Falls from 1953-1955 before being assigned to the Friars’ nascent mission in Yokohama, Japan in 1955. He spent his entire life ministering in the country with profound love and respect for the Japanese people. While completing two years of language study, Fr. Von Essen served as Postulant Director from 1955-1957 before being appointed Pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Hakone from 1957-1962. From 1963-1973, he was the Assistant Region Superior at Our Lady of the Atonement Friary in Tsurumi before assuming the role of Region Superior from 1973-1975. Fr. Von Essen served as Pastor of St. Theresa Parish, Shinkoyasu from 1976-1981. He became Pastor of St. Joseph Church, Tsurumi and Guardian of Our Lady of the Atonement Friary in 1981 and held those positions until 1987.
Following a one-year sabbatical in the U.S. in 1987, Fr. Von Essen returned to Japan and was assigned as Pastor of St. Clare Church in Kaizuka, Kawasa from 1988-1995. During that time, he also served as Principal of St. Clare Kindergarten from 1992-1995. He retired from full-time ministry in 1995 but continued to serve as Friary Guardian (1995-1996) and Region Councilor (2007-2011). Fr. Von Essen was a resident of Cross Heart Shonandai nursing home at the time of his death.
Fr. Von Essen was the son of the late Anthony E. Von Essen and Sophie E. Chmieleski Von Essen, both of Brooklyn, NY. He is survived by his brother, Rev. Peter Von Essen, OFM Cap., a missionary in Japan, and his sister, Mary Ann Leland of Cincinnati, OH. He was predeceased in death by his brothers Henry Von Essen and Allen Von Essen.