Fr. Frank Wittouck, SCJ, is preparing to retire from his ministry as chaplain to Magnificat Houses, a faith-based, multifaceted organization that provides shelter, meals and other support to the homeless, hungry and mentally ill in Houston. The following is from a feature done on him in the Winter 2020 edition of the organization’s newsletter, The Magnifier (editor: Casey Kelly):
When MHI’s beloved chaplain announced his upcoming retirement, faces fell all around campus. Fr. Frank Wittouck, SCJ, has spent the last ten years serving the spiritual and the temporal needs of our residential community –– and with a delightful flair! With one knowing glance, Fr. Frank brings humor to self-discovery as he counsels residents (and often staff) through rough patches. He revels in “the pure joy of living with the poor.” He enjoys “hanging out” with his immediate neighbors in our prison release programs. He brings great depth to our jobs program, coaching residents in resume writing and interviewing, celebrating their triumphs and helping them move past disappointments. He has been known to phone Jesus!
Fr. Frank’s wisdom was hard-won, from a tough Chicago upbringing to military chaplaincy during Desert Storm. As an only child in an alcoholic household, young Frank had a deep yearning for siblings to share his world. At age 14, he “ran away” to the seminary and gained 120 brothers overnight –– and never looked back!
He was ordained in 1965 and for 15 years found his calling in educating, training and coaching seminarians. The next 20 years, he served as a US Army chaplain in active duty assignments in Korea, Honduras, Panama, Germany, Iraq and Kuwait. After military retirement he began service as a pastor in Texas.
Providence –– and Magnificat Houses founder Rose Mary Badami –– brought Fr. Frank to our door in 2010. She needed a priest to celebrate a single Mass and called around as far away as Cypress. Fr. Frank kindly volunteered, albeit he had never heard of Magnificat Houses, 25 miles away. Though he lost the address along the way and started Mass late, he and Rose Mary quickly bonded and he became entranced with the community.
Soon he moved in as chaplain and was again living with 120 brothers (and even sisters this time)!
Fr. Frank will have many brothers again at his religious community’s home base in Wisconsin. For his big move, Fr. Frank –– noting our glaring need –– bought himself a refrigerated box truck to donate back to MHI. That was just like him.
Fr. Frank’s contributions to us all are lasting and legion.
NOTE: Fr. Frank is scheduled to move to Sacred Heart Monastery this summer.