Guided by Faith: Jack Sebest Reflects on Miracle and Adoration for Mother Maria Teresa Casini

When Campbell native Jack Sebest was five years old in 2003, he hit his head on the bottom of a pool, losing consciousness. Doctors diagnosed him with irreversible brain trauma. But through the intercession of Blessed Mother Maria Teresa Casini, founder of the Oblate Sisters, Jacob made a full recovery and continues to thrive. Now 26 years old, Sebest was hired as the Director of Donor Engagement at Shepherd of the Valley and recently married. Our Dennis Biviano had the chance to sit down with Sebest, who continues his journey in life, guided by faith.  

“I live a unique life and God’s will is to share that good news,” says Jacob “Jack” Sebest. 

Sebest grew up at St. Patrick Church in Hubbard, receiving the sacraments here as a child. He’s no stranger to public speaking and the public eye—dating back more than 20 years when he was given a second chance at life, miraculously surviving a drowning. Years later, and now joined by wife Alyssa, he can still remember the advice he received from former pastor Father Tim O’Neil, when Sebest says he felt unworthy as a teen to distribute the body of Christ as a Eucharistic Minister.

“He told me that humility is one of the things that Jesus values the most. And that will bring me closer to my faith more than anything, is accepting the blessings I’ve been given,” says Sebest. 

Sebest says his family tried to keep his experience private. It took 12 years of investigations for his miracle to be verified and the beatification of Blessed Mother Maria Teresa Casini. In 2015 Sebest was a junior at Ursuline High School, when it became known he was going to meet the Pope in Rome.

“That transition from 13 to 17 made me realize that this isn’t something embarrassing or something that’s putting too much light on me, but it’s my responsibility to put that light on God and the Oblate Sisters. I owe everything to the Oblate Sisters,” says Sebest. 

Sebest’s story is still fresh in the mind of Oblate Sister Joyce Candidi, who prayed for a young Jack Sebest, who woke from his coma without any sort of brain trauma.

“This accident happened on Wednesday and that following Thursday was when he was revived and just came to. And that was on the feast of the Sacred Heart. We were having Mass that evening with all the sisters. That’s when the telephone call came in,” says Sister Joyce Candidi. 

And when Mother Casini was given credit for the miracle in 2015, and named Blessed, it’s a moment Sister Joyce will never forget.

“I started to cry and I just started to tremble. I became so emotionally overcome. My relationship with her just kind of went to a whole other level,” says Sister Joyce Candidi. 

Sebest says to this day he enjoys reading about the lives of saints. He believes his generation longs for a modern story like Mother Casini.

“There’s a lot of people my age, my peers included, that leave the church. Or they’re simply not introduced, not catechized from a young age. You can put that on their parents, or you can put that on their grandparents, however it translates down. But hearing modern stories that there are people, holy enough in their teenage years to live out, and start lives such as Blessed Mother Teresa Casini is outstanding,” says Sebest. 

And although he does admit to feeling sometimes like a pawn in the great chess game of life, Sebest says he’s eternally grateful for all the support he continues to get from the community—decades after this accident.

“They say like, you know, I’ve heard your name, prayed for you when you were five. And that’s amazing. They didn’t know me. And so that’s why now if I hear an ambulance siren, I’ll say an angel guardian. You never know who’s praying for you in the time that you need it the most,” says Sebest. 

Sebest carries a relic prayer card of Mother Casini with him always. And while he hopes to see her elevated to sainthood during his lifetime, Sebest says, he’s focused on living out his faith one day at a time.

“The most important and I believe the most effective way to share the beauty that is Catholicism is being happy, being joyful, being genuine, caring about other people, and as long as I live out the beatitudes, and my faith, and what my religion has given me as a gift throughout my whole life, then I can hope and pray that it reaches other people,” says Sebest.

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Dennis Biviano

Dennis Biviano serves as the Public Relations and Media Specialist for the Diocese of Youngstown as the diocese’s chief point of contact with journalists. Biviano brings 20 years of TV News reporting experience to the Communications Department. He is a graduate of John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Warren and Kent State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism. He has worked as a Multimedia Journalist in the Mahoning Valley for WKBN & WYTV, as well as Charter Communications (Spectrum News 1) for seven years. Biviano is an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Niles with his family.
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